As part of our 10 year anniversary issue, we are asking fellow business owners how their industries and businesses are changing. (See www.nyreport.com/2013AndBeyond to read some responses and perhaps add your own). Over the past few months I have spoken and written about how business is changing faster than ever—in particular, how people buy, how people are managed, and the effects of globalization.
But there is another trend that, post-Sandy, is coming and isn't going away soon. Because of all the change I mentioned above, and among other reasons, business (sales in particular) is getting harder and harder to predict. Buyers are taking longer to make decisions. Also, buyers are making shorter commitments. For example, where some companies bought for an entire year, and made the commitment in November, many are now committing to the first quarter and waiting until January to do so. Does it hurt their business to do this? Perhaps, but not as much as it hurts yours.
In many cases, the business will be there. But it makes it hard as hell to plan and budget. Of course, this wreaks havoc on cash flow too.
What can businesses do about this? Here are a few ideas:
Realize this isn't going away. It will probably get worse. So don't wait for the good old days to come back. If the economy picks up, a lot this might change. But who thinks the economy is picking up soon?
Increase your pipeline. If it took three prospects to get a deal, it might now take five to get the one that is ready to buy when you need them to.
Smother your existing clients with love. They are your best prospects and you know how hard it is to get new clients.
Build up a cash reserve. Now it might be harder than ever to do, but a cash reserve will get you through the bumps.
How is your business changing? Let me know in the comments, or visit www.nyreport.com/2013AndBeyond to share your thoughts.
Robert Levin is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of The New York Enterprise Report. Levin has extensive experience with midsize and small businesses, having previously held CEO, CFO, and COO positions with companies in several industries. He is also a contributor for The Huffington Post. Levin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (212) 307-6760.