Westchester Business Journal, Guest View by Sherry Bruck
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April 12, 2010
BY SHERRY BRUCK
It seemed to happen slowly in the fall of 2008. We were having a good year with sales up 25 percent over 2007. Proposals were going out the door on a regular basis, meetings conducted and verbal promises made of signed contracts soon to come.
But then November turned to December to January to February and many of the contracts that were on the verge of happening dragged on, got delayed and then fizzled. Before we realized what was happening we were in a financial crisis, having gone six months without landing a significant piece of business, while maintaining our staff because “things were about to break.”
We scrutinized our fixed costs and searched for cuts to make, and finally had to do what is the unthinkable for a small business – we cut staff. And then when we thought there was nothing more to cut, we cut more.
We called everyone and renegotiated everything. We reduced our rental space, handled our own IT, cut subscriptions and memberships, and stopped attending events. We combined job descriptions. We worked harder and later.
The “core” got creative and learned do things we never thought possible. We had to.
There are people who like to say things happen for a reason. But it’s only when you feel that you are on the other side of a crisis can you indulge in the luxury of retrospective analysis. Now that things are percolating again we’ve realized it’s not all about recovering from the recession and getting back to business as usual.
The business model has also permanently changed because of the Internet and extreme specialization. Recently when quoting a dental website, I competed against a Maryland firm that does only dental websites. Their labor costs are cheaper, and their narrow specialization and repetitive process allows them to hone the assembly line and operate like a factory. Then add the fact that anyone can buy photography, illustration, music and video footage online at ridiculously low rates and you begin to see whole professions disappearing.
So at what price does this paradigm shift come to local, state and federal government? As our business revenues go down, our staff levels go down, our tax bills go down and the tax revenues go down.
Now it’s Albany’s turn to face the harsh realities that small-business owners faced in 2009. They need to take a look at what looks like a bare bones budget and cut. And when they have cut as much as they think they can bear, they will probably need to cut more. Because the old business model no longer works. And raising taxes will just drive those who are considering jumping state lines to jump sooner.
“They” say things happen for a reason and I definitely feel the pain Albany leaders are going through. I love thinking about the good old days when money flowed more easily. Forget the good old days. It’s time to change.
Sherry Bruck is owner and president of Harquin Creative Group, a marketing communications company in Pelham. She is on the Creative Council of The Westchester Business Council. Reach her at email@example.com .
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