Posts Tagged ‘ economic crisis ’

staying alive for small biz 101: a gorilla in your future?

This, from an article forwarded by a colleague. The short of it: don’t wait til the month before you consider buying a “going out of business” banner for your front window!  For businesses,  their owners, their employees, and for all the families touched by this climate – the best thing we can do is try – try one thing, and another, and another. There are no magic bullets here – just advice from others who are going through these tough times.

Oh, as for the gorilla?  Hint: it’s an unlikely presence in a guitar store.


microlending for small businesses?

Micro-lending is something we’ve all heard about in stories about developing countries. The concept is a good one: you loan 50 or 75 dollars to a woman with a sewing machine in Quito, a similar amount to a farmer in the hills overlooking Karachi, or a leather worker in a Lagos slum — and the entrepreneurial drive of those people will help them pull their families out of poverty.

Somewhat similar in concept are micro-lenders in North America. Here, though, the clientele is  two or three-person companies with owners with high credit ratings but who *still* can’t get a bank loan.

BusinessWeek Online has an article about these microloans.

a handful of tips for keeping business healthy – in the current climate

There’s a blog I’ve been following, called — written by Scott Berkun — and an article seemed thoroughly appropriate as Main Street entrepreneurs contemplate the eternal stay-or-sell decision.  

Basic, sound advice :  looking at your immediately local customer base, polling them to find out what *they* need, knowing your financials, making efforts to lock in future customers…

It sounds like one of those endlessly tiresome bromides to say there _are_ opportunities in the current marketplace.  ‘truth is, in every downturn in our economic past, there have been people with innovative thinking that have done very well.  There’s no reason to believe you won’t be one of those success stories in The Great 2009 Recession.

Please take a look at How the financial crisis affects small business, at

reading for those of us shell-shocked by bad economic news

A friend of mine is a psychologist – his specialty is with something called “Critical Incident Intervention,”  … helping people in organizations deal with dramatic and emotionally difficult events:  mass layoffs, the sudden death of a colleague, and tragically, things like school shootings and employee rampages.  

So … we were talking yesterday about how the current economic situation is effecting people and he turned to me and said “You know Tom, in all my decades of practise, I’ve never seen so many people so anxious and depressed.”  I replied that I’d been hearing about people sort of frozen by their sense of a future that’s either thoroughly unpredictable or even more disturbing, gravely worse.

I ran across an article in SCORE, called “Resilience for the Small Business Owner” (by Russ Newman, the Director for Professional Practice at the American Psychological Association).  It’s a reminder of small actions we can all take to help us avoid a kind of paralysis that’s good for no-one — ourselves, our families, or our customers.

These are all simple things to do – like making connections and looking for opportunities for self discover.  ‘point is though, they’re all things that are painless.

My hunch is that the advice is sound.  It’s certainly timely.

It may not be Business As Usual … for a while

For a very long time one of my consulting specialties had to do with helping companies plan for turbulent times.  We *used* to think we knew what turbulence was…  While the specific methods could get us bogged down in really silly-sounding ‘consultant speak,’ one of the most important things we argued was that the future is NOT going to be like the immediate past – except more so …  

We see this everywhere. In boom economies, breathless enthusiasts tell us that Everything Is Different Now — that only Old Farts and zombies from The Last Century worry about, oh, profits and cash flow.  And in troubled times, we start seeing events that conjure up scenes of Dustbowl Depression and Grapes of Wrath.  

Look.  Neither is right.  

That said – the profession of business brokering needs to face the current reality:  a large share of its regular clientele, Main Street Businesses, is nervous.  People are holding tight.  


There are a lot of businesses, often Main Street stuff that go up on the sales block.  I think there’s some (suspect) factoid that at any one year in the US, there’re nearly a million companies held up for possible sale. 

One of the intro sidebars in this blog is the factoid that any any time, there may be up to one MILLION small businesses on the sales block.  Now, the dirty secret is that most don’t get sold.  And – no sale, no commission.

 The flip side – for every business that wants to be sold, there’re (I’m guessing) a number of serious potential buyers.  So – the numbers are better. If there’re a million businesses for sale, there might be X-million potential buyers.  BUT – conventional wisdom (and custom) is that these people are trotted around by business brokers – for free – to see or hear about potential company opportunities. 

 For Main Street company buyers (or, tire-kickers) free service is the industry norm. 

 BUT, two factors might be at play here – making conventional wisdom about free-service-for-buyers a bit less inflexible.

 On one hand is a changing demographic for buyers.  Boomers who’d had successful corporate careers, who’ve acquired business savvy along with nest eggs, might be the next big wave of company buyers/entrepreneurs. These are buyers who would benefit from a bit of ‘buyer coaching.’  Services that do ‘opportunity-searches,’ that help assemble management expertise (or that sub out research that the potential buyers have to do but don’t really want to do it themselves), hand-holding through the loan application process, helping potential buyers see mid- and longer-range strategic business opportunities, even professional and managerial coaching to bring corporate-smart potential buyers up to speed on business specifics that they’ll need to be successful.  ALL of these could be a la carte consulting services for a ‘new’ kind of business brokerage profession.

 And on another hand – the nature of the buying clientele changes when a business brokerage  goes ‘upstream’ in terms of business size. That becomes a world where brokers deal with individuals working on behalf of other (wealth managers) and small groups (PEGs, angel investors) who expect a greater level of service in helping locate opportunities. AND, as professionals who sell their services, I’ll bet they’re comfortable with the idea of paying for professional services.

Some of those services could be borrowed and modified for this class of buyers:  ‘strategic recasting’ for example.  AND, most likely, these are potential buyers who would see tremendous value in acquisition ‘scouting.’ 

These are possibilities.  Spit balls of ideas.  And as such, a lot easier to talk about than to implement.  (there are even professional guidelines on how licensed business brokers may or may not help clients and from whom they can accept money.  

These are times when creativity can be rewarded.  Doing what Every Other Business Broker does is a tough way to ride out this economic slowdown.  Who will come up with new ideas, new products and services, ways to broaden customer bases?