That's right, "economic crisis"...not "depression, recession or collapse." Though the media frenzy will likely continue well into the Obama administration, keep this in mind: Bear markets last 16 months on average and we have had 10 since World War II. The average decline has been 31.5% and we are currently down plus or minus 35%.
In other words, we've been here before. So, what should you do?
1. Don't Panic. Our financial markets will survive and you will return to business as usual...but not next month. Be patient. You may endure a flat or even slightly down year for revenue as patients postpone elective restorations with your dentists and that impacts you. Now is the time to make sure systems are intact and plans are in place. STOP...Stop, Think, Observe and Plan. Take your pulse and ready yourself for the near future growth that's just around the corner. Don't fall into the crisis management, knee-jerk-reaction trap; this response handicaps many people.
2. Strengthen Your Relationships. The lifeblood of your lab is in the relationships you've made over time. Relationships with clients, of course, but your employees, vendors and colleagues all have an important role in your success. Take time to show appreciation to every aspect that feeds your plan and helps you succeed both financially and emotionally.
As we say at Mercer Advisors, your vision drives your plan, your plan drives your goals, your goals drive your results and your results are the key to achieving your vision. You cannot get there alone, even if you are a one-person lab. It takes a team. From raw materials to the true end-user of our dental laboratory profession's custom-manufactured medical device, it takes people and relationships.
3. Think Lean. Not recklessly lean, rather, an aura of good decisions, policies and practices that preserve and maximize the return on investment of your precious assets...especially cash. As part of the relationships above, be sure to stay current with your supply chain payables. The preferential treatment you will receive now and in the future will be well worth the investment.
This is not the time to undertake risky designs that may not provide an appropriate ROI, but do not mishear me: you can buy equipment or expand your facility but make sure it proves out financially not just emotionally.
Take a critical look at outsourcing capacities before leaping into a new and exciting technology. Measure, monitor and manage the systems you have now. Production, marketing, human resources, distribution, customer relationships and all of the other things we do should be examined to eliminate waste. (For more information on lean manufacturing, click here to read Labs Go Lean.)
Be a leader and manage well. Managers make sure we do things right. Leaders make sure we do right things. This is not a time to forget how we got where we are. We must be prudent and make good decisions, taking care to spend our resources wisely.
Get ready now; a couple years from now we will have forgotten all this anxiety and fear and that's when it really gets dangerous. We get fat and sassy and take our eye off the ball. Years of prosperity can do that to you; just ask Wall Street, the banking industry and our government.