|Door Dealer Diaries|
Tired of Treading Water? Time for Door Dealers to Move Forward in 2012
By Tony Jones
For many door dealers and access control professionals, 2011 probably looked a lot like 2010, which looked a lot like 2009, which looked a lot like 2008. Let’s face it, the needle hasn’t moved much for most small businesses as they continue to feel the sting from the recession and remain mired in the muck from a sluggish economy. Long periods spent treading water can quickly become tiresome and disconcerting for business decision-makers, but if you’re not sinking, you’re surviving.
Despite the stagnation, small businesses appear to have some glimmer of optimism heading into 2012. In a recent survey of 1,000 small business decision-makers by Zoomerang and GrowBiz Media, 40 percent indicated they were either optimistic or very optimistic about their business heading into next year (28 percent were either pessimistic or very pessimistic). The positive outlook is interesting considering 50 percent of respondents said they failed to meet business goals this year, and 61 percent were negatively impacted by the economy.
Not surprisingly, the top challenges faced by small businesses this year were growing the customer base (44 percent), budget constraints (32 percent) and customer retention (32 percent). More than one-quarter (27 percent) of respondents indicated merely staying in business was a major challenge in 2011.
Weathering any economic storm is difficult, and many door dealers are navigating uncharted waters. More than ever, steering your business requires a level head and fortitude. Remain proactive, not reactive. As we head into a pivotal election year, no matter what solutions are proposed by candidates, none will be an overnight fix. A steady hand is critical in order to remain focused on the positives of your business and local market, and necessary in maintaining your quality commitment to customers.
The door and access control industry received some positive news last week when the U.S. Department of Commerce reported production of new single-family homes and apartments rose 9.3 percent in November, the fastest pace of housing starts since October 2008. The National Association of Home Builders said it expected continued, slow improvement in housing starts and sales through 2012.
The market will come back, and how you position your business now will determine how quickly you will be in position to capitalize later. David Chase, chief marketing officer for Altus Alliance, wrote an interesting article three years ago for iMediaConnection.com in which he examined how brands survived the Great Depression. He points out that GE, Disney, HP and Microsoft all were startups during downturns in the U.S. economy, ranging from recessions to the Great Depression.
Although you’re not likely shooting for that kind of dominance, it is an intriguing reminder that one of the byproducts of any economic downturn is that the best positioned companies will outperform others during the crisis and thrive when the dust settles. The hardest decisions you will make over the next few months will continue to be those that require you to spend money and remain aggressive in your marketplace. It is an unnerving and unenviable position, but rewards await those who read their situations smartly and act decisively.
Although 50 percent of the Zoomerang survey respondents said their primary source of getting customers in 2012 would be through either word of mouth or repeat business, 46 percent indicated they would invest money in marketing and communications, for example. In fact, marketing was the number one business area targeted for investment by respondents.
If there is a certainty about the future, it’s that there is one. The steps you take now to position your business will help determine the value and performance of your operation in the days and months ahead. Opportunity doesn’t always knock. Sometimes it sits behind doors that require courage, curiosity and tenacity to open.
The Professional Door Dealer family wishes you all a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Tony Jones is an editor with Professional Door Dealer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .