Thriving in Uncertainty – Tips for Growth in Troubled Times

It’s an old cliché that the Chinese pictogram for crisis combines two symbols: danger and opportunity. But there is some truth to the idea that tough times can also create opportunities. With smart thinking, the right technology and an entrepreneurial attitude to risk, growing businesses can turn the current situation on its head.

Entrepreneurs are more nimble

A recent HP survey of 1,000 IT decision-makers in businesses with 1 – 50 employees revealed that entrepreneurs are already taking this approach. Britain’s small businesses are doing surprisingly well. More than four out of five saw their business stay the same size or grow over the last year.
The vast majority (90 percent) are optimistic about the future, at least when they look three to five years ahead. Britain’s small businesses are IT-savvy as well as adaptable. Nearly all of them (96 percent) consider IT crucial to their business growth although some face challenges getting the most from it. (You can read the whole report on the HP blog.)

Rapid change

Small businesses can adapt and change faster than their larger competitors and technology helps them to level the playing field. After all, they can use the same high-performance computers, internet technology and software that large companies use.

This is because innovation has lowered the cost of computing for everyone. For example, the price of microprocessors has fallen by more than a hundredfold since 1985. The cost of storage has fallen a thousandfold in the same period. The first .com address was registered just 25 years ago, about the same time that Compaq (now part of HP) released the first portable PC.
Companies can use this technology, including high-performance business notebooks, to improve productivity and teamwork. Support and advice from technology leaders, such as HP, Intel® and Microsoft, can help you make smart choices. Investments in the right technology can give you the edge. 

Economic turbulence

Over the past few years, we have suffered a financial hurricane but as the air clears, businesses get an opportunity to reassess their plans. Tough times can be seedbeds for growth. For example, Texas Instruments launched the transistor radio during the 1954 recession and Apple shipped the first iPod in 2001, right in the middle of the dotcom crash. In fact, a McKinsey study of the 1990-91 recession showed that successful companies actually increased their acquisitions, research, development, and advertising while losers cut back. The message is clear: invest today, succeed tomorrow.

Tips for thriving in tough times

HP Business Answers, in association with Intel® and Microsoft, is all about helping smart businesses use technology to improve their business performance. The information on the Business Answers website, Twitter feed, blog and LinkedIn group brings together the trends we have discussed: 1) the ability of small businesses to adapt and change quickly, 2) the availability of advanced hardware and software and 3) the importance of innovation, investment and progress during tough times. The following tips and links are designed to help you succeed, whatever the economic climate.

Sales and pricing

  1. Don’t cut prices. When sales drop, cutting prices to maintain volume is an understandable temptation. However, volume is expensive and it’s rarely a good idea to keep your costs constant while reducing your margins. Only one business at a time can be the cheapest and a race to the bottom doesn’t help anyone. More importantly, prices are hard to increase again when the economy improves. Instead, try to find ways to increase value to defend your margins and accept a lower volume.

  2. Spend time with your customers. By focusing on profitability rather than revenue, you can spend more time with customers and make sure that you react to their needs in a timely way. Changes in their business, such as cuts and reorganisations, can create new opportunities. For retailers, tough times create changes in consumer behaviour that could create opportunities for businesses with their eyes open.

  3. Look at the whole pipeline. It’s easy to focus on short-term sales at the expense of long-term marketing. Take the longer view. Think about how you can increase the number of opportunities and their quality.

  4. Ask for referrals. One of the best ways to get new customers is when an existing customer recommends you. Sometimes, you just have to ask but also consider ‘customer get customer’ incentives and other ways to get more referrals.


  1. Do some PR. You don’t need an expensive PR agency to call up newspapers and magazines who might be interested in your story; especially if you have something new or interesting to say. Raise your profile online, learn how to give a good press interview and improve your press releases.

  2. Manage customer relationships. It is much more expensive to win a new customer than it is to keep an existing one happy. Find ways to build stronger relationships with customers using customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as Microsoft Outlook with Business Contact Manager or Microsoft Dynamics CRM (for larger companies).

  3. Try online advertising. Microsoft adCenter lets you put adverts in front of millions of UK customers, right at the point when they are searching for products and services like yours. Check out our tips for advertising online with adCenter.

  4. Explore social media marketing. Check out Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging with free online advice from HP.

Cutting costs

  1. Cut fat, not bone. It’s easy to add costs when business is good and you’re busy. But leaner times call for good housekeeping. Review your expenses and renegotiate deals with suppliers. Check out our article on how to save money with technology. However, don’t mortgage the future by cutting too much. You need to continue investments in IT, marketing, development and productivity so that you can outpace your competitors as business conditions improve.

  2. Look for bargains. Smart companies use tough times to cut great deals on big-ticket items like office space, rebranding, websites, even buying up whole businesses. You can get a much better deal from a landlord, for example, if nobody wants that empty shop and the savings will continue long after the recession is over.

  3. Negotiate better deals. It can be tough when customers demand a better deal. But can you get something valuable in return? Upsell additional services or products, get a long-term contract, agree a future price rise up front? Check out HP’s advice on negotiation.

Optimising your IT

  1. Review your IT. This could be a good time to see if your IT is up to scratch. For example, the latest HP ProBooks with Microsoft Windows 7 and high-performance Intel® Core™ processor technology are significantly faster and more productive than their predecessors. Here is a list of ten ways to tell if your PC needs replacing.

  2. Boot up in seconds. Unique HP technology such as HP QuickWeb and HP QuickLook let you boot up your notebook, get online or check your email and diary in as little as 10-15 seconds.

  3. Power up your notebook. You can get more done with a notebook PC if you have the right accessories. For example, a docking station can turn a notebook into a desktop; saving money and making you more efficient.

  4. Access your files and desktop anywhere. Check out this Microsoft video that shows you how to use your notebook to get a remote desktop connection to your office PC or other Windows computers using Windows 7 Professional.

  5. Get free business IT advice. If you have a question about how to get the most from your technology (but not, please, technical support questions) you can ask HP experts directly using the Business Answers IT Agony Aunt. In association with Intel and Microsoft, you can get real time advice, tips and hints from some of the top technology companies worldwide on Twitter as well.  It’s free, anonymous and run by humans.

Improving productivity

  1. Choose a faster PC. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for an underpowered PC to get stuff done. A high-performance Intel® Core™ i5 processor delivers solid performance for everyday applications, like browsing the web or writing reports, but when you need extra power, Intel® Turbo Boost Technology kicks in. This is great for watching HD videos, running complex spreadsheet calculations, video conferencing or running multiple applications at the same time.

  2. Join up your team. Choose a notebook with a built-in webcam and add optional 3G Mobile Broadband and you can stay in touch with your team virtually anywhere. Equip the whole team with powerful notebooks and you can make them much more productive.

  3. Make your office more ergonomic. Small changes to your workspace can make it more comfortable and productive. Use our ergonomic checklist for inspiration.

  4. Invest in skills. Training boosts productivity and you can use the internet to get free online training in a range of business and IT skills. For example, HP’s Online Learning Centre and Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs have lots of useful, free information. Similarly, Microsoft has a library of training material for its Office programs, like Word and Excel.

  5. Make your meetings more efficient. Check out 25 tips for better meetings on our blog. Technology like HP Virtual Rooms can make meetings even more efficient because you don’t need to be in the same room (or even the same country) to share ideas, files, presentations and discussion.

  6. Advanced software for advanced PCs. Check out the business benefits of Microsoft Windows 7 in these short videos. Windows 7 makes it easier to get your work done the way you want to. With improved security, snappy user interface features and improved performance, it’s the perfect way to get the most out of your new HP Notebook.

This business advice article published in association with HP. Find out more about HP Laptops, Tablets, Desktops, Printers & Servers

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