The hand you’re dealt

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Below is how my clients and successful entrepreneurs face and survive hard times.

January 18, 2013
Jim Huston

Jim Huston

Many of my clients from California to New York have come through the last five years and they are in better shape than ever. The economic recession of 2007-2009 forced them to rethink everything. Yes, they could have had a “pity-party,” but they chose to face the brutal facts and move on by realizing that sometimes you grow sales revenue and sometimes you have to grow internally.

Below is how my clients and successful entrepreneurs face and survive hard times.

Make a big-picture plan. Like the captain of a ship facing a storm, you need to have a strategy. First, you need to batten down the hatches and put out into deeper waters so as to avoid the rocks and shoals that might surround you. Once there, you need to get on your instruments (your compass, charts and maps, GPS, radar, navigational system, etc.). These are your objective reference points – benchmarks, if you will.

Measure things. Don’t rely on the ups and downs of subjective feelings. Remember what Tom Peters said on page 490 in his classic book, “Thriving on Chaos:” “What gets measured gets done.”

Establish a budget for 2013. Set spending objectives for general and administrative (G&A) overhead, salaries, etc.

Benchmark your business. Military pilots flying by the seat of their pants at night or into the clouds often find themselves flying upside down. What was up felt like down and down up. It’s called vertigo. To counter vertigo, they need to get on their instruments –objective measurements of reality. Prevent business vertigo by first benchmarking your business. Then measure what’s important by means of your profit and loss, job costing and the Bid Board.

Establish bid boards. My clients track and monitor their division sales goals by means of our Bid Board. It’s a simple MS Excel spreadsheet that tracks sales goals; sold field-labor hours; won, lost and pending jobs; GPMs; and backlog.

Build and refine your teams. You need a solid internal team. This includes key individuals such as your crew leaders, division managers, office manager/controller and owner(s). Build a solid external team – your CPA, attorney, business consultant(s) and banker.

Job descriptions. Use simple yet thorough job descriptions. Everyone should be able to perform their assigned job description with minimal supervision. Your business is not a baby-sitting enterprise. If someone cannot perform his or her job description with minimal supervision, either fire them up, or fire them out.

Network like crazy. While some of us are extroverts, others are introverts. No matter where you fall, you need to build a network that includes your local and national trade associations; colleges; suppliers; manufacturers; business organizations such as Rotary, Better Business Bureau, Kiwanis International and Business Networking, International.

Back to business basics. Remember, the basics are basic. Relentlessly work on the basics. Entrepreneurs always have had to deal with uncertainty. Like generals in wartime, they realize that you never have perfect nor complete data by which to make important decisions. Wise men choose probabilities, so said the Scottish philosopher David Hume. You do your homework and go with the best options. However, entrepreneurs are having to deal with more uncertainty than has been the historic norm. In spite of the increased economic fog facing business owners, many have either learned or are learning to thrive on chaos.

Take charge of your future.
You may not be able to control what happens on the national and international economic scene, but you certainly can do so within your business – if you do your homework. Like my clients around the country, don’t expect huge improvements in the economy in the near future.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan for, and expect, huge improvements in your business.

Uncertainty doesn’t have to permeate you and your organization. That’s one thing about which you can be certain.


JIM HUSTON runs J.R. Huston Consulting, a green industry consulting firm. See; mail