By Brian Chernett, Founder, The Academy for Chief Executives

One of my key messages to businesses in recessionary or uncertain trading conditions is that they ‘batten down the hatches’ at their peril. Elsewhere in this newsletter, I talk about marketing using technologies known as social media. In this article, I want to consider 3 ways to develop your business when times are hard. They are —

• Retaining existing customers and offering them additional value

• Innovating using your team to generate ideas

• Extending existing business by strategic acquisition, merger or collaboration

The first of these, retention, is about being creative in the way in which you stay in touch with your current customers. They cost you far less to sell to than finding new customers, so consider how you can add value to the relationship, your products or services. This will help you to maintain and even increase your share of the market.

Don't believe that simply adding a little more can make a lot of difference? I'd like to share a couple of stories with you (real stories, I hasten to add).

Case 1 - Some time ago, a friend of mine was involved in a car accident. She had AA insurance and breakdown cover. She called the AA to the scene of the accident, primarily to get her car going again, or to have them tow her car to a repairer. However, on arrival, the AA Rep took witness statements from those that had seen the accident, took a statement from my friend (whilst the events were still fresh in her mind), and then followed the case right through to claim. A fantastic way of adding value and I'm certainly favourably disposed towards the AA when considering my own insurance.

Case 2 - A member of my group, in the high-end bespoke picture framing business, has come up with a unique way of adding value to their service. They are in the process of training their delivery people to hang pictures. So, when an art gallery takes delivery of a piece of beautifully framed artwork, the skilled and diligent delivery person is also able to hang the picture in the gallery. Not only will this add value but it's also likely to increase their revenues.

When it comes to innovation, you don’t have all the good ideas. If members of your team have good ideas, can they get them in front of you? The team members who are working with your processes or customers on a daily basis will see opportunities and improvements that you, as CEO, would never consider. So have a system for idea generation. Encourage team members to think about improvements and make sure that they can bring them to your attention in a way that allows them to feel comfortable in doing so. Maybe you should go further than that and set up internal teams to create the exciting new ideas that will move you forward. Give them a brief and see what outcomes you get. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Once you have the ideas, of course, the important next stage is to make sure that they are evaluated and that the team that developed the original idea is involved in this process. Not all ideas will be adopted, but all must be treated seriously.

Finally, extending the business. There will be many businesses that struggle to survive in the coming years. Watch your competitors and be ready to take them over, merge or pick up the pieces. In many areas businesses are closing down or restructuring. When this happens there are opportunities for the efficient and bold to be proactive in merging with these companies.

In the same way, you will have the opportunity to simply take over clients, services or products and market those to your own database.

In the present conditions, businesses still have many options for development and growth. Make sure that you are one of those businesses and ensure that you have the awareness and processes to move quickly when ‘opportunity knocks’.

The Academy community provides a great place to build your leadership skills and learn more about motivating and developing your people, and how to focus the top team for the good of your company. As the leading providers of experiential learning, the purpose of the Academy is to inspire leaders to achieve their dreams by sharing and learning from real life experiences.

Watch a video of Brian Chernett explaining how The Academy For Chief Executives inspires business leaders.


Brian Chernett is founder of The Academy for Chief Executives (ACE) - He has 43 years' experience as managing director of private and public companies, including subsidiaries of Booker Bros McConnell, the Landmark Group, and several other major companies. Find out more at www.chiefexecutive.com We always welcome your feedback on the articles. Email them to brian.chernett@freshbusinessthinking.com

Brian Chernett will be speaking at Fresh Business Thinking LIVE!, giving practical opportunities for your growth and sustainability in the new world environment. Brian will present 20 ideas for success in the current economic uncertainly. This will be based on his knowledge and experience from the 400 CEO’s within his organisation.

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