A group of us were discussing estimated operating results for the balance of 2009, the potential recoveries of various construction segments and the resulting budgets and cash flows for 2010. As you can imagine, the projected operating results ranged from a scary negative, to break-even, to an optimistic profit level. Once the participants became more realistic, they all realized how tough it is out there for those in the construction business, and how changes you used to make to correct problems no longer work in the same fashion.
After beating our heads against the wall for an hour or so, we decided its not you but the game that has changed and you will have to change with it. One of the individuals in the group said, You know what? Maybe its a good time for changes. In other words, take a fresh look at every move you make, every dollar you spend, how you market and manage your business and, as a result, change what needs changing because you cant afford not to. Kind of makes sense.
As long as were talking about changes, keep in mind the changes that need to be made at the government level. I dont know about you, but any incumbent in office in 2008 should not have an opportunity to extend their term. All I know is:
- the percentage of stimulus money trickling down to our industry is not enough;
- small entrepreneurs create the jobs in this country, but cant do so because banks have cut them off, even though there are new SBA programs available;
- and the big boys are getting help while the rest of us sink into financial oblivion.
Change 1: Use your political clout
So, what is the first change you can make? You need to contact your federal and state elected officials to let them know you dont like what is going on, and that if they dont work to create jobs, get banks to finance small business and stay out of the health care business, you are not going to vote for them. Not only that, but you are going to work against them. This, I assure you, gets their attention.
People who work in the construction industry have more clout than you think ? if you use it. You can start by attending local and regional business meetings, chamber meetings and association meetings to form positions on topics to be related to elected officials. Its easy to produce contact lists for elected officials, and even draft pro-forma letters to be completed by members and sent off to local and congressional leaders. Whats nice about this activity is that all it costs is a little time.
Change 2: Push to help small business
The next small change to make is to pay attention to what is going on in D.C. Read, listen and talk about national issues and the real issues that affect you and your business. Not only will you become educated, you will know when certain votes are taking place so you can place three or four calls to tell legislators how you want them to vote. It will take you about four minutes to make those calls.
Lets face it folks, small businesses cant afford to wait while D.C. bails out the banks that got us into this mess in the first place. We need help now! No one is going to close down the big boys, but they will close you down tomorrow if you fall behind on financial obligations. Banks need to help small businesses stay in business and keep people employed ? and the government should tell banks to do it, and cover their losses if needed.
New SBA programs have been implemented to help small business. They are great, but of no value if banks will not loan to companies in the construction arena. And guess what? The banks are not pursuing these SBA opportunities. Ask them why and they tell you they dont want the risk, even though losses are minimized with loan guarantees. D.C. has to come up with a plan so the banks want to make these loans.
Change 3: Reduce big government
Health care needs changes. We all understand that. But giving our government control of 6% of our economy is a big mistake.
D.C. can change the system, make the industry more competitive, make sure all who want health care get it and help improve health care programs. What we dont need is more government employees with pensions we cant afford to pay. Please, no more: I am from the government and I am here to help you. Yikes!
Take back control
Now that I have you thinking about how changes can be a good thing, its time to do what we suggested with your business. Perform a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and prioritize what you need to do to generate more work, have better control of your business and generate more cash flow. Leave no stone unturned.
Your New Years resolution for 2010 should be to take back control of your business and our government. Remember, keep that list of phone numbers handy so you can educate our elected officials.
Garry Bartecki is the managing member of GB Financial Services LLP and VP Finance for the Associated Equipment Distributors. He can be reached at (708) 347-9109 or firstname.lastname@example.org.