NEW YORK – The economy is showing signs of life, and that makes it a good time for small-business owners to re-evaluate how they are running their companies. Experts say its time for owners to think about taking some risks and to make sure they are taking care of employees.
Back away from the business and look strategically at next year and ask, what can I do differently? says Paul Sarvadi, an adviser to many small-business owners as CEO of Insperity, a human resources provider in Houston. Look at your (business) plan. Are you going to beat it or be behind it?
Keeping costs down should remain a priority, because customers are willing to bolt to another business that offers lower prices, says David Rosenbaum, president of Real-Time Computer Services, a technology services company in New York.
You need to be putting an additional emphasis on figuring out how to less expensively deliver what product or service youre delivering, Rosenbaum adds. You may not be able to charge what you did before.
Owners also must help customers understand that their products and services are more valuable than what competitors offer.
Owners should take an honest, hard look at their companies and see whether there are fundamental changes to make, recommends Kathleen Allen, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern Californias Marshall School of Business.
Donít be afraid
These days, many owners see hiring even one employee or investing in an expensive piece of equipment as risky. But that strategy isnt always the safest bet.
To do nothing is to take a risk, and more often than not, its as great a risk as taking calculated action, says Dennis Ceru, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass.
Consumer spending and the economy can rebound quickly. Companies that cant jump on an opportunity because they dont have the staff or equipment may lose out to competitors.
Not moving forward because of uncertainty about the health care law is a mistake, USCs Allen says.
Do you stand and wait for everything to be figured out before you do anything to grow your business? she says.
Show that you care
As the labor market improves, many people will look for new jobs. Retaining staffers is key, says Maria Martinez, owner of Respira Medical in Linthicum Heights, Md.
Martinez, who has 60 employees, uses incentives such as flexible scheduling and tuition reimbursement to reward and keep staffers. They can come in late or leave early when necessary. She gives each employee four days a year with pay to volunteer at charitable organizations.
Owners who had to cut 401(k) contributions or other benefits because of the recession and its aftermath should start restoring them, Insperitys Sarvadi says.
I would consider, if not all at once, then incrementally bringing some things back, he says.