Business planning in today's economy

This week saw a lot of news about economic predictions for the future. NPR ran a piece on the on the possibility of recession, with comments from the Wall Street Journal's David Wessell. On the construction front, the Portland Cement Association (PCA) offered its Fall Economic Outlook, in which chief economist Ed Sullivan predicted cement consumption declines of 6.9 percent for 2007 and 2.5 for 2008. Sullivan's outlook does not predict a recession, however he does suggest concrete contractors take "an extra dose of conservatism in strategic planning for 2008." Concrete Contractor's "Business 101" columnist Brad Humphrey, president of construction management consulting firm Pinnacle Development Group, offers a few tips to contractors organizing a strategic plan for an unpredictable year: 1. Clarify your "Unique Selling Proposition" (USP), that is, be more clear about what you represent to your market. Ask yourself, and maybe some of your loyal/long-term clients, who am I? What does my organization really represent to customers? 2. Work harder on your customer retention efforts such as increasing your number of customer contacts before, during, and after completing a project; documenting customer needs and wants and any changes that they request during a project; increase your quality of performance. 3. Look for ways to better utilize your workers -- position your company to work more lean rather than carrying extra workers. 4. Look to lease equipment and facilities if expansion was part of your strategic plans. 5. Don't panic and automatically give away discounts BUT look for incentives to get more work.