Adapt your small business if you think the economy's getting worse


COMMENTARY | A recent report from MerchantCircle revealed their results from their Merchant Confidence Index. The results showed that close to half of the small business owners surveyed believe that the economy has worsened over the last six months and their business optimism is dropping.

As a previous small retail business owner and current co-owner of a computer business with my husband, I am not sure that I would say that the economy is any worse than it has been. In many ways, I think it may be making a turn in the positive direction.

As a business owner, I have gone through many ups and downs in my businesses. When I owned a retail gift basket business providing regular gifts to realtors for their clients, I took a big hit when the deduction limits changed and they were only allowed to deduct $25 for a gift. I had realtor clients who would spend well above $100 for a gift and were now limited on their spending. So, I changed my designs and marketed my products for that budget limit and ended up gaining clients.

Similar to this need for change, I think the current economic downturn is going to require businesses to change how they look at their business and customers because I do not see the economy making a huge change in the near future.

On paper, I am a Democrat, though I am open-minded to any party and pay very close attention to the candidates. With the elections coming up and the economy of great concern, I have been keeping a watchful eye on the debates. Unfortunately, I do not see change coming for some time. I think that the political parties are too busy fighting each other to really make a difference at this point. I think for the next year the focus is going to be on beating each other and not on improving the economy.

Given this, I think, as a small business owner, the best advice in order to help your business survive is to bend with the economy. Look at your business, your products, and your customers. What are you offering, and how can you adjust it to appeal to those who may be battling a budget crunch?

For example, top retailers who had eliminated layaway programs in previous years brought them back this holiday season. They knew customers were struggling and figured this would give them an option and keep them shopping. By being flexible and thinking from a consumer standpoint, figure out ways your business can bend with the economy.

More from Deborah Braconnier:

First person: Why U.S. small business still matters

First person: Creating low-cost storage for my home business

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