The end is near! No, not the end of the world, I’m talking about the end of the recession. According to a survey of over 5,000 businesspeople released in January at BNIBusinessIndex.com, business is starting to look up. The survey involved businesses all around the world and included people from every populated continent.
Almost 68% of the survey respondents said that business is growing or growing substantially compared to this time a year ago. Preliminary results for the first quarter of 2011 indicate that roughly 58% of businesses plan on hiring over the next few months. Both of these findings indicate that small businesses are finally growing again. What the survey doesn’t explain is why those businesses are growing.
Based on my personal interviews with business people around the world, I may be able to shed some light on how businesses are building their companies during these trying times and also provide insight into how you can grow your business:
- It all starts with attitude. A product sales company in the U.K. was about to execute layoffs in order to meet payroll. When it announced this to employees, one of its sales reps wrote on the whiteboard: “We absolutely refuse to participate in the recession.” Everyone in that branch office signed below the statement on the whiteboard. They all then met to strategize about ways to seriously generate more business. As a result, they ended up with their best month all year and no one was laid off from that office!
- Innovation during adversity is a key factor. I know a commercial real estate broker in Southern California who had his best year ever in 2010 (and he’s been in business for 26 years). He cited the dozens and dozens of one-to-one meetings he had during the year to find ways to work together with other businesses. His opening approach was to help these other businesses. At the same time, however, he built his business in the process. This, he told me, is counterintuitive to what most commercial real estate people do.
- Look for new or emerging opportunities. I met a residential real estate agent on the East Coast of the U.S. who told me he had his best year ever last year. He said he went to investors he’s worked with in the past and told them that “real estate is on sale!” He said to them, “don’t be one of those people who come to me in a few years and say, ‘I was crazy not to look at these opportunities. I should have bought property back in 2010 when it was cheap!’” He told me this strategy has helped him sell more real estate than any time during all his years in business.
- Be creative with your offers. I recently met a business coach in the U.S. Midwest who created a guarantee for his coaching. He said, “If you follow my weekly coaching program and you don’t raise your income to at least six figures, I’ll continue to coach you for free until you do.” This has dramatically increased his sales, he told me, and he hasn’t yet had to provide free coaching to any clients.
The BNI Business Index survey looked at retail, service, and manufacturing businesses. All three areas had very similar results across the board with service and retail being incrementally stronger than manufacturing. In addition, business appears to be looking up consistently around the globe, with solid growth in all parts of the world. Australia/New Zealand and Asia showed the strongest results with 74% and 79% respectively stating that business was growing or growing substantially.
Although the trends looks good, there are some areas where businesspeople still seem to still be struggling. One respondent to the current survey says that while “Business is growing, the comfort zone for retaining clients is nonexistent.” He went on to state that there is a “continuous feel of uncertainty for what is going to happen in the next quarter.”
Another respondent said, “There are many opportunities, but there are still not enough cash reserves or financing from the banks to take advantage of these opportunities.”
Despite the lingering concerns, the numbers seem to indicate that things are changing and changing for the better. One respondent summed it up best when he said: “I’ve changed my target market to one that has both a greater need and a willingness to do something different.” These kinds of changes along with having the right attitude, being innovative, looking for emerging opportunities, and being creative are the ways businesses around the world are pulling out of this long and difficult recession.
Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization and the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute. His newest book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at www.IvanMisner.com