Having Survivor Skills Creates Big Opportunities

In an economic shake up, how will your business shake out? 

By Ed Cooper, President Emeritus, PolyJohn Enterprises

(First appeared in the 2007 Fall/Winter JohnTalk publication)

As we all know, this has been a tough year for portable restroom service companies in many parts of the country. Residential construction is at its lowest point in years and commercial construction in some regions has taken a hit as well. These factors along with high fuel costs, higher interest rates and increasing insurance costs have all combined to make running your business at a profitable level more challenging than ever. Many economists predict things are going to get worse before they get better. If these predictions are true, how prepared is your company? 

The Odds 
Government statistics tell us that eighty percent of all new businesses fail in their first five years. In our industry, in tough times that number can be even higher. Poorly run businesses are the first to go but great businesses can fail too. Bad timing or customer failures can create a domino effect. 

Prepare yourself and your business. Keep improving, main-tain a healthy profit margin and train your people to provide first-rate customer service. If you can do this, you can continue to grow even when times are bad. 

The Silver Lining 
Although they may be painful in the short term, cor-rections in the economy can actually be good for business. If you are well-prepared you can find even greater success when the economy recovers. Just as forest fires clear brush, an economic downturn can eliminate weaker businesses that are over-extended, under-charging or just under-performing as a whole, creating opportunities for healthy businesses to grow. 

The Skills 
In this issue, the experts at PolyJohn write about the most important business survival skills you’ll need to succeed during a downturn. Certain universal survival skills apply in any situation. “Survivorman” is a popular TV show on the Discovery Channel. If you’ve ever watched it, you’re familiar with the five basic needs for survival in the wilderness: 

• Positive Mental Attitude 
• Shelter/Fire 
• Water 
• Food 
• Direction (or a plan) 

These are the basics if you are lost, alone and plan to find your own way out. If you are part of a group, however, you also need: 

• Communication 
• Teamwork 
• Leadership 

As you read this issue, think about these skills as metaphors or symbols for the strategies you will need to make certain your business survives and thrives. 

Finally, on a personal note, I recently decided to step down from the day-to-day management of PolyJohn and have turned that responsibility over to a new management team led by my oldest son, Mike. I will still be around to advise them when needed and am confident that the company is in good hands. Please join me in wishing them well. I am proud of them and stand confident knowing they are committed to being there when you need them. 

I wish you and your family all the very best. 

Ed Cooper, CEO 
PolyJohn Enterprises