By Barry Leonard
Recently, I was having a conversation with my 18-year-old son about a job for this coming summer. We discussed several options, but my main objective was to make sure that he understood that when he graduates from college, he would be competing for jobs with students from all over the world, not just from the United States. The same is true in the home fashions business today. It is not an epiphany that we are competing with companies on a global basis. However, most U.S. companies are not prepared to compete in the economic environment that exists today and that will exist for at least the next 18 months. Most of us have strategic plans and budgets. But I question if there is a sense of urgency to address the tactics necessary for survival. This does not mean that we should not still have branding and/or sales growth strategies. But a survival strategy should take precedence over all others. What does this mean? First of all, we should try to maintain our market share, but not at too high a cost. Many of your customers are also in a survival mode and are making requests that may not make financial sense for your company. These requests need to be analyzed on an individual basis. Second, I am a big believer in “strategy before structure.” If survival is the preeminent strategy, the organizational structure has to reflect that. Your company has to be structured to make money. Give yourself a realistic sales and gross-margin budget, and develop a structure that allows you to turn a profit. Third, surround yourself with those who are passionate about the business and are willing to do whatever it takes to survive—even if it means working 16-hour days while we await the return of “normal” economic times. I promise you that your competitors will be doing this. Many say that it is the ones who work smart, not the ones who work long hours, who will survive. I say those who want to survive have to do both. I know this is tough love. However, talk to your friends who don’t have jobs now, and I will bet you that they will do whatever it takes to get and keep a job to support their families. The reason is that they are in survival mode. I am in survival mode in my personal, as well as professional, life—just ask my wife or kids. Here’s to better economic times and a more “normal” life. Barry Leonard is president of Croscill, Ex-Cell Home Fashions and Glenoit. He is also president of the Home Fashion Products Association. He can be reached at email@example.com .