Stein on ... learning from history

The philosopher George Santayana said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Wise words indeed, and appropriate for the current market place, which may (or may not, depending upon your point of view) be facing a recession.

The last time we encountered the language of recession was in the early 1990s and we would do well to consider what we learned from those difficult times. The first thing that we learned was not to panic. While our industry may not be recession-proof, the 1990s showed us that we could ride out a recession better than many other industries. After all, you would not have wanted to be a metal basher in the West Midlands at the beginning of the 1990s.

For horticulture businesses, however, it is the weather rather than the economic climate that can have the greater impact. Get the weather right and sales rocket. This is the more pressing challenge - to be ready for good weather and, crucially, to develop strategies to cope with prolonged periods of poor weather. One way of doing this is to create all-weather venues. We can't change the weather, but we can change our approach to it.

The second lesson we learned was that we needed to reduce costs, but the mistake many businesses made was not to reinvest cost savings into growing market share. Now is not the time to stop spending. Now is the time to see where savings can be made - strip out costs that do not add value to the business process, aggregate purchases to achieve discounts and improve efficiency and you will save money. But these savings must then be spent on marketing and training, which, if planned correctly, will grow your market share.

So, ignore the doom and gloom in the media and learn from history. The country may be facing a challenging economic time, but wherever there is a threat there is always an opportunity. If we develop a positive approach, things can only get better.

- Neville Stein is the owner of Capability Sales.


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