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Thriving in the Wake of the Great Recession: Part 3 – What is Possible

This is the 3rd part of a 3 part series blog on companies emerging from a brutal recession that the Harvard Business Review tagged as beginning in 2007.  Many businesses have failed, were acquired, or merely limped along…while a handful of businesses have emerged stronger than ever.

While the economy is still experiencing slower than usual growth, high unemployment rates, a struggling global economy, and strapped financial options, many organizations and businesses are setting their sights on the future. They are seeking to maximize their labor pool, position themselves for organizational change championed by employees, beef up their training and communication programs, and bring sales and profits back to pre-recession growth rates.

Instead of emerging from this recession looking at the “glass half-empty,” progressive companies have realized the old way of doing business has become extinct and that their glass is actually still “half full.” Forward-thinking organizations are reinventing themselves, redefining their business cultures, and rebuilding collaborative relationships and alliances with employees as well as partners, investors, and vendors.

To wrap this blog series up, let’s take a look at “what is possible” after a recession delivers a devastating reality check to organizations. Here are five “must-have” components to be addressed by organizations and businesses looking to thrive beyond the current recession.

Build Collaborative Relationships and Engagement

Build strong business relationships and they will come….this includes customers, vendors, business alliances, partners, and employees. Collaborative, cooperative relationships create:

  • repeat investment in your business and products
  • business loyalty for life
  • empowered work environments that engage, attract, and retain talented employees.
  • Improved employee productivity, morale, and customer satisfaction

Encourage Positive Communications

Establish productive meetings – it’s possible…really! Open the communication lines so they filter down to all employees to avoid confusion regarding projects and company purpose. Defeat incivility in the workplace. A recent report found that 96% of people in the United States have experienced incivility in the workplace and 75% of them were dissatisfied with the way their companies handled the situation, yet only 9% of them reported the incident. By encouraging positive and open communications in the workplace organizations stand to:

  • solve problems, make decisions, gain participation, establish effective training development, develop new products and services, improve processes and procedures – all through effective meeting and communication strategies.
  • improve the organization’s bottom line and build respect for its leaders
  • reduce harmful judging by employees, lack of trust, and lack of respect
  • reduce office gossip, back-stabbing, and rumors that take employees off task

Capitalize on Human Performances

Here we’re talking about hiring the best candidates for organizations and retaining top employees. When organizations place a higher importance on individual performance and behavior, they stand to:

  • improve personal performance and  team performance
  • easily identify individuals with greater performance potential
  • have a better understanding of a company’s culture, the profile of the ideal candidate, and of successful on-boarding of candidates.
  • combat high turnover among employees
  • widen their employment net and attract the right potential leadership team
  • improve productivity, experience less absenteeism, and less chaos

Improve Performance through Training

Training was sorely lacking in this current recession and many managers were left to manage “on the fly.” Employees also did not have the skills to effectively “sell” their company branding by handling customer fears and objections. Increase training programs and organizations give leaders and employees the tools to:

  • effectively sell.  Most people, no matter the job title, have trouble handling their potential client/prospects’ fears, questions, or objections. The ability to learn the art of handling objections can literally double or triple a company’s profits within a year.
  • A study of fortune 1000 companies have assessed a huge leadership preparation gap occurred during the recent recession when no training was conducted. Provide leadership training tools and an organization increases collaboration, productivity, and profits among all employees.

Thrive with Employee Embraced Change

Organizations that are transparent have employees that champion change and help the company thrive. Change includes everything from “life happens” events to the proper handling of social media. Having a strategic plan to cope with change gives an organization the agility to:

  • harness the power of social media to elevate the company, employees, and executives to new levels of engagement
  • create a social media policy that increases retention and attracts more highly qualified job candidates
  • focus on an organization’s purpose to engage employees as life happens to them and the company itself.
  • capitalize on unexpected changes to promote possibilities, desired changes, and growth in the company
  • engage employees who drive the results. Change doesn’t have to take years of hide-stripping effort when employees are catalyzed, empowered, engaged, and accountable.
  • ignite the human drive to achieve and champion change at all levels of operation. It creates a robust and engaged work environment where trust and cooperation thrive.

Finding a way through a recession is wrought with perils and dismal survival statistics for most businesses. However, companies equipped with the knowledge and tools to quickly and efficiently regroup are posed to charge out of the recession gates.

Join Dianne, Debra and other industry thought leaders for a break-through conference-based training telesummit coming December 2012Engagement, Retention & Growth: 10 Strategic Solutions for Sustainable Corporate Expansion and Retention.” We expand on and provide the steps to overcome the challenges, find a way through the recession storm, and the possibilities that await each organization as they go from surviving to thriving. Register now for this information-packed summit and save 30%.

The Business Leaders Book Club: Lessons From the Recession

I have recently contributed to a great new book which is available as a free download from The book is called Lessons Learned from the Recession and is the first in a series of books for aspiring and proven Business Leaders around the world. To find out more and share any feedback, check out:

In the book, 60 carefully selected business leaders share their personal experiences of what they have learned from the most recent recession. The chapters are a mix of success stories containing personal stories interwoven with detailed practical advice.

But as a taster I thought I would share my chapter with you here. I hope you enjoy it and it will inspire you to download and read the other 59 chapters.

The eBook is free to download but if you would like a discounted hard copy of the book, priced at £12.99, then enter BLC1004 at the checkout and you will pay 50% of the SRP.

Please share this blog and code with anyone who’d enjoy this book. Please leave your thoughts or comments  below!

Chapter 5: Retail Knows First

At the time the recession hit, I owned a multi-channel home furnishings business; I was the founder and CEO. The company had started as an internet business in 2001 and in the autumn of 2005 we expanded into a bricks-n-mortar retail storefront.

At first when we opened the storefront, our sales increased quickly as people discovered us. Soon we showed only modest growth that was below our targets. We were getting great feedback from the community and everyone who walked in to the store “loved it”, but no one was buying.

If at first you don’t succeed try and try again

To increase sales, we brought in new product lines and tried to move older merchandise. We found that when furniture was deeply discounted, it moved. But our lease had a clause saying that we could not operate a discount outlet.

So we tried EVERYTHING; we added design services, held classes, advertised, improved store signage, held promotions and events, did direct mail pieces to new home buyers, hired better trained sales people and so on. But nothing increased sales. We developed relationships with interior designers and estate agents but to no avail. I was racking my brain and couldn’t figure out for the life of me why no one was buying.

Strengthen what is NOT broken

The saving grace had been our internet store which produced a steady six figure revenue. Then in the summer of 2007, petrol prices doubled, our shipping costs skyrocketed and our margins dropped.

Not a good thing. Our primary internet supplier started to slip on delivery times from six weeks to 24. Our customers became angry (and sometimes hostile) and our supplier began lying to us. I looked into expanding our internet offerings to limit our vulnerability. The problem was that the bleeding at the retail store required more of my attention.

Look for and listen to the signs

My first clue that there was a more global issue came in early 2008 when one of my sales reps congratulated me on doing so well for opening my store during the worst two years the industry had ever seen. He said they were losing accounts everywhere; that stores were shutting down.

In the meantime, Colorado was leading the nation in foreclosure rates. I thought it was concentrated to low income areas. I didn’t know it was a national issue, let alone global. I wasn’t alone.

The 80/20 rule is wrong!

In business school I learned to analyse my business financials in three ways: best case, worst case and most likely scenario. In the worst case, you should calculate that 80% of the things can go wrong 20% of the time. Well, they were wrong! EVERYTHING can go wrong at once!

Do your research

The only thing we hadn’t tried was a different location. So that’s what we did. After talking with other independent furniture stores in the proposed new location AND hearing rave reviews about how
well they were doing – two out of three had just renewed their lease.

We switched locations in April 2008. We moved to a smaller space in THE most upscale shopping district in the state. We lowered our rent and reduced our payroll. These changes cut over 50% off our expenses but it was already too late.

Diversify while you are strong

In May of 2008, the month we opened in our new location, our supplier for our internet products raised prices by 15%. The result?

All sales CEASED! Our steady six figure sales dried up and we did not see another penny of revenue from the internet for the next six months.

Sometimes it’s beyond your control April 2008 was the first month of the recession in the US but it wasn’t official for months. By August the furniture shop across the street from us said their clients had stop signing contracts. In October the stock market crashed. Customers put their plans on hold. The streets of the shopping district were empty.

By November, top architectural firms around the city were slicing their staff by 50% or more. One even laid off all his staff and moved his business into his home. There were rumours of architects standing on the street corner holding a sign and begging for work to feed their family.

Life DOES go on

I remember sitting in the store and feeling completely overwhelmed; it was like the world was crashing in around me and I was losing everything. And then the light went on and for the first time in three years I felt hope. I went home and joyfully told my husband, who was unemployed at the time, “You know, the only people who died during the great depression are the ones who killed themselves. We still have each other. We have three beautiful, healthy, wonderful kids. I’ve got everything I need. I don’t care if we live in a tent. I have a great life.”

The new store never achieved any sales worthy of note. We closed at the end of December 2008. We could not even sell our inventory at clearance prices. There just weren’t any buyers in sight. Two out of the three stores we had talked with, who had claimed strong sales, closed shortly after us.

Watch the trending of the big guys

William Sonoma, owner of Pottery Barn, is one of the leading publicly traded companies in home furnishings. At the time I opened my store in August 2005, William Sonoma’s stock was trading at $40 per share. At the time I closed my store in December of 2008, their stock was trading at $7.85. Had I thought to track their revenues at the time, I may have shut down sooner. Needless to say, I didn’t have the deep pockets to weather the storm. Sometimes it’s best to stop.

Learn how to quit

Going into business I knew that I should put a floor as to how much time and money I was willing to invest before pulling the plug. But three things happened: firstly I was emotionally attached, this was my baby; secondly I was humiliated to fail and so I hung on; thirdly I didn’t know how to stop – no one had taught me how to shut down a failing business.

Watch the growth of the industry

Nine months after we closed the business, I had dinner with a friend, a successful venture capitalist, who made a comment which I will never forget. He said “the number one thing that determines how successful a business will be is the growth of the overall industry”.

Have a plan B

After shutting down the store, I regrouped. I looked at what had drawn me into the home furnishings business and what I had most enjoyed. Then I designed a new business that maximised my strengths and minimised my weaknesses. I began to share my internet marketing expertise with other entrepreneurs to help them grow their business.

The architects and designers I know weren’t so fortunate. Many are still unemployed, their skills not transferable beyond their industry. Those that do have jobs saw their pay checks slashed.

Develop a functional expertise that can transfer across industries. Have a skill you can fall back on.

Retail knows first

In closing, if you want to know what’s happening in the economy, ask a retailer. They know three to four MONTHS ahead of the government what’s happening at the consumer level. They are the pulse of the consumer. You want to know? Ask a retailer.

Again, to read the entire book and the contributions from 59 additional authors, go to to get the free download. You can also order a hard copy at a 50% discount when you enter BLC1004 at the checkout.

I encourage you to read the fantastic tips and lessons shared by the other 59 authors.

What did you learn from the recession? Please share your own experiences and tips you would want others to know. Share with us below.


How to use Books and eBooks to Market Your Business

Books & Ebook Marketing

Why do you need to publish a printed book or an electronic version of the book? Writing a book organizes your thoughts around a subject, making you more effective in your field. Having written a book establishes you as an expert in your field. The book educates, teaches or entertains others, which increases your value to your clients, your business or your employer.

By adding value to the lives of others you increase your income. A book gives you a physical item to use to promote yourself or business. You can sell it at speaking engagements, thereby adding incremental revenue. A book or ebook can be sold from your website and other people’s websites, which drives more traffic to your site and more revenue.

A book or ebook creates a residual income stream. You can publish the same material in print and electronically, thus increasing your distributions channels. You can re-purpose the content of the book and publish parts of it in your blog, creating yet another traffic and revenue stream.


  • Write content and self publish it in a book, ebook, CD, DVD, etc. You can now do this without having to pay for it until someone makes a purchase. They are printed on-demand.
  • When you write a print publication you can package it in electronic format for sale as well.
  • And, you can record an audio track or even a video for distribution.
  • Place the book for sale through 3rd party and affiliate sites. This gives you links back to your site, increases your search engine optimization and traffic.

Resources – Publish Books

  • YouPublish – YouPublish is the easiest place on the web to share and sell your digital files. Completely FREE to use, join, and upload! Upload video, audio, PDFs, Word documents, photographs, and more. Sell your files or share them for free.
  • LuLu – Publish. Sell. Lulu gives you access to the fastest and most extensive distribution system available anywhere – and at the same time, lets you maintain complete control over everything from how much your work costs to where it gets listed. Self-publishing doesn’t get much better than that.
  • Scribd – Tens of millions of people come to Scribd each month seeking information and inspiration on subjects ranging from travel to religion and music. With our innovative iPaper document-reader technology and popular website, Scribd is changing the way written works are distributed, marketed and shared. Professional publishers on Scribd include print publishing and media companies, authors, corporations and organizations.

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