2009 Recalibration: Part 1

Your business is bursting with profits

Ask yourself this question: Where is the latent profit in our business?

No business, in the history of the world, has created all of the profit it could possibly produce—including yours. There is always money left on the table.

That is especially true in tough times like this. Our world has changed, profoundly and quickly, and we have yet to adjust to our new reality. Many of us are so shell-shocked at what's been taken from us that we have yet to acknowledge what is left for us to take.

Your business is filled with unrealized opportunities. It is bursting with latent profit, just waiting to be unleashed. The real question is whether you will identify those opportunities and grab them. I am 100% convinced that the state of your business on January 1, 2010, has less to do with the Dow Jones Average, the unemployment rate, or the price of gas than it does with how YOU act in the meantime. (And it is in your best interest to believe this, also.)

As a first step, you want to identify the best sources of latent profit for you in this economic climate. To do this, start out by dreaming. Get in a quiet, undistracted place, and imagine it is one year from today. As you dream, imagine that 2009 was the best, most profitable year you have ever had. (Yes, this is a good dream.) Open your mind, and imagine what happened in your business to make 2009 so successful. If you open your mind, and let yourself think positively, you'll be surprised at the ideas that flow to the surface.

I did this exercise with a client a few weeks ago. Despite the economic situation, the CEO sensed that significant opportunity was lurking below the surface. I asked the CEO and his key senior leaders to imagine the company had an incredible 2009 and 2010, and to describe the company to me on January 1, 2011. Although the company produced $15 million in revenue in 2008, it didn’t take this team long to identify a very credible, achievable $30 million business in two years.

Where did we find this opportunity?

• The first place the business's leaders identified was in their existing customer relationships, where a very large percentage of customers were only buying a fraction of what was possible. The executives admitted that they hadn’t spent nearly enough time developing these existing customer relationships.
• They recognized a large number of retail outlets that could carry their products, but which they had not pursued.
• They had recently experimented with some new product combinations, presented as comprehensive solutions, which were showing initial success with a small number of customers. They didn’t have a sales plan to take these ideas to other customers, but realized that there was great potential if they did so.
• They had recently made a big sale to an entirely new kind of customer, that they had never served before. This first sale now gave them credibility and a track record with other companies in that category.

Was it hard for the company to identify these opportunities? No. Had they articulated them clearly before our conversation. No. This idea of "bringing the future forward," by imagining that it is now one year from today, opens your mind to seeing the possibilities in your business. Like my client, your company is likely sitting on a mountain of opportunity, despite the economic situation.

All of us are sitting on mountains of opportunity. But this result really isn't all that surprising. You have left many opportunities unrealized for years. It's only natural; after all, we can't chase everything that it's possible to chase. Life in business is all about making choices about what we do, and what we don't do. Many of the things you chose not to do in the past may be ripe to be done in the present.

As I've been going through this simple exercise with my clients, and with my own business, it's been invigorating to see the ideas that we bring to the surface. I trust you will have the same experience and will find this to be a positive step toward your success during this economic meltdown.

[This is the first in a six-part series by Steve Yastrow, which parallels six ideas he presented in his 2009 Readiness Teleseminar, in which he addresses Six Readiness Questions to help you thrive in 2009. If you fast-forward to 11 minutes into the one-hour seminar, you can hear more about the subject of this blog post.—CM]