Keep your small business moving: Forward momentum is possible even in tough times

In a memorable scene from his film “Annie Hall” Woody Allen observes that relationships are like sharks; they have to constantly move forward or they die.

The same can be said for businesses.

Many businesses owners are finding that keeping that forward momentum is extraordinarily difficult these days. Why? Financial and banking challenges are widely known. Businesses owners and sales executives say that it is harder than ever for them to catch a moment of attention from potential new customers. Existing customers may be taking longer to pay or insist on more flexible payment terms. Perhaps most daunting, the future seems remarkably uncertain and risky.

In spite of all that, it is vital that business owners and executives keep their businesses and teams moving forward. Looking for ways to keep your momentum? Here are two ways:

Give Your Business a Push

Implement one or two specific, new, easy-to-implement actions before the end of the quarter to improve your results and/or to help you start 2012 in a stronger position. Examples include incremental process improvements to reduce costs – or – improved outreach to strengthen your relationships with key customers. Focus on easily achievable, satisfying efforts – don’t get bogged down.

Also before the end of the year, identify a new initiative or two with the potential to improve your business significantly in the coming year. Especially if money is tight, pick lower cost actions and initiatives over those that may offer a bigger upside but require more investment. The key is to do something that has the potential to move and improve the business.

Embrace Exploration and Experimentation

Become a company that knows how and when to explore and experiment.  Use exploration and experimentation to manage risk with project management, customer engagement, partners, pilot efforts, staged investments, and go/no-go decisions.  Exploration acknowledges that the world is changeable and that there’s a big advantage in being aware of the evolving landscape. Experimentation allows that not everything you try will be successful and accepts the need to learn from experience.

If these are capabilities your company lacks, cultivate them! If they already exist, strengthen them! In either case try to explore and experiment to identify and act on the 2012 initiatives mentioned above.

Of course first steps are only the beginning. Watch for more in coming posts.

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Karen Utgoff, principal of Karen Lauter Utgoff Consulting, is a market-oriented business strategist based in Amherst, MA. Learn more at http://www.utgoff.com.

© Karen Lauter Utgoff Consulting 2011. All rights reserved.

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