Innovative owners might look to use cheap tricks

Innovative owners might look to use cheap tricks

Published Saturday, July 5, 2008

This has become the era of cheap tricks. No, not those cheap tricks.

I mean the innovative ways small businesses are finding to conserve
resources, reduce costs and survive the economic downturn. The
creativity that fueled their entrepreneurial enterprise in the first
place is now sustaining them through some really tough times. Here is a
collection of some of the best cheap tricks I’ve found.

● Change your mind. I read a story the other day about an entrepreneur
who started each day by pinning a button on his shirt that said, "I
absolutely refuse to participate in a recession." While his
small-business colleagues were bemoaning their economic plight at the
local Starbuck’s every morning, he grabbed his coffee and went straight
to his rolodex to reconnect with former customers and contacts. Not a
lot of money invested, but a great deal of return.

● Be visible. Become active in your chamber. Become involved in the
community. Talk to people. Attend business meetings, conferences and
educational events for entrepreneurs. Don’t let the stories of doom and
gloom bring you down. Be seen, be open, be positive.

● Turn the negative into a positive. Use what is going on in the
economy to your advantage. Position your company as an answer to the
difficult conditions. Be seen as a quality, but economic, solution to
consumers’ spending challenges. Make it worth the extra gas required to
stop at your business. Price competitively.

● Pair up. Find a group of business professionals and build a network
of compatible companies. Make their goals your goals, and likewise.
Make referrals to one another, exchange contacts and share skills. And
remember your pals. Recognize those who refer to you.

● Collection, collection, collection. Focus on getting paid. Be clear
about the work to be done, how much you will be paid and by when. Add a
due date in bold on your invoice. Call to follow up on the invoice, and
don’t wait until the invoice is past due. Ensure there are no customer
service or product quality issues in the way of receiving prompt

● Deductions, deductions, deductions. Remember that you can deduct as
much as $250,000 in major equipment purchases in 2008, including
computers, software, office furniture and machinery. Check with your
tax professional for the latest guidelines to reduce your tax burden.

● Be a shrewd shopper. When purchasing furniture for your business,
invest in good chairs. Buy inexpensive tables; pass by the big
workstations. Buy a good coffee maker and a spacious refrigerator. Not
only do trips out for coffee and lunch cost money; they cost employee
time – an expensive commodity.

● Go online. Use your Web site to full advantage. Offer online sales,
create a blog, give customers a choice to opt in to an e-newsletter.
Keep it updated and interactive. Offer information as well as promotion.

● Network. Not just in person but also online. Join a business or
social networking site such as Linked In. Invite others to join, and
stay active.

● Give it away. Offer product samples and free hours of services in
exchange for a larger purchase. Think about AOL. It worked for them.

● Don’t quit promoting. Advertising typically is one of the first
things businesses cut when times are tough. Instead, focus. Make sure
your advertising appears where it will reach your best prospects, and
ensure it has a "call to action" or includes a specific offer.

● Talk to your customers. Ask them for testimonials, letters of
reference and referrals. Reward them with discounts and special offers.
If you have helped someone in the past, chances are they will be
willing to return the favor.

● Take the high road. Set yourself apart by professionalism, integrity,
customer service and a commitment to your core values. Conduct your
business in a completely trustworthy manner. Act in your customers’
best interests, even if it means sending them to another business, even
a competitor.

● Come see us. The Missouri Small Business and Technology Development
Center housed in the University Center for Innovation and
Entrepreneurship can help you develop strategies for challenging times.

You can find information on our Web site, www.missouribusiness. net.
Attend our upcoming session on marketing research at 7:30 p.m. July 16
at the Columbia Country Club. Call us at 882-7096 to register for this
special educational event that will help you find the customers you so
badly need right now.

Above all, keep the faith. And don’t be above using some cheap tricks!


Mary Paulsell is the director of the University Center for
Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Missouri. Reach
her at or visit

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