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There's no doubt about it people are worried about the economy. A recent study by the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center showed Americans are more pessimistic about their situation now than they have been in more than a quarter-century. At the Oct. 22 Fortune Small Business Growth Summit, In Search of Excellence author Tom Peters asked the audience how long they believe the downturn will last. More than 57 percent said at least two years.

What can you do about it?

Believe and Act

The most successful people and organizations don't despair they believe and act.

Henry McGovern launched Poland-based American Restaurants in 1993 with one Pizza Hut outlet in Poland. Today the $3 billion, 16,000-employee business is the largest restaurant chain in Eastern Europe. McGovern's philosophy? "Wszystko Jest Mozliwe" or "Everything is Possible."

Choose, like American Restaurants, to believe "Everything is Possible." Carry a hopeful, upbeat disposition and believe that good prevails. Network for Growth's "Hot Dog Story" is a classic example of this principle.

Belief is not enough, however. You must take action.

Studies of what causes firms to fail during an economic downturn cash flow issues, reduction in customer service levels, and lack of marketing investment bring forth valuable lessons.

Companies that have been growing rapidly before a recession are vulnerable in a downturn because they have been using their cash flow to support their growth, and small changes in cash flow impact them greatly.

But a recession can still bring business growth.

How to Grow During a Recession

The following are two practical pointers for turning the worst of times into the best of times. Next time I'll provide more tips.

  • Develop a good strategic plan and execute on it. What does your firm stand for (core ideology), where do you want to go, and what is your plan to get there? Those with a plan outperform those without one, and having a written plan is a key success factor.

    A recent study by Andrew Benett in Brandweek reported that 86 percent of consumers believe it is important that companies stand for something other than profitability. More than 70 percent believe businesses bear as much responsibility as governments for driving positive social change.

    Now is the time to define your core, revise your strategy, and plan for next year. Then execute it. Don't wait.

  • Focus on serving the customer. What are you doing to understand your best customers? Are you profiling them so you can market to those who fit the profile? What are you doing to keep your current customers satisfied? Remember, it is up to eight times more expensive to attract a new customer than to obtain more business from an existing one.

    Benett's Brandweek study revealed that 80 percent of consumers feel it is imperative for businesses to maintain a dialogue with them. In Outsmart! How To Do What Your Competitors Can't, James Campy studied 1,000 companies with 15 to 5,000 percent growth, and concluded that growth companies are open and transparent with customers and employees.

    Build customer delight and sales revenue through extraordinary relationship programs that allow two-way communication. I speak from experience: After developing a customer program for a client, the firm closed on millions of dollars of new sales revenues. See the case study at

Remember, you don't have to beat the recession alone. You can turn to a coach experienced in developing strategic plans and customer service programs.

Theresa M. Szczurek, Ph.D., is the founder and CEO of Technology and Management Solutions, LLC, a Boulder-based management consulting firm that helps organizations and individuals grow to new heights by igniting their passion, aligning it with a meaningful purpose, and pursuing it relentlessly to produce extraordinary results. Szczurek is author of the Amazon-bestseller, Pursuit of Passionate Purpose, which describes her proven, step-by-step formula for success. Using this formula Szczurek built a technology company and sold it for $40 million, all within a six-year span. Call 800.505.8674 and visit and to learn about Szczurek's coaching and market development programs.

Copyright © 2008 Theresa M. Szczurek. All Rights Reserved.