Riddell: Welcome to MAC Season
Not Business As Usual
No, this is not a sport’s reference to the Mountain Athletic Conference — this is a business column. MAC refers to the acute need of every small business to implement a structured program to counter the fat, dumb, and happy feeling that always follows a boom in business.
MAC stands for Must Address Complacency, and there is no better time to get with this program than right now, the shoulder season for most of our area’s businesses.
By most accounts, this past summer has been pretty strong for most Grand County businesses. With this heightened intensity, the sheer volume has forced many managers and owners to deal with the immediate problem at hand, and this usually was simply how to handle the increased volume. As a result, many day to day operating issues became relegated to the “back burner.”
The danger is that these “back burner” issues, if not addressed, portend longer term problems and diminished profits. With the decreased volume of the shoulder season, conscientious managers and owners now have the time to bring these issues forward and, most importantly, take action now to head them off.
The symptoms of this insidious complacency are quite numerous if not obvious. Consider for a moment if you have been the recipient of a price increase from a vendor. Did you basically swallow hard and press on or did you actively seek alternate vendors? These vendor price increases, while usually rather small and innocuous, will suddenly become extremely apparent when your volume significantly decreases and your margin shrink becomes intuitively obvious. And please keep in mind that your vendor list is pretty extensive.
From communications, to materials, to advertising outlets, these vendors all operate in a competitive environment and are all counting on your blind acceptance of cost increases. But this is not your role. Push back, negotiate, find other suppliers and you may be amazed at the willingness of some vendors to work with you. You might even waggle some significant cost reductions.
On your revenue side, consider taking a price increase. Chances are that during the boom you were petrified about taking any price increases for fear that rocking the boat might swamp the boat. Besides volumes were up, total profits were up and all was right with the world. But now volumes are going to be lower. You may want to consider taking a small price increase to offset some of the decline, but most importantly, a small price increase now allows you to find out if it will stick or not and better prepares you for the next uptick. Additionally, there are some cost increases we discussed above that you cannot reduce and therefore have to be offset somewhere else. Pricing is your surest path to this offset.
Finally, this is the very best time to think through and come up with creative ways to improve customer service. For most consumers, business relationships are based on value and value is a combination of price and utility. In a competitive world, small price differences are easily overlooked based on large differences in how customers feel they are treated.
At the front end, this is always employees. During this shoulder season it is imperative that marginal and costly non-customer focused employees be released to the marketplace. In addition, this is the perfect time to actively engage the valuable employees and get their “buy in” on what you plan to change and how this change will directly benefit them.
Complacency is the bane of every successful business. Continued success is dependent upon continuous improvement, and complacency does everything to counter this. Take advantage of this MAC Season and prepare to reap the benefits.
Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.
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