No time for cowards

    If you subscribe to SBT’s BizTimes Daily, you read the headlines every day. In doing so, you’ve no doubt noticed and anecdotally have felt the impact of the economic slowdown that is upon us.

    We are toiling amid $4 gasoline, the subprime foreclosure crisis, the credit crunch and an icy housing market. Us taxpayers are being asked to bail out our banks, a large insurance company, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    In effect, we’re bailing out ourselves.

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently said that he believed inflation will moderate in the coming months because the economy is so sluggish, it will keep prices down. Forgive me, but isn’t that akin to saying our winter heating bills are going to be lower this winter because our furnace is broken? He’s essentially saying we’re going to spend less because we’ll have less.

    With all of that as a backdrop, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC)/Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE) Future 50 program last week could not have come at a better time and provides a much-needed energy boost to our collective state of mind.

    This year, we asked the leaders of the 50 fastest-growing companies in southeastern Wisconsin one special bonus question: What is your company’s key strategy for surviving the economic slowdown?

    Here are some of their responses:

    • "During each economic downturn, we’ve invested more into our company – everything from improving operations to increasing sales staff to taking bold new marketing initiatives. The perfect time to make these moves is when you have the time and ability to fully support these investments."
    • "Investing in technology now. We’ve recently signed an agreement with a claims clearinghouse and are looking for ways to make our website more interactive with our members and providers."
    • "Expand our customer base and pursue synergistic acquisitions. Also, we are about to introduce a new product that will open new markets for us."
    • "Diversify our business lines, even though our services are somewhat related, fluxuations in the economy will not have an equal effect on all sections of our business mix.  Biggest key is to contunally make sure that we ‘do it better’ than our competition."
    • "Focus on making more contacts to develop new business and maximize our product and service offering to our existing account base."
    • "Grow while our competitors read about how bad business is, close offices, layoff people and downsize staff.  Be consistently better at what we do than the competition and maintain a staff of true client-focused experts to ensure clients receive the best service."
    • "Great People!"


    These dynamic business leaders are boldly charging straight into the economic headwinds and growing their companies. You can read all of their responses at We all can benefit from their best practices.

    Bottom line: Let’s grit our teeth, open our eyes to the possibilities and charge ahead. We have no choice.

    Steve Jagler is executive editor of Small Business Times.

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