New Year Ushers In More Challenges; Some Suggestions For Staying Positive

As we start 2011, most of us continue to face a challenging business climate.It is important for a business owner to be positive. Those of you who have attended conferences have heard this from veterans. A positive outlook is contagious, and its important to motivate employees and to make customers happy to work with you.The past year witnessed a lot of false starts. There would be a few good months, followed by bad ones. Reports on the economy often gave us reason to be hopeful, but the business environment never really improved for refreshment service operators.The last quarter of 2010 brought coffee price increases. Today, everyone needs to pass on price increases, which is not much fun.Right now, it seems we need to keep tapping our motivational resources.Yesterday I got a call from an operator Ive known for a long time. He wanted to know if there is anything hecan do that he hasnt already done to strengthen his business. He has developed a strong staff, focused on customer service, stayed on top of his pricing and has passed on increases.He continues to face a competitive environment that defies logic; competitors are undercutting him with prices that cant be sustained over the long term. He must defend his prices and rely on his existing customer relationships.One suggestion that I had for him was to focus on finding new products that will excite his customers. Finding new products is invigorating, and manufacturers are always introducing them.Customers today are especially interested in healthy items, and today there are more healthy items available than ever before.Other thoughts I offered:It always helps to keep in touch with colleagues for moral support. Being involved with industry organizations, civic groups and charities always helps.Now is also a good time for operators to focus on their teams. Many operators right sized in 2008 and 2009, and as a result, stronger teams are in place.Employees who survived the rightsizing do not take their jobs for granted, and they want to prove themselves. Given this situation, operators should focus on strengthening their staffs capabilities. This effort will improve everyones morale and help survive the challenges ahead.