Business Monday

Keys to staying in demand – regardless of the economy


Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge James Taylor fan. The singer/songwriter who soared to the top of the charts in the late ’60s and early ’70s with hits like Fire and Rain, Shower the People and You’ve Got a Friend has managed to stay relevant to his audience over the last 40 years (God, I feel old) — regardless of economic booms or recessions — by staying true to himself and his unique “sound.” Even his new songs sound like his old songs — and when you hear that voice and that guitar playing, you know exactly who it is — and that’s precisely what we love about James Taylor.

My wife and I haven’t missed a James Taylor concert in the past 25 years so, true to form, we were among the (aging) fans who attended his Nov. 15 concert at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. As I stood in line waiting to get in to the arena, I looked back at the throng of people walking up behind me and the seemingly endless row of cars still inching their way from the expressway into the cramped parking lot. In awe, I said to my wife, “It must be nice to be so good at something, and in such high demand, that thousands of people would be willing to pay good money and endure the inconveniences of travel, heavy traffic, and long lines just to come see you, or hear you sing, or buy what you have to offer.” Then I realized, though I’m no JT, that’s what I strive for in my business every day. Don’t we all?

It doesn’t matter what industry we may be in, there are certain qualities that we can develop for our businesses that will always be in demand — regardless of the economy.

Price to value: Debates over pricing strategies are as old as currency itself. Setting the right price to value is critical because it affects every aspect of a business. During recessions, many companies lower prices just to cover costs and give themselves a chance to remain in the market. As a result, most of the companies in a given industry are forced to reevaluate pricing strategies to maintain product position. In these situations, while it is imperative for a company to reduce overhead and lower costs to account for price adjustments, it must never lower its standards or the value it creates for its customers. We should always seek to provide more value than what our clients pay us for. I’m not proposing that you undervalue yourself or your business, but your clients should always feel that they received more value for their money when doing business with you as opposed to your competitor. Value will always be in demand — no matter what the economy brings.

Service quality: How much is good service worth? That was the subject of a study in England by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) and Ernst & Young that found strong consensus that the insurance industry was not providing good enough customer service to its mid-corporate customers according to 69 percent of brokers and 87 percent of insurers that were interviewed. The study concluded that the insurance industry could save the equivalent of nearly $121 million by reducing duplication and improving customer service. Mark Radburn, chair of the CII’s Broking Faculty, says: “One of the key elements of the report is the requirement to improve our understanding of the customer’s needs. To make this achievable, we would need adequately trained staff and a more professional approach towards customer service.” Service quality will always be in demand — especially in a difficult economy.

Relationships: Business is all about the relationships we form through the exchange of value. In our cut-throat, post-recession economic environment, relationship-based businesses tend to fare better than industry averages due to increased customer loyalty. Additionally, research shows that a relationship-based approach to sales boosts performance and increases the likelihood of residual sales. Relationships will always be in demand — regardless of the economy.

Social responsibility: The pendulum of public perception toward business has swung away from the decades-long greed that culminated in the recent sub-prime mortgage debacle toward a more socially responsible view of business. Customers are attributing a higher value to socially conscious organizations; many businesses find that in addition to all the right social reasons, social responsibility is good business. The great Sir John Templeton said it best: “Those who do good do well — in any economy.”

Manny García-Tuñón is president of Lemartec, an international design-build firm headquartered in Miami. and