Are YOU Using These 7 Ways to Exploit the Downturn Caused By the Oil-Price Crash?

If you are the owner of a small or mid-sized business who made it a priority to build equity in your company over the past several years – if you reduced or eliminated your debt – if you limited personal spending to a reasonable level – if you grew your company carefully and diversified enough to avoid disaster if one customer or business sector stopped doing business with you - congratulations! You are probably in a very strong position to exploit the current downturn caused by the crash in oil prices.

Whether or not you’re currently in a strong position, most of the following strategies can help you.

1. Upgrade your team. In business, every day is game day. You can only win big and win consistently with a team comprised of winners.

A few months ago, recruiting was difficult. It seemed as if the job candidates were in the driver’s seat. This is rapidly changing. Many companies are laying off people. Some of those people are excellent – winners in their field – exactly the type of people you need to build your business.

Consider recruiting people who have been hardest to find during the ‘boom’, such as star salespeople with great contact lists, talented supervisors/managers, and highly skilled technical people.

Here is the other part of upgrading your team – dumping the deadwood – staffers who undermine your efforts to make your company even better than it is already. With the growing availability of winners, you can terminate those employees who have a negative attitude, lack motivation/initiative, lack persistence, show up late or miss too much work, produce an unacceptable quality or quantity of work, and gossip or say negative things about your company, staff, suppliers, or customers.

As part of the process of upgrading your team, take a hard look at your Organizational Chart. Does it still make sense? Can you combine certain management functions? Can you replace any overpaid ‘legacy’ positions (jobs held by long-term staff who are ‘managers’ without the talent to competently manage)? Can you push management duties down to your higher quality people who are currently at lower levels on your organizational chart?

Another important part of upgrading your team is staff development. Training your people helps reduce unwanted turnover and builds capacity at the same time. How good is your staff development plan? If you don’t have a good one, this is an excellent time to correct that.

2. Upgrade your processes. How recently have you flow-charted your processes to ensure they are optimized to produce, as efficiently as possible, the quality you want? Process improvement can be applied to everything including recruiting and hiring processes, production, inventory, purchasing, customer service, finance, marketing & sales, and IT.

If you haven’t looked at this recently, count on discovering some great opportunities for greater efficiency and profitability.

3. Upgrade your Facility. During every downturn in the past, there have been excellent deals on real estate, equipment, tools, furnishings, vehicles, and most other things that were commanding premium prices during the boom.

This downturn will not last forever. When oil prices bounce back, as they always do, you will be in a stronger position to exploit the recovery because you carefully expanded your capacity by paying lower prices for things that make you more efficient.

4. Increase market share. Some competitors might disappear (those who were over extended, for example). But be prepared - new competitors from sectors most affected by crashing oil prices could appear.

A few short months ago, some customers may have waited longer than they wanted to, plus they were not always well treated. Customers will quickly adapt to the fact that they have more power - that their business is more valuable in a period of economic regression or stagnation.

Therefore, it is important to upgrade your offerings to customers and ensure that your service is exemplary.

Upgrade your marketing. Are you inspired by your story about what makes your company special? If you’re not, the customers who need you will not be inspired by it, either.

Once you refine your marketing, assign your star sales people to work with those customers with the most potential. Those customers need to know why you are the best company to meet their needs.

5. Improve your client list. Some customers cost more to serve than they are worth. They pay late, take excessive time to make even small purchases, and demoralize your team with their complaining and nastiness.

Send those customers to competitors so your valuable staff can spend their time delighting your profitable customers.

6. Improve your cash flow management. This critical area is weak in many larger small businesses. Cash flow management is easy to do when you know how – when you have a process that works. While the process for creating a cash flow report is beyond the scope of this article, we will gladly show you how to do this, if you just ask.

Astute cash flow management helps you sleep better at night, and keeps you positioned to take advantage of opportunities other business owners (many whom are mired in debt) can only dream of.

7. Improve your management systems.

As a business owner, do you have great ideas? Probably quite a few…

But when you go to execute these ideas, does it seem like little is accomplished in the time frames you set out? Is it difficult to hold your people – especially your managers – accountable?

For many companies, this is a transformational area of opportunity during both good times and challenging times. In fact, one of the most frequent problems plaguing the owners of ‘larger’ small businesses is that of effective and efficient execution.

Your problem is absolutely solvable. A ‘ComEx’ system is what you need. You can download a full description of ComEX, complete with a case study at There is no charge for this 25 page e-book that can literally transform your company.

Occasionally we hold training seminars about the ComEx management system.

For more information about ComEx or if you have questions about any of the other six business upgrades mentioned in this article, please call 780-989-7663 (Stephen Steckly) or 780-469-3535 (Jeff Cullen). We are always happy to help.

Download a printable PDF of this executive summary here.

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