As a small business owner I am often asked what I think about the economy and whether our business is experiencing any negative consequences as a result of changes to the economy. I reply by saying, “I am very concerned about what is happening, especially because much of it is happening in Washington State and is and will impact people in my neighborhood especially those involved in banking, real estate and construction” and “No, our business is not experiencing negative consequences at this time – in fact, business has never been better.”
I remind people that our business has had several wonderful mentors (including Highline Small Business Development Center staff) who have encouraged us through other significant events like 9/11 and the resulting loss of travel related income to our airport-based city as well as national scandals in which politicians and corporations have failed to act with integrity. Our mentors have repeatedly advised us that when a downturn occurs, that is the time to upgrade equipment, send staff to courses that will advance their skills, hire more staff, get better organized and increase marketing and networking efforts.
In return we have passed this message on to our clients. And, happily, several of those client businesses that have run with this advice (including some of those who were the ones to give us the advice in the first place) are also experiencing their best year ever.
This month marks the 10th year of operation for our business, Cascade e-Commerce Solutions, Inc. And, given that I was once an elementary school teacher, I liken this phase of our development to an eager 5th grader. Like a 5th grader we:
- have learned many basics,
- are committed to continuing to learn and
- are quite optimistic about our ability to help improve circumstances for our clients, staff and vendors.
Our business is experiencing a very positive season. We are very thankful to have found a monthly rhythm that works well for us. We are crazy busy the first week of the month reporting results to clients and performing monthly bookkeeping duties. Then in the next few weeks we are able to build out new websites and complete new projects that are in the works. Then in the last week of the month we are able to be creative and test new strategies.
Through the course of the year several clients were reporting that they were decreasing their print marketing budgets because yellow page books, newspaper, and snail mailings were not producing the new clients and sales that they once produced. These clients reported that most of their growth was a direct result of the Internet marketing we were coordinating. And these clients asked, “Can’t you do more for us if we transfer the savings from print marketing to you for more Internet marketing?”
At first I said, “No”, because I lacked the vision to see just how we could do that. And then one of our clients was so bold as to say, “You don’t want my money?” This prompted me to remember more of what our mentors have said over the years. “Let clients identify their needs and then grow to meet those needs.”
So, we sent staff to Highline Community College Federal Way Campus to improve web coding skills (XHTML, CSS and Dreamweaver classes) and to Google and other pay per click seminars to become more proficient at coordinating pay per click campaigns.
Staff returned pumped and ready to do more. We hired two more part-time staff and increased one part-time to full time and encouraged all staff to do more.
And the result? Clients are reporting even more increases in new business and are bumping up their online marketing through us even more.
It is wonderful to work in a field that is so measurable. We have the data to see the seasons and cycles that we and our clients are experiencing. We can see when an up tick is a typical seasonal up tick or when it is actually an improvement over prior years. We also can see when a downturn has started and so can jump in quickly to make modifications to turn things back around.
This harvest season, we are very thankful to God and to the mentors he has sent our way. We are also very thankful to our wonderful clients for encouraging us to do more. And we pray that God will continue to richly bless our mentors, clients and community even in the midst of a troubled economy.