Mind Your Business: Surviving the Recession

In this month's column, Mark Simon reminds us what it takes to survive -- and thrive -- during recessionary times.

Mark Simon wearing a protective suit of armor against the Recession demon. All images courtesy of Mark Simon.

Recession. 'Tis the winged demon casting fire upon your business. We've been listening to it sneak up on us for months. In fact, we knew it was here long before the village idiot, er, shaman, announced its arrival.

The R-beast can be frightening. A single step in your direction can cause freezing fear in freelancers, staffers and business owners alike.

Much like if you run into a wild tiger, running from the Recession is the worst thing you can do.

As soon as many people even hear about a recession, or troubles others are having, they run from their business. To save money, owners of businesses of all sizes have a tendency to pull back on their advertising and then wonder why their business fell off. The fall-off was more than likely, at least partially, because they stopped marketing their business.

However, when the creature stomps through your village, you are bound to have to make some changes.

The best thing you can do is put on your suit of armor and fight against it.

Freelancers should do what they can to support the ultimate needs of their clients, so the clients feel comfortable in reusing their services. Be willing to work with your clients to fulfill their needs, both in what they need and what they can afford. They are in the same boat as you. When you help a client, they will help you.

Staffers should make themselves invaluable. There is an old saying (at least I've heard myself say it in the office a few times): "If you are just doing your job, you're not doing your job." In other words, if you want to excel in your career and what you do, never just do what you are asked to do. To get ahead, you need to do more than your job. During times when companies are downsizing, who is more likely to be let go: someone who complains and only does the minimum required of him, or someone who does more than they are asked and goes the extra yard for their company?

Company owners may also have to make some tough decisions. You may have to cut hours or employees. You may have to cut extraneous costs. You may need to be creative in approaching clients on how to lower your production budgets. Be willing to ask your employees and vendors for help. It is in their best interest that you survive, as that will also help them to survive. We are all in this together.

You do not want to scale back on your marketing. Ever heard of out of sight, out of mind?

During this latest attack, we have looked at all of our costs, as most of you have. Marketing dollars was a big area we looked at. We didn't approach it with wanting to cut costs. We looked closely at what was working and what wasn't in order to cut wasteful spending on advertising that didn't work. Then we refocused those wasted dollars back into new ideas that should work better. Yes, spending $1,000 can be painful, but if that money brings in $5,000, then it makes sense to do it. Saving that $1,000 would actually cost me an additional $4,000 in income.

The soothsayers have often whispered, "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." When you are fighting against the Recession beast, and win, you will be in a great position to not only live, but to thrive during better times. Sure, it's rough to see other businesses leave an area or go out of business, but that also means more business for you if you are smart during the hard times.

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We are stronger as a group. Together we can beat this creature. Sometimes it's easier to see what someone else should do than to see it in ourselves. Take some time and share ideas with others in your field and they will help you too.

I often feast with other business owners. We share war stories and commiserate with one another over business issues and dealing with clients. These get-togethers are great because not only do you realize you are not alone in the problems you face, but one of us will also usually have a great idea to share with the other.

Together, with one great idea at a time, and without running and putting our heads in the sand, we can defeat this hideous, drooling Recession.

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer/director and speaker. He owns a storyboard company, and animation studio and is co-founder of SellYourTvConceptNow.com, the most comprehensive source for expert guidance and resources for those who are serious about selling their TV show ideas. He is offering AWN readers a free month of TV Pitch Tips Audio Postcards. Register for your four weekly audio postcards of insider Hollywood pitch tips, tricks and secrets.

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