17-the-dealers-council-cartoon-future-brightEveryone has been holding out and hanging on for the light at the end of that ruthless dark tunnel we call today’s economic slump.   I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard the utterances of wishful thinking, “It’s going to get better…the future is looking brighter.”  Yes, one day it will get better, but as much as we’d like improvement to be just around the corner, it’s not looking like 2012 is going to be the magic year for the cabinet dealer (sigh).

Many economists would seem to agree, including CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, Peter Schiff, author of “Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Crash.”  He (among a few others) is credited with predicting the financial crisis that was triggered at the end of 2007, and continues to paint a bleak picture for our US economy as the Federal government continues to print more money and raise the debt ceiling yet again.

The textbook definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP – and with little to no growth after a recession ends, there is a good chance of falling back into a double-dip recession (Hey, wait…aren’t we showing little to no ….?  Uh oh…).  Until a genuine effort is made to cut federal spending and place unwavering focus back on the growth of our economy, job growth will likely continue to stay in limbo as consumers hold on to their money in uncertainty.  Therefore; we’re led to come to grips with the uncomfortable assumption that not much will change until at least 2013. Hold onto your hats!

Since there’s no immediate relief in sight for kitchen and bath professionals, it is important that you plan for the tough times.  If you’re currently making money, you’ll probably continue to do so.  If you’re not, it’s time to seriously do something about it. Prepare for the worst of this cycle and be imaginative about how to survive through it until the economy does come roaring back.  Here are a few tips that will help you stay afloat until then:

Do more with less.

This is the time to think about areas that are costing too much time and money.  Most likely, you’ve been forced to cut staff and spending, meaning now more than ever you must do things more efficiently and effectively. Your staff is stretched so thin that your business can simply no longer afford to still do things manually.  If you’re still doing everything by hand, you’re already behind.  Use industry specific software to save time and streamline your business, or you’ll likely get left in the dark.

Close those deals.

There’s likely to be a few leads that walk through your door in the current economy.  Make sure your sales staff has a streamlined fool-proof process for finding, qualifying and reading prospects and closing those sales.  This isn’t the time to play around with popular techniques to try to turn them into real salespeople when they aren’t.  They must have honed skills and have a working plan to “lock it up” so to speak.  The livelihood of your dealership depends on your sales people.  Are they reliable? Standard salespeople won’t get you through the economic trough. It takes exceptional sales ability to survive.

Get more out of current customers.

Utilize your positive relationships with current and past customers.  After all, it is more time consuming (not to mention costly) to gain the trust of a new customer, so why not at least try to get more out of the ones you already have.  If a customer is already there to buy new cabinets, find out other things they’re buying from someone else, or looking to buy, and work them on those areas.  If they’re spending in this economy already, they are probably somewhat persuadable.

Better times may be just around the corner, but the corner may be a few blocks further down the road than you were hoping.  Now is the time to focus on the key things that help you survive.   By the time the sagging economy bulks up, your newly efficient dealership will be equipped to soar past competitors better than ever before.