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Getting Proper Focus on New Year Means Losing Baggage

OK, I’ve heard it a few times in the last few days. And – I don’t want to hear it anymore. “Flat is the new up.” Or something like that. It’s like the phrase “thinking outside the box.” That has become so overused the last several years it is ridiculous. I hope this new phrase isn’t overused in our new year 2010. Yeah, “flat is the new up” is true to a certain extent when it comes to how some businesses hope they will be doing in coming months. But it’s such a defeatist attitude. No business owner is going to get anywhere if they look to just stay flat. Besides, I hate when phrases catch on, because people don’t even know what they’re saying when they say it. It just becomes lazy. So, in the new year, let’s not get lazy just because there’s this general feeling the economy is going to get better. We’ve got a lot to recover. And since I believe most people in the business world agree we’ve learned a lot in the last year, let’s not forget these things. So, as we start the new year, here’s a few things I’d like us to get rid of and a few things I’d like us to obtain. Let’s get rid of: • Short-term thinking. As you see with a few of the businesses we feature in this issue’s “2010: Riding It Out” special report, these firms that are holding their own if not expanding right now aren’t stuck on today. They’ve got a strategy for the future. Even if conditions aren’t exactly stellar right now, these firms are setting themselves up to take advantage of things when they get much better. And they will get better. • Gimmicks. This goes right along with short-term thinking. You can define a gimmick as broadly as you want. It can be offering short-lived discounts on your product or service and then short-changing the customer or client in the end by delivering a smaller product or less-quality service. It can be hiring on the cheap because there’s a huge talent pool out there. In most industries, the real quality people still have jobs. In the long term this gimmick doesn’t work. Let’s obtain: • Better Employees. Remember gimmicks? Well, the lack of quality employees is still a huge problem for many, many industries. This was true before the downturn and still is now. Many business managers say that getting a good funnel of workers is the best thing a business can do. Being a good place to work is the first step in getting these employees. And they’ll stay if you give them job satisfaction. But knowing the best channels to get these workers is important, too. Partnerships with community colleges and other universities can be a good route. Networking also helps, too. • A more savvy attitude. It amazes me how many small companies still think word of mouth is enough for them to increase their business. They laugh at marketing, advertising and public relations. Almost no business in our valleys is the only game in town. There’s competition everywhere. And, unless you have a loyal clientele for 30 years, you’re going to need to put your name out there. I can tell the savvy business owners. They’re the ones who don’t freak out when a reporter calls to learn about their company. Knowledge is good, the sharp owners believe. And getting quoted in the media isn’t so bad. As long as you’ve got nothing to hide, media exposure can be beneficial. Us journalist types like to cultivate sources. Our new year is expected to be better, but maybe it won’t be. Staying focused, logical and smart is good advice in any economic climate. Business Journal Editor Jason Schaff can be reached at (818) 316-3125 or at editor@sfvbj.com.

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