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With the Economy is on “The Rocks,”  
In the Theatre of Business, it’s more important to Concentrate on
What you are Doing Right!

    While doing my research on business trends, I was surprised to see how closely recent events mirror what you might see in the Theatre.  I am not talking about the movies, I am talking about the Stage.  After all, they say the whole world is a stage.  This particular study revealed surprising examples of a Heroine for Customers, and a Hero for Businesses.  

     Everyone knows we are in a recession, and it is not surprising that businesses are cutting back on marketing, advertising, and everything else to cut costs.   Historically. this is a reactionary procedure, that many businesses activate the minute they see profits start to fall.  After things are cut, profits drops even further, and then everyone wonders what is happening.  We can refer to this as a “Comedy of Errors.”  The Comedy starts as people begin to panic, so they cut everything even more.  This effectively eliminates any way for a business to bring in new customers, or keep a relationship with their established clients.

    Since I referred to the Comedy of Errors, I also need to mention Shakespeare, the master of comedy and tragedy.  Imagine what he would think if he saw what we see businesses doing today,   For example, a successful sales corporation laid off half their sales people.  This one Takes the Cake, because the salespeople made more than the managers, (and the salespeople took their clients with them.)  Then we had a professional organization that laid off their receptionist.  They couldn’t imagine that the last person their customers wanted to talk to, was the office manager.  (Not to worry though, the office manager was eventually also fired.)  Another business that had a good reputation with helping customers before, during, and after the sale, went to a low maintenance sales model,  It was also a low or no sales model.  In the real business world, just as in Shakespeare, there is a very thin line between comedy and tragedy,  “Yea too Mr. Customer, I knew thee well.”

    In the final act, when there is not a dry eye in the theatre, the actors say it is time to send in the clowns.  Since business have an extreme lack of qualified advice and strategies, the same thing seems to happen, but without the business owners knowing it.  Grandiose plans appear with extreme urgency, spending more than they saved.  Marketing departments want to upsize, downsize, or even right size, their Herculean efforts to increase business.  This is just like watching the Three Stooges, (Marketing, Sales, and Accounts payable,) trying to prevent a catastrophe.  My students will tell you that I often refer to this as the “L.M.C. Method of Organization.”  It stands for Larry, Moe, and Curly.  Because of the methods involved in the sales pitches given, I will identify some of the more prevalent “Calamity Clowns” that join the Stage with the business owners.

     Calamity Clown 1, “Close your store, Quit your job, and sell everything (at a loss) on EBay.”  You’ve heard this before. It also relates to “I made 50 thousand a week with No Special Training getting drunk on MyBeer web site.”  Or, “Alaskan beach bum surfs his way to millions and qua trillions with Polar Bear marketing.”  The Incredible Claim method only worked once.  It was a popular Detroit Metropolitan car dealer that would cry about losing a little money on every car, so that he could make it up in “Volume.”  Everybody knew that if he truly lost a little money on every car, he was only going to lose his “but” in “Volume.”  We laughed, and bought the cars anyway.

     Calamity Clown 2,  “Your horribly expensive advertising campaign failed because it wasn’t horribly expensive enough.”  Or, “Pay per click is especially effective when you pay at least $100.00 per click, or no more than one 25th of one tenth of one cent.”  This is usually combined with a free web site or email campaign that all of your competitors will be sure to advertise on.  In other words. do whatever you have been doing, but on a bigger scale.  Then while you are repeating the same mistakes, be sure you don’t put any new trends or technologies to use.  The only way this works is if you already own the Google or Microsoft stock that you are inflating.

     Calamity Clown 3.  “Don’t fear Failure, especially catastrophic failures.  It doesn't matter what you do, just do something, and if it fails you can fix it later.”  Now wait just a minute!  Picture your wife and kids suing you, you lost your life savings, the employees getting ready to draw and quarter you from the rafters if you don’t meet payroll on Friday, and some marketing guru says “Not to fear failure?”  While they are rolling you in for the surgical cognitive reconstructions, you might also be convinced to just give away your most valuable products too.  This is not the way to run a business, this is the way to run a Chinese Fire Drill.  

     Enter the Heroine, just going about her business, barely noticing the turmoil around her.  I had stopped by Flower Child Herbs, and saw that Jill was doing very well at her new location.  For some strange reason, that did not seem unusual.  Jill is Michigan’s “Herbal Diva.”  Her knowledge and skill started with the knowledge she gained from her mother and grandmother.  She actually has examples of soap that are about a hundred years old displayed in her store.  On top of that, she has all the knowledge of the modern materials and herbal techniques.  I can vouch for this.  (after two years of organic chemistry, and graduate courses in research,)  I would reserve our conversations about natural surfactants for the chemical engineers.  Even they could learn a thing or two from Jill.

     Jill had just finished editing her monthly email for her special group of customers.  She fired it off as we began a conversation about contracts and all the boring business stuff.  In less than ten minutes the phone rang and she proceeded to fill an order from the email.  It was one of her customers in Minnesota, working at a famous medical clinic.  I was dumfounded at the timing.  The email had only been out for about five or six minutes.  Jill looked at me apologetically, because it was a big order and would take a while.  I couldn’t have said anything anyway, I was too busy picking my jaw up off the floor!

     When Jill finally finished, the phone rang again.  This time with another order. and a scolding, the client was waiting for the monthly email and afraid it would not come.  Now I am getting jealous, not because of the interruption, but because I think I actually might not be on her email list.  You have to sign up at the web site and then join her savings club in the store.  I could give a little credit to the “Contact Relations Manager” and the “Express EMail Marketing” we offer, but that would miss the real point.  All the credit goes to Jill.  She is so busy surveying what customers want, making sure her products and service are perfect, and keeping up with all the customer expectations, that she hasn’t got time for anything else.  Her business is the perfect example of doing everything right, and her customers know it.  

     Since we know one company has got things right, what about the rest of the business world?  I tried to call my friend Dr Ed King. one of the directors of the Small Business Programs at Wayne State University.  I know he will be especially interested in my theories about the Calamity Clowns, but he is tied up for a while.  You see, this is where the real action is.  He runs what looks like an Emergency Room for businesses.  He offers seminars and courses on how you can run a profitable business, and how you can start a profitable new business.   Did you notice the emphasis on “Profitable?”  Dr. King has the uncanny ability to look at a business, summarize it’s problems and strengths, and then tell you how other similar  business have fixed that group of problems.

    Dr King is busy helping business owners set up their defenses.  Right now, with the consequences of rampant price increases, he will demonstrate how a to make a meager 5 or 10 percent price increase double your profits.  That timely information alone, fills up his classroom courses and free seminars.   I have to warn you though.  He also has the habit of building a fire underneath what a business is doing right, and then throwing gasoline on it.  My eyebrows were practically singed in the last course of his that I took.  To see an example of Dr Kings business strategy, check out the Crain’s Detroit video at .  If your interested in where businesses waste money, how to reduce overhead, or how to save a troubled company, you might still be able to reach him at 313-577-4474, or get into one of the free seminars at http://www.freesmallbusinessclasses.comm .

    The final curtain call of  “Economy on the Rocks” will come sooner or later, and probably later than we think.  But before it does, ask yourself.  Will you let these times be another Shakespearian Tragedy?  Or will you look back at the tough times remembering they were also good times?  Will you be able to apply new technologies and methods to your business practices?  Or is it time to get some help?  You don’t need to bother with any highly complicated or mysterious systems.  Just remember to start by understanding the things you are doing right, and not reinventing your business.  You can use that as a the foundation to build from when adding anything new.  Running a business anywhere has never been easy, and it never will be.  But there is still plenty of room for small and medium business here in Michigan to flourish.

Kevin Galvin
The Frugal Geek
Kevin Galvin
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