While it's certainly preferable to the alternative, an economic recovery can create its own set of challenges for businesses.
Five challenging years after the GFC wreaked havoc with many first-world economies, the economic tide finally seems to be rising, leading many forecasters to predict that 2013 will be the year the US turns the corner, China heats back up, Europe stabilises and government stimulus jolts Japan's long-comatose economy back to life. With the world economy transitioning from gloom to boom, now is the time to rethink your strategies.
Revise your business plan
Moving from treading water to responding to an economic recovery is a major change in the way a business operates. This will require a significant readjustment in a business plan crafted for a more difficult trading environment.
Call off the hiring freeze
Australia didn't experience the mass layoffs experienced in some countries post-GFC, however many businesses have been slow to put on new staff in recent years. Unfortunately for employers, the long ceasefire in the war for talent can't hold much longer. The wisest strategy might be to hire the people you'll need in order to cope with extra demand now, rather than wait another year and find salaries are significantly higher and the pool of quality candidates shallower.
Look on the bright side of things
As well as needing more staff, you may need different staff. While cautious, even pessimistic, staff members are often a blessing (or at least a blessing in disguise) when times are tough, their tendency to play it safe can see valuable opportunities go begging during an economic recovery where a risk-taking approach stands to yield huge dividends.
Ramp up capital expenditure
Making do with five-year-old computers makes sense when business is slow. It makes less sense when you're operating at full capacity and could realise large productivity gains by investing in the latest hardware and software.
Don't get too busy for clients
As things pick up there will be greater demand for your products or services from long-standing clients, plus fresh demand from new ones. At the same time you'll be running around trying to meet all that fresh demand, your new clients will be expecting a continuation of the red-carpet treatment they received whilst you were wooing them. Your old clients may expect something similar, given that they've stuck with you for years and are now throwing even more business your way. Organise your business so that you or a trusted member of staff can continue to provide excellent customer service no matter how frantic things become.
Review supplier relationships
A supplier who is currently selling you 100 widgets a week, isn't necessarily suddenly going to be able to provide 250. Even if possible, it's likely the temptation to increase the price will be strong, especially if everyone in your industry is also clamouring for the same product. Make sure you have arrangements in place to source what you'll need before things get busy, lest you find yourself over a barrel when (re)negotiating contracts.
Whilst Australia sailed through the GFC relatively unscathed, the economic turbulence many of our major trading partners experienced had a dampening effect Down Under, as it did throughout the world. But, with conditions now improving in many large economies, the opportunities for enterprising Australian businesspeople are almost limitless.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Nigel is a freelance journalist and web content provider. Over the past 15 years he has worked for many of Australia's major print media companies and written for a wide range of newspapers, magazines, trade publications and websites. Nigel most enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, popular culture, politics, social trends and small business.