Published in “Project Times” website, February, 2011
Click here for original article.

As the stock market continues to climb and sales figures are strong, it is apparent we are in a recovery.  Regardless of whether the recovery lasts for 1 month, 1 quarter, 1 year or longer, the opportunity will pass you by if you are not ahead of the pack and aggressive in your efforts to leverage the recovery.

For those who survived the recession, it will be a fierce battle for each additional dollar of revenue – after all, every business I talk with is anxious to grow sales.  And, since the recovery is a weak one, it will likely require taking market share from competitors – those who have gone out of business and those who are slower to leverage the recovery.  Thus, it is an opportune time to re-review your projects for those which will help you leverage the recovery.

It’s time to re-think priorities inclusive of projects.  It’s easy to become enamored with a project which will achieve a worthwhile goal which has been your ‘baby’ for quite some time.  Instead, toss out the sacred cows.  Think about which projects will achieve the most significant benefits which tie directly to leveraging the recovery, as those are time-sensitive.  Consider the following: 1) A renewed focus on customer service.  2) The value of partnerships.  3) Last but not least, cash remains king.

  1.  A Renewed Focus on Customer Service – As consumers and businesses choose from whom to buy, customer service is rising to the top.  As everyone remains more concerned with what they purchase and what they are getting for their scarcer funds, expectations rise.  Thus, exceptional customer service is no longer a differentiator; it must be an assumption.For example, what I heard from one client from a recession-laden industry, was that those competitors who could deliver 5% quicker, with reliability and superior customer service got the sale.  There were no other differentiators.  In this case, what could be more important than a renewed focus on customer service?
  2. The Value of Partnerships – Similar to the saying “two heads are better than one”; an effective partnership can yield substantially greater results than either party working alone.  Thus, it is important to be looking for potential partnership opportunities; otherwise, they’ll pass you by without a second thought.  As the opportunity arises, resources should be diverted to these projects with high potential.For example, in several of my clients and with my former employer, significant revenue increases were largely due to partnerships.  In one case, we implemented vendor managed inventory jointly with our #1 customer and were able to not only improve lead times and reduce inventory levels but we were also able to strengthen the partnership such that revenues grew for both parties.  In another example, my client was able to build and become the bridge for significant relationships with both customers and suppliers such that all three parties were able to achieve higher profitability with key contracts.
  3. Last but not Least, Cash Remains King – Although credit markets are beginning to show a little bit of positive growth, cash remains king.  Thus, remember to continue to prioritize those projects which will free up cash flow.  However, the key is to stay light on your feet and not be averse to investing for significant opportunities.During the recession, most businesses were reluctant to invest in projects with 10 to 1 returns – surprising but true.  During the recovery, those businesses which keep abreast of opportunities and are willing to invest in those which will achieve sales growth and significant return will leverage the recovery.  And those which not only invest wisely but remain steadfast and committed to projects which free up cash will be those who leapfrog the competition.

The recovery is here; there’s no more time for analysis and inaction.  Instead, those leaders who are willing to make quick decisions to leverage the recovery and who are ready to kill the sacred cow projects for those with potential to take advantage of the current environment while remaining committed to their employees, customers and other partners will achieve success in whatever window of time is available in this recovery.