Personal view



New Year’s sales – take it to the streets


by Ron Wotherspoon


This should be a time of optimism and hope as we mark the end of one year and greet the arrival of a new one; somehow it doesn’t feel like that this year. We have been fed a diet of doom and despondency as each day for the past five months we have learned of yet another collapse of a previously presumed impregnable financial citadel. As the evidence of the problems mount before our eyes and the dire predictions from experts and pundits assault our ears, it is small wonder that few amongst are free from fear and concern about the future.


I think some perspective on the situation may help.


The economy is technically still not in recession until our GDP experiences two quarters in negative growth. The UK may just have had the first with the final quarter of 2008 falling to -0.5 percent. The worst predictions for 2009 is that we will hit -2 percent – that’s pretty bad, unemployment will be high and many businesses will go to the wall. But 98 percent of our economy will still be working! 98 percent will still be consuming goods and services, why would you not be in that number?


Now is also the time to take a look at the smaller picture – your business, your customers, your suppliers and staff – and make some essential resolutions for the year ahead.


1) Take to the streets!
The first survival resolution for 2009; take to the streets and visit your customers, renew and strengthen the relationships that won you the business in the first place. Dealers have some unique advantages over their bigger rivals, for a start you know your customers as people not just as CRM profiles.


2) Check your team
The second survival resolution for 2009; check up on your staff, are they part of the team, all contributing or are they just a cost you can no longer afford?


3) Examine your business
Take a fresh look at the systems in your business, it’s the one player that works 24/7 but can still do more without additional cost. e.g. make sure you aren’t paying someone to do a repetitive task that the system could do.


4) Know who your friends are
Renew your supplier relationships and find out who your real friends are, remember the wholesalers need you as much as you need them, find out how you can best exploit each other like sharing costs in logistics and inventory (your systems can make this work) for example. This is a time when everyone should concentrate on what they do best.


It is not going to be an easy time for system suppliers, especially those like ECI Europe whose charges are linked directly to the monthly turnover of the users. Dealer sales go down, ECI’s income declines – systems supplier and customer in it together!


We’re hoping we are better placed than most to weather the storm, because we have worked hard to reduce costs and are part of a large international group.


I expect that some solutions will prove popular during these most difficult of times.
For instance, for the UK and ROI dealer market ECI has developed a subscription model that offers dealers a kind of IT ‘wholesaler’ with full systems available via the web, providing big company capabilities without the overheads of hardware and system management. The monthly charges are predictable and in line with the changing fortunes of the business, with no more tie-in than one month’s notice.


Undoubtedly, in the year ahead we are going to see casualties but those of us who are old enough to have seen previous recessions know that it can be a time for renewal and opportunity in which stronger businesses can be created that will thrive in the long term.