How to end your recession yourself

OK, the economy is in pretty bad shape right now. In fact, many people tell me they’ve never seen worse in their long careers. No doubt there are several factors beyond our control. What continually amazes me is the number of businesses that fail to control the things they can control.

For instance, high fuel prices force many to buy from the lowest-cost providers. The price on the sign can be a major determinant of how many vehicles pull in to buy on any given day. I know of one gas station that keeps figures up to date, but there’s a small tree growing in front of its sign, so we can’t see it. Why wouldn’t they trim or even move that tree elsewhere?

On I-95 in southern Maine, there’s a station at a rest area with an electronic sign that makes it easier to adjust prices – which, as far as I’m concerned change all too frequently, unless they’re going down. Too bad the sign isn’t closer to the entrance, so prospective customers could actually see it in time to take advantage of the prices.

There’s a “For Sale” sign on a house I ride by frequently. It says, “Pre-qualified buyers only,” and I can’t help but wonder if that’s why it’s been for sale for so long. Why wouldn’t they want to show it to someone who wasn’t pre-qualified? It’s tough enough finding buyers in today’s market without broadly eliminating categories. In fact, buyers who don’t even need mortgages aren’t “pre-qualified” either.

Technology can be wonderful, but too much of it can be downright annoying. I recently walked into a restaurant that had wide-screen TVs everywhere, all tuned to different channels. Presumably, there was something for almost everybody. As if that weren’t enough, they also had hard rock music blaring from a radio. The din was such that I couldn’t imagine eating in such chaotic ambiance, and I walked out.

This restaurant wasn’t very busy. Do you think the resulting cacophony could have had anything to do with it?

None of these customer turn-offs would take a lot of money to fix. They don’t even require a stimulus check or bailout from the government.

No doubt, the economy is responsible for some of our poor business results, but how much lost business is the result of our own stupidity? Just because plasma TVs and radios are available doesn’t mean they will please our clientele or increase business.

Yes, I know it’s trendy in sports bars, but there may not be enough of that kind of clientele to fill all the restaurants.

Unless you find you’re making too much money, you might want to take a look around to see what may be driving customers away from you. Just because you and/or your staff like something doesn’t mean the people who bring in the money like it.

In fact, the people you really want to speak with are those who don’t buy from you, especially those who turn around and leave. Don’t get mad at them; try to find out why.

If you’re satisfied with your current level of business, then just taking care of your regulars is just fine, provided you aren’t losing too many of them. If you’d actually like more business, and that usually means more customers, is it just possible that finding out why almost-customers don’t become customers just might give you a clue?

It’s unlikely that satisfying this new group would displease your old group, the regulars. The regulars may like you for other reasons and may not want to complain.

You might actually be able to end your recession all by yourself. Please, don’t wait for Washington to come to the rescue — they still haven’t figured it out.

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<font size=1>Ronald J. Bourque is a consultant and speaker from Windham. He has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871; fax 603-894-6539; bourq@att.net; www.bourqueai.com.</font size>