7 steps to growing your small business: here's how to position your company to succeed in any economy.

Author:Hughes, Alan


WHETHER YOU WANT TO CALL IT A RECESSION OR a slow recovery is irrelevant. As long as the unemployment rate remains at its current level, corporations and consumers will be reluctant to spend. It's no wonder that the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small-Business Optimism Index fell throughout the spring and summer months.

For entrepreneurs looking to do business with large corporations in this environment, it's critical that they understand the need to increase their financial literacy--for example, knowing when and how to use equity or debt. James H. Lowry, a senior adviser and former senior vice president at Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm, offers the following advice:

1 Research your clients. Ultimately, you want to find out who the most progressive multinational corporations are, says Lowry, a co-author of Minority Business Success: Refocusing on the American Dream ($19.95; Stanford University Press). According to Lowry, you want to answer the following questions: Is the diversity program supported by the CEO and chief purchasing officer? How long has the program been in existence? What percentage of the corporation's total spending is with minorities and in what industries?

2 Understand your product/service and how it will compete. It's more than just being able to sell, says Lowry. It's about determining the value proposition for the product or service, the thing that sets it apart from the competition and makes it unique. "Is it pricing, is it location?" he asks. "You have to understand that and be able to articulate that and act on it."

3 Determine how and where you will produce the product. "What is your cost of labor and the proximity to where your client is?" Lowry asks. "Most corporations aren't going to have large inventories, so you have to be able to produce something very quickly and get it to your customers. If you're going to be part of a supply chain, you have to be part of the process."

4 Keep technologically up to date. Many entrepreneurs, particularly when revenues are down and...

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