I was in a restaurant on Saturday, it was packed; they couldn’t have found a place for another person anywhere, no matter how hungry they were. It’s not famous, it’s won no awards that I know of, it’s not cheap but it’s not crazy expensive either. The food’s very good but not wow amazing, I like it. Right next door is another restaurant; it looks the same, has the same number of tables (each decorated in much the same way as its rival). It’s a bit cheaper. I ate in it once but never went back. Last Saturday it was almost empty.

Imagine this: It’s Sunday morning and the owners of the two restaurants are having a late breakfast with their parents. “How was business last night?” They are asked. The first restaurant owner says “It was really crazy, we couldn’t move for customers. Some had to wait a bit too long but we were stretched to our limit. They all seemed happy though and our takings were right where we wanted them to be: above target for this time of year.”

The second restaurant owner answers “It was terrible, terrible, terrible we only had ten covers the whole night. This bloody recession is killing us. We’ve lowered our prices and have done absolutely everything we can. If we have another three Saturday nights like this we’re finished!”

It is too easy to blame the recession for below average results. Everyone will sympathize and nod their heads in understanding. But not me. I never want to hear the recession or the Government being blamed for poor business performance.

Sure recessions can kill a business but this recession is long and flat and businesses have to be evermore smart and efficient to survive it. The best thing to do is to imagine that it will never get any better and to re-think your strategy from there. In boom times even poorly run business with substandard marketing strategies survive, if the best restaurant is full and there are bus loads of hungry people in the town square then the second best restaurant will get the left overs.

This long recession is a wakeup call. If your business has survived and still has some reserves left, then now is the time to revise your strategy to not only ensure your continuing survival but also to make it prosper and become fully sustainable. Strategic excellence in poor conditions is the same as excellence in bountiful conditions, the only difference is that in poor conditions, it is not a benefit but a must.

“So, how’s your business doing?”

Me, I am going back to the restaurant, not the good one but the bad one, to see if they are open for a few new ideas?  Chances are they won’t be because if they were then they probably wouldn’t be suffering in the first place. Who knows?

Have a good week,