I was a teenager, sitting in my dad’s office on a Saturday (he was a small business owner and worked a lot – I wanted to be just like him (queue up Harry Chopin, please)). I was leafing through a construction/remodeling contractor magazine he had, and I saw a two-page layout starting an article about Cotton Restoration, how they had a new fleet of trucks, highly trained personnel, and the latest equipment. But our business was suffering. The mold craze had ended, everyone in Texas had been cashing in on their home owner’s policies abilities to remove “toxic mold” from their houses. Anyone with a sledgehammer and a small crew started roofing, painting, and flooring companies while insurance companies paid general contractors like my father and his employees to manage the mold remediation work being done for their customers. Business had boomed: he bought a building, hired workers, offered more services, partnered with others… things were going well. And then the insurance companies rewrote the policies, my dad went from not having enough workers to not having enough work. I asked how, when he was getting less and less business, they (Cotton) were growing to the point people were writing articles about them!
I learned a few things.
1. You can pay magazines to write articles about you. He didn’t know if that was the case, but we all know now that this is a common practice (which the internet has only made easier).
2. My dad wasn’t going to take his company into debt to try and ride-out a wave he had no idea how long would last.
3. Cotton was already a huge company compared to his, with a nationwide presence.
4. When business starts running low there are two ways to react:
I. Tighten your resources, which many small businesses do, or
II. Throw all you can into marketing.
You can skip the first 30 seconds if you want, then listen for thirty more to understand why this song is here.
So I told my dad, “The big get bigger when the fight starts.”. It was obvious to me, and he agreed, that Cotton was doubling down, increasing their marketing and business efforts in an attempt to get the largest share of the market they could. Having now entered the job market, and been in sales & marketing, I have seen this scenario repeat itself. Many large companies, when the pressure is on, ramp up instead of holding back. I see it on National Geographic when two gorillas, or two house cats, are about to fight, one will puff itself up to become the physically dominant animal.
I’ve given it as advice to other business people over the years, when things get tough (when the fight starts), ramp up what you can (intelligently).
My dad’s business not only survived, but thrived for several years after that Saturday morning. He did end up taking on a dedicated marketing person, and when the times called for it had his people trained to take on new challenges, and he bought new equipment to offer new services.
Every business goes though hard times, dry spells, and has to make the decision on how to handle it. Hopefully this little story helps somebody in that position. Comment below with your story of hardship and/or growth in business or send me a message if you’d like to discuss marketing plans, web design tasks, or sales strategy!