Under the influence

As I write this the stock market continues its roller coaster ride with every tiny bit of economic news pushing it dramatically up or down. Today, with some good news from Europe, it’s up about 200 points. Yesterday, it was down about the same amount. These days the only thing you can count on in the world of business and finance is fear, chaos and instability. Running and growing a business under these conditions is like shooting an arrow while blindfolded or drunk. You aren’t sure where the target is, you have no idea in which direction to shoot and your aim could be so off that you kill someone. But shoot you must. Decisions must be made, budgets set, action taken to insure the health of your business.

How do you keep your focus and make good decisions under the influence of the pervasive fear we live in now? It is a challenge that I am experiencing for the first time. In the past, untouched by global influences and domestic turmoil, I simply set goals and made the decisions necessary to achieve them…anything seemed possible if we worked hard and smart enough. These days, it does not seem so simple or so straight forward. Bombarded by bad news 24/7 from television news stations and their websites that reduce their expenses by filling space and time with opinion instead of facts, we are constantly flooded with predictions of impending doom. After all, studies show that people pay more attention to bad news than good- and they respond to it more as well.

I have decided to not respond. Without sticking my head in the sand, and denying the truth of a challenging economy, I know it is better for me and my business to keep our outlook positive. The alternative is no alternative at all if we are going to thrive. With this in mind I came up with a 4-point plan to keep our focus where it needs to be so we thrive and to keep us away from negative influences. Maybe it will help you as well.

  1. Do not watch the news 24/7- sounds rather funny coming from a media outlet but not all news is equal and not all news is helpful. News consumption on the economy is best kept at a minimum. We have to stay on top of the news, of course, but fortunately we do not have to report on the economy very often. It is likely in your business or job that you need to keep up with industry news but unless you are in the financial field you really don’t have to listen to every jobs report and every corporate earnings report. There are countless better ways to spend your time. See below.
  2. Stick to the basics- the basics for me are setting goals and budgets. If you do not know where you want to go then how can you get there? Set goals often and be very detailed about them. If your goal is to generate revenue of $1M in 2012, state clearly how you will do it and have a monthly timetable on what gets done when. Do the same with your expenses. Look closely at what you are spending. Can you cut something, anything, that will not have a negative impact? Reducing expenses by only $40 a month will add almost $500 to your bottom line for the year. If you are an employee, do the same. Run your career like a business.
  3. Face the FB facts- you need a Facebook page. Yesterday I decided to go to all of our advertisers’ Facebook pages and “like” their page as well as some of their posts, something I have been intending to do for months. I was surprised at how many do not have them. No matter how big or small you are, how successful or not, the majority of people (consumers) spend a LOT of time on FB. So much time, in fact, that having a Facebook page is as important, or more important, than having a website. This is good news because creating and maintaining a FB page is much easier and less time consuming than a website. If you are selling merchandise, of course, you must have a website but if your business is small and service oriented a FB page is good enough. Yes, it takes a little time to make posts but just taking 30 minutes a day to do that will bring customers. Offer coupons, advertise discounts, and create contests to keep people coming to your page. Start your “likes” with your own (real) friends and see how it multiplies. FB ads are inexpensive, too, and a good way to get people to your page. The majority of our digital readers keep on top of local LGBT news via our FB page and our “likes” have exploded in the last few months. If somebody tells you FB is becoming obsolete or will soon bite the dust-don’t listen.
  4. Partner with other businesses-this is my favorite new business goal. In the past, I admit, I would not consider doing this but times have changed and my attitude has changed as well. Competition is a fact of life and I am not necessarily advocating a partnership with someone in your own industry- there are too many possible downsides. However, finding a way to team up with businesses that complement yours is an excellent way to boost revenue and possibly cut some expenses. Last month I told you about our partnership with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB). Through that team effort we have expanded our distribution, secured new advertisers and increased our visibility tremendously. ACVB is happy to have high quality LGBT content for its website www.gay-atlanta.com as it tries to grow LGBT tourism in the city. Think about what businesses would help yours. If you are a restaurant, for example, partnering with the businesses next door to you could increase foot traffic for all of you. Advertise as a group and cut marketing costs. Post on one another’s FB pages about your current sale or discounts. There are numerous ways you can benefit from a partnership. In this economy it is one of the smartest things you can do. We would love to partner with your business. Let me know any ideas you have of how we can work together.