Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Renaming and Redesign Was No Small Decision

We’ve seen an interesting change recently in our local business media market: the former Small Business Times changed its name to BizTimes Milwaukee and redesigned both its weekly print edition and its website.

On the surface, the move seems an obvious choice. Small Business Times has been about a lot more than “small” business for many years; the old name was pigeonholing the paper’s appeal in a way that no longer applied. Meanwhile, its website url, www.biztimes.com, already reflected the wider net for business news that the operation was casting.

So bringing it all in line under the name BizTimes—for consistency across the mission, actions and communications of the company—made perfect sense.

But that’s not to say the overhaul was an easy thing to do. Brand and name changes take a lot of time, money and guts. The move also put BizTimes into more obvious, direct competition with a much larger counterpart, The Business Journal of Milwaukee.

As times change, smart companies know they must continue to evolve, as must their marketing communications efforts. It’s impressive that the BizTimes team had the vision and will to undergo this transition and celebrate it as a positive step forward for the future.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How to Reduce Costs and Increase Your Flexibility

If you’re thinking about reducing costs right now, you certainly aren’t alone.

Unfortunately, cutting back is a necessity for many companies these days. But blind, blanket spending freezes or reductions aren’t good for business (at least not if you plan to make it out of this downturn in any position to compete).

Maybe it’s time for a more thoughtful analysis, particularly if any of your fixed costs can be converted to flexible expenditures.

In this downer of an economy, fixed costs like overhead really put the squeeze on your cash flow and your bottom line. Cutting these costs can be painful both emotionally and physically, maybe even dangerous. Flexible costs, on the other hand, easily can be turned on or off or in between.

It’s in your best interests right now to have as many costs as possible fall into the latter category. And the quickest way to do that? Outsourcing.

I’m sure you’ve already heard the whole argument for outsourcing non-core competencies, so no need to rehash it here. But at a minimum, I should point out that there’s more to it than simply reducing your overhead (which is pretty good by itself).

With the right outsource partner, you also gain access to broad, deep expertise, experience and perspective (as well as productive capacity) that you’d simply never be able to sustain in house. And you get those benefits without shouldering extra overhead burden.

At Scheibel Halaska, for example, we’re members of IPREX, one of the world’s largest networks of independent public relations agencies. Our IPREX partners provide global cultural knowledge and communications expertise—but only when our clients need it. So we don’t have to employ experts on the Chinese, European or Latin American markets whom we only need for certain programs. You can read more about our IPREX relationship in a previous post.

Your business may be able to unload fixed costs by outsourcing marketing, IT, HR systems or something else. Just make sure you do your homework, of course, to find the right partner. In the short run, it just might help you accomplish your goals while still keeping your CFO happy. And in the long run, it just might become your secret weapon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Don’t wait around for your own bailout

After a long slog of an election cycle, we at last have a new president-elect of the United States. The campaign is behind us, but one huge factor in the outcome will be with us for some time: the current gloomy economic climate.

Late last week, as Barack Obama met with economic advisors to consider the crisis, we got more bad news—this time about rising unemployment and the failing American auto industry.

So, not good, obviously. And it makes sense for Obama’s team to start tackling these issues right away. However, something we’ve said before on this blog bears repeating right now: Don’t leave your company’s future to actions or assistance from Washington.

Rather, survival and success depend on your company’s will, vision and ability to compete. There’s never been a more critical time to carefully examine what you do that customers value and how you can most efficiently provide it. Then, of course, do everything you can to convince people to buy your products and services. In other words, focus not only your operations, but also sales and marketing efforts.

Regardless of what the new national leadership does, it’s your leadership that will determine the future of your company.