BY PETER AUST
Each year I’m asked to prognosticate on the economic forecast for our region. I’ve come to learn that this future casting is best provided by the business leaders who live and breathe this every single day.
Therefore, I’ve spent the past few weeks talking and meeting with many business and community leaders throughout our region. These revealing conversations provide me insight into the successes, or lack thereof, in the previous year and the challenges experienced or foresee in the coming year. More importantly, these conversations provide a greater appreciation of the enthusiastic attitude these leaders have for our future.
What does our future look like? Not only do we ask ourselves this question in our family and personal lives, but business leaders are actively discussing this question regularly at meetings, forums and around the water cooler.
The opinions are varied, but common to these conversations is that our continued economic growth is expected. This past year saw some great projects and investments come to fruition: the Marriott Hotel project in Lake George, new investments at Finch Paper and Irving Tissue, the downtown Glens Falls parking garage and Hudson Avenue project breaking ground to name a few. Our Adirondack Craft Beverage initiative also experienced tremendous growth with a host of new craft beverage producers and ancillary companies opening or expanding operations.
Other insightful conversations left me with the understanding that many of our businesses experienced a terrific year financially, with some saying it was the best they’ve seen in their history, especially in the tourism-related sector.
But there were others in certain sectors of our economy who indicated it was a tough year and slow progress is being made in wake of the Great Recession. Wage increases, Affordable Care Act compliance, plant closures, online competition and the overall state regulatory environment are continuing to make doing business in our area a contact sport.
I believe 2016 businesses can positively impact their bottom line by focusing on the business basics that made them successful in the past. Here are a couple of suggestions to consider:
Relationship Building. In the midst of a challenging environment, it’s natural to be focused on meeting existing customers’ needs and keeping your business moving forward. In those times, we tend to back-burner a basic principle of business: Build new relationships to sustain our growth. If we don’t constantly try to establish new relationships with people, we’re not feeding the pipeline for our business to stay strong.
Building relationships is more important now than ever before. We suggest that business leaders who make this a priority will be the one’s who experience strong growth in a slower-growing economy.
Plan. The old adage businesses should adhere to is this basic: Plan, plan, plan. If you haven’t reviewed your business plan in the past six months, make 2016 the year. It’s no secret that the most successful businesses have developed short- and long-term goals that remain the foundation of their business. Goals can be as simple as making a personal contact with one new person a day, to a more aggressive goal of breaking ground on a new project by year end.
Whether you’re a CEO of a 500 employee company or four-person landscaping business, planning for sustained growth is essential.
Adhere to a “good-to-great” philosophy. In Jim Collin’s book, “Good to Great,” the author states that the enemy of great is good. Throughout the past few years, most businesses have been able to streamline their operations, allowing them to survive and remain a “good” business.
However, moving your business to “great” takes a strong commitment to excellence and a calculated level of risk that many have been unwilling to do in this challenging economic environment. Businesses that have a strong desire to become great will have an opportunity in 2016 to begin implementing strategies that will move them in that direction. As consumer confidence continues to increase, companies prepared to take advantage of that shift will be positioned for more than incremental growth.
The ARCC believes that businesses that take more calculated risks, develop strategic goals and continue to build strong relationships will be rewarded in their bottom line at the end of the year.