*The people quoted in this post are:
Ali Farahnakian, actor, writer, and owner of the People's Improv comedy theater.
Richard Nash, publisher.
Paul Zweben, partner in several restaurants in NYC and Washington, DC.
Carolyn Zweben, New York City real estate agent.
Robert Reich, Web search entrepreneur and co-founder of oneRiot.
David Hahn, Managing Director of the PR agency Planned TV Arts.
Matt Vogel, Band manager.
But how to do that? Here are 6 things to focus on for the difficult year ahead.
1. Invest Now
A downturn makes raising capital harder, but if you have modest requirements and a product that meets a need, why wait? Robert's thinking is "Fewer startups means more press, and more people to try your offering. The consumer is not going away, if anything they will have more time on their hands."
2. Focus on the Customer
Carolyn, who sold my old apartment through a combination of aggressive marketing and glasses of wine at the open house (so many glasses!), reminds me that business is about customers. With the downturn, that's only more true. "I will continue to go the extra mile," she says. "To say that my strategies would be different [in the future] would mean I have not been doing my job all this time."
3. Give Unique Value
Carolyn's husband Paul provides the Siamese twin of customer focus: making something uniquely valuable. Even in bad times, people will buy what they need, and being able to differentiate yourself from the competition makes the consumer's choice more likely to be in your favor. As he says for his restaurants, "Stay focused on delivering great food and service and the right price.
4. Market, Market, Market
More than ever, it's important to let the customers know that you're there. David, the PR man, notes that in 2009, "We used to rely on word of mouth, strategic networking and some fairly simple marketing strategies. Now we're looking at all sorts of ways to get our name in front of potential customers."
5. Be Honorable
The receding tide of easy money has revealed a scary batch of scams, con men, and thieves. Those who want to stay in business in 2009 need to better corporate citizens and consumers. Improving our trust in one another is the best way forward.
As Ali puts it, "There's a memorable scene in It's a Wonderful Life, when a customer asks for all his money. So George Bailey, the small town banker, gives the man his $500 -- and potentially starts a run on the bank. But the next customer puts an end to George's worries when she asks, "Could I have $17.50 to hold me over for the week?" Right now we have to try and be like the second customer asking for what we need, not we feel we are due. We need to find ways to do well and do good."
6. Stay the Course
Richard states a perennial truth about upturns and downward spins: "What we need to do to survive 2009 is the same as what we need to be doing to thrive in 2012." So true. Regardless of the fear, the only way to be sure to fail is to give up. Or, as Ali has painted succinctly on the back of his theater wall in 3 foot high letters, where only the actors can see it when performing, "Follow the fear."
And one final thought from Matt and the volatile world of music management about how to cope with 2009 for the entrepreneur: "...just don't watch your stocks and you'll have a better year." Food for thought...
What do you think? Is there something else you will do to cope with 2009? Is now a good time to retire to a far away island? Or are you getting ready to launch something new that will give everyone hope?