Monday, September 23, 2013

Whether a down time is part of an annual cycle, a seasonal cycle, a market slow-down or a recession, it is a time that determines the future of a business. This depending on what the business does during the down time or rather, how the business utilises that time. The good businesses, work on the Future.

When they are not selling, for whatever reason, there are no transactions, there is no processing, and effectively, the operational or transactional workload is less. There is less going out and less coming in, except perhaps the money needed to maintain the business, such as employee wages, rent, utilities and other maintanence costs. That outgoing money is off-course an investment. Whether it is a bad investment that will be lost or will be added to loses or whether it is a good investment that will be more than recovered is contingent on the approach the business takes during the down time period.

Smart businesses, while carrying out whatever transaction there is to engage in during the down-time, work on the Future such as, scenarios which may be either positive or adverse for them ahead, prepare plans to thrive in those scenarios, create products that the market will demand tomorrow, develop means to reduce losses or costs ahead, work out processes of increases efficiencies, pre-empt market shifts, disruptive events or disruptive technologies, or, work on creating disruptive products of their own to either corner or create markets.

Off course down times are also periods when companies do some fixing that they do not have the time to when in more active periods of the business or economic cycles. However, many of these efforts may either be past-focused or present-focused. A smart business is one that ensures, that by the end of the down time, it has something new or something different to offer to the market, as a strategic edge over it's direct or indirect competitors.

The difference between most businesses and smart businesses can be seen in the experience of employees of the two types. In most businesses, the down time is when employees are; concerned about possibily facing the axe or losing the bonus or a pay-cut, going on leave, being sent on leave, are working shorter hours, are surfing the internet at work, having longer lunch breaks, having office parties and so on. Overall, in most businesses, employees are less "busy" during the down time. In smart businesses however, the trend is inverse.

Unlike with most businesses, employees of smart businesses are busier during the down times, than they are at all other times, spending longer hours at work, spending more time at the work station, having more meetings, more projects, more deadlines, less leisure, less recreation, less vacations and so on. The reason is simple; at smart businesses, selling is relatively easy when the cycle is up. When the cycle is down, they go into extra gears to figure out what comes after the cycle, in the subsequent cycles, how they will recover expenses incurred during down times by multi-folds, what causes these cycles, and how to avoid having a down time itself while the rest of the industry or market may be facing one, the next time around.

Do not be mistaken; smart businesses are always innovating, spending good effort as well as resources, on research & development. The work of smart businesses, on the future, never stops, through all stages and cycles. It is just that during down times, all the excess focus and resources, rather than left redundant, are channeled towards future planning, innovation and pre-emption. This keeps the staff busy, helps the organisation grow adequately in tandem with future needs and be ready when the time is good for business again, to be the best at it. The business therefore stays relevant, grows and succeeds, continuously. When the rest take a step back, the smart business, moves forth.

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