Look Beyond The Current Economy

May 20, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Forget the dismal state of the economy. Plant seeds for growth now so they’ll be ready to sprout when the economy comes back.

So says business growth specialist Steven S. Little, who shared some insight with business leaders and owners Thursday at a seminar sponsored by Chase.

Businesses need to have an effective growth planning system in place that is written, well communicated and regularly updated, Little said. It’s the process of planning that helps organizations codify around goals.

Little encouraged business owners to put the power of technology to work for them.

“It’s incredible what the tools of our time can do for us. If you’re in business today, you’re in the technology business,” he said.

It’s imperative that businesses find, train and retain the best and brightest people they can because the greatest threat to business growth is the brain drain. Employee retention equals customer retention equals growth, Little said.

The key, he said, is selling the best and the brightest on the local community and the quality of life it has to offer.

“The reason people work today is for life, not to make a living,” Little observed. “In greater Grand Rapids, the growth barrier will be keeping workers in town. Don’t keep Grand Rapids a secret: Get the word out about this city.”

Businesses should be prepared for the “grayification” of America. A person age 55 used to be considered “old,” but the notion of “old” has changed. People over 50, in fact, account for 70 percent of discretionary spending in this country and comprise a huge target market.  

“You’re going to have 85-year-old workers in your business in your life time, and one of them will be you,” Little predicted. “People will work well into their 80s because they want to and because businesses will need workers.”

Going “green” is the way to go, because green is “gold” in today’s market. Caring for the environment is no longer a left-versus-right or young-versus-old issue. Eco-conscious, sustainable products are here to stay, and they’re one of the ways a business can distinguish itself. 

“To be perceived as green will get you workers and customers,” Little said. “It’s simply good business, and it’s increasingly a way to make your business money.”

America is a bilingual country, and businesses have to adjust to that if they haven’t already, he pointed out. Spanish is the first language of 16 percent of the country’s population, and that population is ever growing. Little said American companies have to get to know and understand the Latino market better if they hope to woo them as customers.

“If you don’t think it has affected your business yet, it will,” he predicted. “We are going to speak Spanish in our businesses. The world is changing. It’s an economic imperative that we work with all people.” 

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