Uncertain Pathways

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“These are the times that try men’s souls”

Thomas Paine December 23, 1776

    What types of business information do you use to make decisions with? Do you exclusively rely on internal data and reports to draw inferences from for guiding future activities? Are you more inclined to listen to external sources, such as economic data, social cues or political dynamics? 

    Making business decisions in current times is a complex issue, one that has become more difficult as time passes. We live in uncertain times with global strife, national politics taking stage in a Presidential election year, uncertainty with respect to inflation data and interest rate expectations, technologic innovations and market segment asymmetries all adding dynamic pressures to the decision process. Change is a constant, but present-day issues seem all the more enhanced this year, at least as reported by a number of businesses we are working with.

    In the face of uncertainty, sharp operators go to the fundamentals – the ‘certainties’ they experience to guide them through uncertain times. What are those certainties?

    Rely on yourself as owner or manager of operations. Hear what is going on around you, look for new ideas and business models, but use your experience and vision to guide your actions.

    Save your capital. Build maintenance and replacement budgets and be conservative with your cash resources. Until matters stabilize, your cash is one buffer you may need if a crisis erupts.

    Invest wisely. If you are in a position to invest, start with your employees then graduate to other needs.

    Keep your competitors’ customers close; keep your customers closer. Don’t lose market share at this point in time.

    Develop according to a plan. Take your time to look at opportunities unless you are in an industry that is running counter-cyclical to the times, such as skilled trades.

    Stay agile. Be ready to pivot, to investigate opportunity without committing until the conditions are right for you.

    Mimic the large companies. Buy your markets instead of developing them with the associated costs that take time to recover.

    Own your business and its results. Don’t count on outside sources of investment to save you. Spend your time and efforts saving yourself and building profits to buffer your business.

    As you plan, look at future possibilities and trends in the economy and gauge political interest in moving the national economy in one direction or another. Place yourself in a position to benefit from upcoming changes.

    Lose unwanted inventory. Convert it to cash.

    Find mentors and Board members. Bring them on NOW.

    Hang tight for 2024 and into 2025 before making large-scale changes, unless short-term gains as well as long-term strategic value can be gained from an action in the near future. The business you save may be your own. Want to talk about it? We are available, experienced and ready to help you figure it out.

    Marshall Doak is the Director of the Southern Oregon University Small Business Development Center and a supporter of innovation and the community that forms around innovation in the economy. In private practice as owner of Managed Successions, LLC, he develops and manages projects for public and private organizations for specific goal achievement success, including advising businesses wanting to transfer ownership and retain the value created over time. He can be reached through: mdoak06@gmail.com or 541-646-4126.

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