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Purdue TAP advice for managing business in 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — If the economy begins recovering this year as hoped, administrators at Purdue University’s Technical Assistance Program say smart managers will make the most of an improved business climate.

“Many companies have undergone significant changes during the recession, and now is the perfect time to plan for how those changes will affect performance in an improving economy,” said David McKinnis, director of TAP, which helps Indiana companies and health-care providers improve performance.

“Our team focused on that need as we developed recommendations we believe will help businesses thrive going forward.”

TAP’s suggestions for getting ahead in 2010:

  • Continue managing your business as if you are not making money. If you have survived the downturn, you know how to watch your cash flow and focus on your key metrics. As the economy and your business outlook improve, keep that focus. Define your critical metrics and monitor them rigorously. If you don’t have a continuous improvement plan, develop one immediately. Great companies continuously change their processes to be more applicable and efficient.
  • Stay connected with your customers so you can better serve their needs in a changing economy. Spend time with them, preferably as they use your products or services. Some customers may use your products differently than how they were designed. And understand your customers’ current issues so you can alter your products to their needs.
  • Keep your employees engaged. They’ve felt the pressure of the downturn, too. Provide them with clear goals for going forward and honest communication, even when the news isn’t great. When you start hiring again, chose the right candidates. Hire for expertise, not just to fill a position. Provide new hires with the directions, guidelines and resources needed to make them effective contributors to your team.
  • Manage for the future. Any manager who has gone through a recession as deep as this one has spent time putting out fires. Now is the time to concentrate on the longer term. Tackle the big issues that can keep a company from making the most of a re-energized economy. Keep your team involved in identifying problems and implementing solutions. Make sure they know they can bring issues to the table.
  • Create and maintain a viable strategic plan. Even if you’ve had a strategic plan, the new economic picture may require adjustments. Build on what has made your business successful as you develop action plans that will support growth. And find someone – your board, a colleague or a neutral third party – to honestly assess your strategic plan.

“Companies have an opportunity to do some reinvention as they come out of the downturn. We strongly urge that they don’t return to what used to be,” McKinnis said.

During the 2008-09 fiscal year, TAP worked with more than 700 companies in 86 of Indiana’s 92 counties. Its efforts resulted in a record $84 million in increased or retained sales by the companies. More than 1,000 jobs were created or retained.

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