How to Grow Your Business During a Recession – 11 Actions You Can Take

Business owners, especially new business owners, make nine fundamental mistakes, especially in a market downturn, when growing their business. 

These nine common mistakes have been identified by interviewing hundreds of business owners: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good ones do things right. The bad ones have never been taught to be business owners. It is something they learn as they go. These owners probably never planned to be a business owner but through circumstances, they find they are running their own business. Many never make the adjustment.

 The bad business owners just don’t care as long as they made money. They will leave a trail of bodies behind them. They typically are people you do not want to do business with long term. 

I took the best behaviors from the business owner I interviewed over the years and distilled them into nine specific behaviors. I compared them against my clients’ behaviors and the behaviors of other successful business people I met. I found them to be valid. I then introduced these behaviors in a coaching program that drives these specific behaviors.

When the economy gets bad, business owners lose all discipline and focus they had when they created a successful business. Instead of being more discipline they tend to go after everything. This is a problem because they dilute their already limited resources by trying to do too many things or being all things to all people.

The key to success lies in how well you create an “attitude of success.” My studies have shown that there are nine behaviors that all successful people exhibit, especially in an economic downturn. When these behaviors are implemented in the highest levels of an organization and are combined with the correct attitude, they cascade down through the organization. Successful business owners understand that the organization they manage takes on the attitude of the top person in the organization, and they strive to ensure that their behaviors reflect this. To be successful you must implement these nine behaviors.

   Become Selfishness – Get Clear on What is Important 

When I say successful companies are selfish, I am not referring to the childish behavior of everything is “mine, mine, mine.” I am referring to a mature selfishness that allows them to make decisions based on the outcomes they want to experience.

Being selfish asks, “How do I protect my time, energy, and money so I am only spending them on those things that will take me closer to my goals?” This kind of selfishness allows them to make sure their precious resources are only being spent on activities that benefit their company. But, until they can define the types of customers they want to attract and the problems they solve for them, it is very hard to be selfish. They must get clear and stay focused on their strengths. All decisions must be based on being selfish with your time, energy and money. You must ask yourself “what is the best return for the investment?”

Stay Focused on What is Important

It is very hard for a company to be focused if you don’t know where you are going. The dictionary defines focus as “close or narrow attention; concentration.” Without a clear perspective, you cannot focus on the desired outcome. It is too easy to become distracted, unorganized, and inconsistent. When you understand what it is you are to be selfish about, you generate a clear focus—a sense of purpose. There are two questions you must always ask yourself. “Is what I am doing taking me closer to my goal (selfishness)? If not, why am I doing it?”

Be Disciplined by Creating Corporate Habits that Work

Discipline is controlled behavior resulting from training and self-control. Your mind is made up. You have decided to achieve your marketing goals.

Being disciplined means you will not abandon your goals. Discipline has taught you that business life is not smooth and that there will be rough spots. Experience has taught you that by being disciplined, you can get through the tough spots. Your eye is on the target, and you have the discipline of a laser-guided missile; you seek out your objectives, and your focus never falters. Think of discipline as the creation of personal and corporate habits that you do over and over again, because they work.  

Persistence – Stay the Course

Webster’s Dictionary defines “persistence” as the continuance of an effect after the cause is removed. Once you take the time to create a marketing strategy and implement a marketing plan, your goals will be clear. And when you are focused, disciplined, and selfish, your persistence allows you to see any unplanned obstacles not as problems, but as opportunities. After all, if it was easy, anyone could accomplish what you are accomplishing. But not everyone is on the field of battle with you. They see obstacles and stop. You see obstacles and see opportunities.
You keep your eyes clearly fixed on your objectives; you try different things to overcome these obstacles. You know where you are going; you know you can’t be stopped. You know that your persistence is what drives you forward. You will find a way around any obstacle, and keep right on going.

 Ownership – It You Don’t Own It, You Can Not Change it

Ownership is the state of being an owner. It is taking the legal right to the possession of a thing. Not only tangible things, but also your dreams, your goals, your business, and your life; if you do not take ownership for achieving your dreams, who will? You cannot blame the market or the economy for your problems. You must take ownership or you cannot take action to address the problem. Taking ownership is about change—making the change necessary to move forward, changing behaviors that are not working, and dealing with the world as it is and not as you want it to be.

You own the outcome because you are clear about where you want to go, and you take ownership for it. With ownership, you know that if you are not getting your desired results, you can take action and change the outcome. Ownership is so very empowering. You know that if you do not have the skills, you can learn or hire someone to teach you. 

Measure Everything – Orientation toward Results

Results mean ending in a particular way. Once you define your goals—the outcomes you want to achieve­—and how you want things to end, you can take ownership to create your desired outcomes. You can create the results. It is now a matter of implementing the behaviors that will drive those results.

When you don’t get the results you want, you fall back on persistence, ownership, focus, and discipline, and know that you have the skills, the drive, the desire, the knowledge, and the road map that will take you where you want to go. Results are simply a way of measuring your success. You either get the job done, or you don’t. If you don’t, because of your ownership, you go back and try something different. No excuses. No remorse. Only results. You understand that there is no trying; only doing.

Success is Dependent on Your People Effectiveness

All successful people understand that their success comes with, and through, other people. Successful people recognize these individuals and appreciate them for their contribution to the results. Understand who your best customers are and treat them like gods. Determine who will help you (employees, referral partners, business associates, etc), why they will help you and how you can help them. 

Only the Right Ideas- Not All Idea are Created Equal

Most people have an abundance of ideas and this is the problem. Once they get selfish by focusing on one specific goal, they can generate ideas that allow them to implement their intelligent self-interest. This will move them to new level, both personally and professionally. If they are not clear, the abundance of ideas will just get further off track. Getting selfish is very important here. It is also important to understand that ideas typically come from others.

Defining Success as Taking Action

Success, in the original sense of the word, simply means to take action. When in doubt, do something – anything. Successful people understand that they can always correct something that is not working. They also understand they cannot correct an action that is not taken.Do not be confused by the outcome of success: new car, new house, more time off, money etc. These are outcomes of success. They are not success. Success, simply defined, is taking action. When you take action you can achieve the outcomes of success.

Many time people have a great idea. They believe their idea will lead them to success but they have no idea how to move forward. Or, they have so many ideas that they cannot make up their mind. Successful people know they need people to help them implement their ideas.  

11 Actions you can take During Tough Economic Times

1. Create a Strategy. The first action you must take is to create a marketing plan. You must get clear on who is your best customers, where to find them, what problems you solve and why they should buy from you. This does not require a long document but clarity in thinking. All eleven actions are documented in 49 Marketing Secrets (THAT WORK) to Grow Sales. The book is available on 

2. Be Consistent. You must be consistent in your message and brand throughout all your marketing activities. Otherwise potential customer can get very confused. Most people do not lose an opportunity to the competition; they lose the opportunity to complacency of the prospect. When the prospect gets confused they do nothing. Be consistent in your message.  

3. Use Press Releases. Let the world know what you are up to. Use press releases to target specific locations. Write the press release with a unique angle that makes it easy for reporters and other readers to read your message. There is the possibility for a huge return for minimal investment.

4. Create Controversy. Take you message, your story and build some controversy so it is interesting to others. Take something that everyone is talking (newspapers, magazines, industry blogs, etc) about and incorporate that into your message.  

5. Write Articles. Writing articles is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to get your name out and increase visibility. There are hundreds of sites looking for articles. The key is to write about what your prospects what to hear about, provide value and have a clear call to action. 

6. Networking for Referrals. The quickest and fastest way to get new business is to ask for it; especially from your existing customers. They know your products and services so pick up the phone, take them out to lunch and ask them if they know anyone who they would introduce you to who could use your products or services.  

7. Create Your Business Mastery Advisory Board. Create your own advisory board. Many business owners think they can go it alone. You can’t and the sooner you realize this the faster you can the result you want. It is all about people. If you do not test your message with your peers and see what works, you are wasting, time, energy and money. 

8. Generation Leads. Use Teleseminars and Webinars as a marketing tool so people can find out what you are about. These can be free or paid. The key is to provide value so people listening want to engage you. The beauty of this approach is people who are interested in what you are promoting naturally opt-in to listen to your story. 

9. Use Electronic Newsletters. Electronic newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your audience. They opt-in so you know they are interested. Having someone buy your products and services is as much need as it is timing. Your name (product) needs to be top of mind when they need something. A newsletter can do that for you. 

10.  Speaking Before Groups. Public speaking is one of the best approaches to generating new business. You need to be professional and provide value but where are you going to get an opportunity to have 100 people pay to listen to you talk about what is important to you and how it can help them. If you are afraid of speaking, get trained. There are many different organizations to help you.

11. Create an Event.  Create and event and make it a party. People are social animals who love to be involved and find deals. You can do a grand opening, grand reopening, anniversary sale, holiday sales or any one of 100 reasons to have a party and invite people into your business. 

What to do next to Grow your Business

I had a consulting company hire me to help them grow their business. All I did was bring them back to what they did successful to grow their business. Effectively, they got selfish. This resulted in a 35% year over year growth rate.

I worked with a patent agent and he had a 150% return on his investment. We got him focused on who his idea customer is. By simply getting clear and targeting his ideal client, he had his best month ever. I worked with an Information Technology company and we reduce his time to make for a specific product by 800%.
I worked with a telephony company and took a service they provided to their existing customer at no charge and help them turn this into a product they use to expand their market.

It is all about getting clear: your market, your customers, your product, your services and taking action. If you are thinking about taking action you are already too late. It is not about thinking, it is about doing. If you don’t know how, hire someone, read a book, call someone who will share with you his experiences. Take ownership for your situation and take action to move forward.    
Ronald Finklestein, President of AKRIS, INC, is a small business success expert, business coach, consultant, speaker, author, and trainer, and has published three books, 49 Marketing Secrets (THAT WORK) to Grow Sales, Celebrating Success! Fourteen Ways to a Successful Company and The Platinum Rule to Small Business Mastery. Ron’s client have increase sales 35% year over year, experienced 150% return on investment, opened new markets and created new products that have transformed companies. Finklestein is available for coaching and consulting, speaking engagements, workshops, and seminars. You can contact him at or (330) 990-0788. Sign up for his newsletter at All the books mentioned above are available on

Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. — Thomas Edison

I received this quote from a friend after a particularly difficult time. He frames it and presented it to me because he admired what I was accomplishing and the work and effort it required.

I hang it on my wall as a reminder that persistence is required. It is titled The Man In The Arena by President Theodore Roosevelt. Thanks Chris. Here it is.

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled; or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at his best, knows the end of triumph of high achievement; and who knows the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
When I first started writing about different ideas and concepts, especially those documented in this book, I received all kinds of comments. Some of the comments were less than flattering; others we more supportive. It took me a long time to understand that I could let others control what I did (or did not do) if I took their negative comments and criticisms to heart or I could continue forward.

Just to be clear, I am not talking about people who offered constructive criticism, or made suggestions to improve the work. I am talking about the people who were angry and vocal that I would choose to write something they disagreed with. How I stole their dreams, and did not care about them. These types of anonymous notes and emails were, at first, discouraging.

 Then I heard a comment by Dan Kennedy that made sense. I am paraphrasing here. “Whatever you say will make someone angry. It doesn’t matter. Leave them alone and write for the people who want to hear what you have to say.”

I really subscribe to this quote from Calvin Coolidge.  
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Be persistent. If you do not believe in your dreams who will.

Thoughts? Comments?

Nine Behaviors That Lead to Success

As a reuslt of my research, I was able to isolate nine specific behaviors that successful people implement in their business. Let’s discuss the nine behaviors.

1.     Selfishness … Selfishness is defined as intelligent self-interest. Intelligent self-interest means to understanding what is important. What is important is helping business owners be success. It is this intelligent selfish-interest that allows business owners to protect their time, energy, money and take action that leads to successful results.  

2.     Results … Successful people measure everything. Their actions are driven by the results they want. It is important to measure everything to ensure the actions being performed led to the correct results. This step can only happen when you take ownership.

3.     Ownership … Ownership states that I am responsible for what is happening in my business and my life. When a person takes ownership of his/her situation, change can be effected. Our job is to help you be successful but it is your business and you need to take responsibility for the outcomes you experience.

4.     People … Our success is largely dependent on how well we lead, communicate, manage, influence, and sell our ideas to others. Successful people understand this and they are consistently looking to surround themselves with other likeminded individuals to test ideas, receive feedback, improve their skills and be held accountable for doing what is important. These concepts are discussed in my book The Platinum Rule for Small Business Mastery.

5.     Persistence … The best laid plans rarely work out as planned. You know the old saying: “plan for the worst and hope for the best.” Successful people are flexible in implementing their plans; changing as the facts dictate while remaining true to their intelligent self-interest. 

6.     Discipline … When you measure your results a powerful thing starts to happen: you find out what works. Discipline means created measurable, repeatable and predictable processes that allow business owners to create corporate and business habits that anyone can learn. This makes it easier to pass along the corporate knowledge that leads to business success.

7.     Focus … Focus means asking two questions: Is what I am doing leading me to my goal? If not, then why am I doing it? When you are focused, you determined what is really important to implementing your goals as defined by your intelligent self-interest.

8.     Ideas … Many business owners suffer from a glut of ideas. Instead, they need to focus those ideas that specifically drive their goals and support their intelligent self-interest. Finklestein and his team create a third book called 49 Marketing Secrets (THAT WORK) to Grow Sales. The primary focus of this book is to generate marketing ideas that are used to help business owners grow sales. 

9.     Action … The original definition of the success is to take action. When business owners get clear on their intelligent self-interest, it become much easier to take action… and it is all about taking action. That is what the Business Mastery Advisory Board is all about, holding business owners accountable to take the correct action to achieve their goals.

How many of these behaviors have you implemented in your business?