How to expand your business when everyone else is contracting

In 2008, Steven Jobs gave an interview to Fortune Magazine in which they asked him about Apple’s strategy for the coming Great Recession. Jobs said, “In fact we were going to up our R&D budget so that we would be ahead of our competitors when the downturn was over. And that’s exactly what we did. And it worked. And that’s exactly what we’ll do this time.” 

Instead of paring down R & D, laying off workers, and shuttering stores to withstand the economic storm, Jobs was focused on actually growing Apple, gaining market share in the season where most others were contracting and playing it safe.

In fact, many of the top companies and brands do exactly the same, and that’s one of the chief reasons why they last and stay on top.

But you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company or blue-chip brand to grow your business in the coming months and years. Every salesperson, entrepreneur, boutique broker, and small business owner has the tools to succeed even as fear pervades our business climate (and rightfully so). 

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is act boldly and confidently when others are in safe mode. Our natural reaction is to:

  • Cut prices to gain enough clients and eke out some profit 
  • Cut our expenses to a bare-bones budget 
  • Cancel everything we think is non-essential
  • Lay off and fire staff
  • Put all plans for expansion or growth on hold
  • Stop focusing on anything that will develop skills or educate
  • Think you can do the same things as before, but just do more of them to get over the hump

It all starts with a 180-degree mind shift, a focus on execution, and a whole lot of hard work. But there is absolutely no reason why you can’t bring your business to new heights! 

Here’s the game plan to expand when everyone else is contracting:

1.         Invest in new skills and education

It’s time to learn and adjust to the new reality as fast and effectively as you can. Luckily, there are more courses, books, talks, and tools available to us online than ever, and most of them are inexpensive or free.

2.         Systematize

Instead of resting on your laurels, break your business down to the smallest blocks and build it all back up again, ensuring your system and operations are superbly efficient. 

3.         Leverage 

The difference between a solo-preneur and a true business owner is that the biz owner leverages other peoples’ time, energy, and skills. Stop trying to do everything yourself and start taking advantage of others and what they do well.

4.         Look at partnerships/Team up

Of course, there will be plenty of businesses going under or looking to downsize, and there’s no shame in that. But it also creates a golden opportunity to entertain strategic partnerships and build teams that help you expand quickly. 

5.         Network

The average person brags about their victories when times are good, but you won’t hear a peep from them in tough times. You should do the exact opposite, becoming a networking machine and reaching out to everyone you can. Create connections and authentic relationships, as they’ll pay off in huge, unexpected ways down the road.

6.         Help others

That’s what it’s all about, and in dark days, your best product should be help. Focus on solving problems, bringing value, offering solutions, and empowering others to overcome their challenges. Become the person they turn to for advice and guidance. With that, your business will soar as high as the economy sinks.

7.         Create new content

Throw out the blueprint from last year, last month, and even from yesterday. Create a brand new marketing and outreach campaign and create blogs, emails, videos, podcasts, webinars, graphics, and social media every single day! That’s how you expand!

8.         Be the best communicator you know

Double down on points of communication and customer service with clients, and actively practice your listening skills.

9.         Cut the bottom 20%

Just like an arrow needs to be drawn back to propel forward, we need to pull back by cutting inefficiencies according to the 20% Rule. Drop the 20% of your products that don’t sell, the 20% of your employees who are lazy or aren’t producing, and simplify the 20% of your day that consistently steals your time, energy, focus – and money.

10.      Recruit

To survive and even thrive through a recession (or depression), firms need to actively attract new personnel. Recruiting will be paramount over the next few years, and you should sign as many talented, battle-tested, and hard-working people from your competitors as possible.

11.      Negotiate with vendors

If times are hard for you, they’re even harder for vendors, suppliers, and distributors. So, instead of canceling or doing without, renegotiate every product, service, and lease for lower prices, better terms, and added perks.

12.      Nurture your people

Just like we talked about enhancing your own skills, do the same for your employees and partners by offering more training, guest speakers, education, and personal development than ever before. Investing in people always pays off!  

13.      Increase marketing and advertising output

People invest in marketing and advertising out of greed (when times are good) but tend to shut off that spigot when times are bad. Do the exact opposite, as effective marketing campaigns are vital to keeping your firm alive and well.

14.      Measure

We’ve talked a lot about investing and not cutting back, but don’t do that senselessly, of course. Instead, set clear goals for every dollar that leaves your pocket and carefully measure the effectiveness of everything you do. If it doesn’t measure up, make the appropriate changes or cut it!

15.      Rewrite the rules

I truly believe that when markets crash and the economy shrinks, it creates a proportionate amount of opportunity. Your job is to identify and take advantage of those opportunities. That starts with putting fear and uncertainty in a box when you come to work every morning, and instead making clear, big-picture decisions. Remove the limitations and raise – not lower – your goals and dreams. 

It’s up to YOU to rewrite the story of your success!