1. Keep your visibility up
A recession doesn’t last forever! If competitors stop trading, that means potential new customers for you. Be ready to take advantage of these opportunities. Marketing budgets are commonly cut. But if your potential customers don’t know you exist, they won’t be able to buy from you.
2. Focus on what matters
The temptation during a recession is to lower overheads and costs. This is a good business discipline – but only in non-essential areas. I believe that you should always be investing in areas that improve customer loyalty and satisfaction. Differentiate yourself from your competitors and give your customers reasons to keep coming back.
We have a “Customer Insight” programme, for example, which carries out quantitative research to help us understand customer perceptions and gauge expectations of what they really need from an ideal supplier. Based on this research, we added 1,000 new products to our catalogue in May – and our customers can now order as late as 7.30pm for next-day delivery. Make sure your investments are profitable as opposed to “nice to haves”.
3. Motivate your workforce
Whatever you do, don’t scrimp on training. Your staff need to be in tune with your business ethos. We provide full funds for employees participating in the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI) courses. As a specialist trade supplier, these qualifications are essential, not only for staff development but also for the trusted advice that we can provide customers.
4. Move on up
Review your office space. Remember: now is a good time to move or upgrade. There will be a lot of good-value opportunities now before everyone looks to invest again. We recently moved to new premises, covering more than 50,000 square feet – double the size of our previous site. This larger area means we can increase our selection of products and improve efficiency by having all our stock in one location. We also have the space to install new systems to help us improve next-day delivery.
5. Don’t buy growth
If you expand by cutting prices and margins, you’ll never recover them. Doubling the size of a bad P&L will give you a P&L that’s twice as bad!
Wayne Lysaght-Mason is the managing director of Ironmongery Direct, a £12.5m-turnover multi-channel retailer of ironmongery products. The Essex-based company was shortlisted for the Customer Excellence category at last year’s Growing Business Awards. Read about this year’s event here.
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