Can a smaller business make the mistakes that behemoths Chrysler and GM did? According to Larry Rice, CPA who is Director of Strategic Consulting at Rodman & Rodman Certified Public Accountants and Business Strategists, small businesses can certainly make those mistakes, just on a smaller scale.
According to Rice, “Many of the problems that plague huge multinational corporations are often the same problems entrepreneurial-type businesses face. We can see on a national basis what happens when businesses take their eye off the ball. Small businesses cannot afford to make these mistakes…there’s no government bail-out for small business.”
Rice offers small businesses owners tips on how to grow and flourish as the market recovers:
Always be aware of your competitors and their plans. Many of the problems that Chrysler and GM face today could have been avoided with an aggressive plan to address their Japanese competitors 30+ years ago. By not addressing costs, quality and management/labor relations aggressively, they left the door open for foreign competition to get a foothold that should have been much more difficult to obtain. Small business owners MUST periodically (at least annually) sit down and do a competitive analysis of your industry. Look at your competitors’ advantages and determine whether you need to do something now to address it. If you have lost business to your competition, find out exactly the reason they left. Do NOT assume you know why, ask them directly if possible. If you hear a trend of reasons, you better take action quickly.
Project your cash flow. What’s the difference between GM and Chrysler and Ford (who did not have government intervention)? Ford better understood the predicament it was in from a cash flow perspective more than two years ago. At that time, Ford mortgaged everything for cash in what it saw then as a fight for long-term survival. Nothing is certain moving forward, but Ford has thus far weathered the storm, while making small market share gains and important investments in new vehicles and technology which will keep the business moving forward. As a small business owner, it’s important to project cash flow forward, at least six months, and update your cash flow projection monthly, so that you will have an early warning system in place to help you take steps to avoid the catastrophe of running out of money.
Your team is not your enemy. Animus between management and labor has only recently been turned around in the automobile industry so that everyone has begun working together towrard common goals. They still have a long way to go, which only proves that implementing a management-by-fear-and-intimidation ideology (or for that matter letting your employees run the place) will get you nowhere. Often, it is your non-skilled employees who will come up with the best ideas on how to improve business processes. Treat them poorly and you’ll get nothing beyond the bare minimum of effort. Small business owners take heed and include your team in strategy sessions and obtain feedback from them constantly.
Perception is reality. It’s imperative for small business owners to understand customer perception because that is the reality of your relationship with them. If it is good, you can ask for referrals and ask them to buy more and so on. If it is poor, you must begin to repair that perception with some excellent reality. But, first, feedback must be solicited from them. This can be done via personal conversations, surveys (preferably anonymous to get the greatest amount of truth), customer advisory boards, any number of methods. Americans perceive things about American maker vehicles which are no longer true in many cases. Certain American cars have equal and in some cases better quality construction than their foreign competitors. As you can see, it has been very difficult for American makers to get that message across. Small business owners need to communicate positively, proactively and frequently with customers. This enables you to shape their perceptions and avoid being a business victim.
Rice is a CPA and business development guru who works with a wide range of small to mid-sized businesses at Rodman & Rodman. Rice’s expertise lies in profit improvement strategies, performance measurement, information system analysis and improvement as well as strategic visioning and planning. He is dedicated to helping businesses achieve their short and long term goals. He has been featured on Bloomberg Radio, CN8-TV and other media outlets.
Rodman & Rodman, P.C.
Founded in 1961, Rodman & Rodman, P.C. provides accounting, tax and business services to small and medium-sized companies throughout New England. With a focus on strategic planning, Rodman & Rodman goes beyond traditional accounting services and takes a proactive approach when serving clients to increase, preserve and sustain clients’ financial net worth.
From business valuations, taxation, audits, fraud detection and prevention services and succession planning to a variety of accounting IT services including software selection, implementation and training, the team at Rodman & Rodman serves as comprehensive advisors to clients. For individual clients, the company offers personal advisory services such as planning for real estate transactions, obtaining financing, estate planning and retirement planning as well as planning for college education. Rodman & Rodman Certified Public Accountants are located at 3 Newton Executive Park in Newton and 25 Braintree Hill Office Park in Braintree, Mass. For more information, visit their website at www.rodmancpa.com