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This article was prepared for the

November 7, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights

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Morph to Take Advantage of a Changed Economy

Ignore reports of reduced corporate spending.

"People

are always going to be spending money," says Marc Kramer,

principal of Kramer Communications in Downington, Pennsylvania. Maybe

an IT budget has been cut by 25 percent, he gives as an example, but

a drop from $100 million to $75 million means there is still money

to be made. Anyone with IT products and services to sell should go

ahead and pitch them — but only after researching the best way

to do so.

Kramer speaks on "How to Improve Sales in a Down Economy,"

on Tuesday, November 13, at 11:30 a.m. at a meeting of the Venture

Association at the Westin Hotel in Morristown. Call 973-267-4200.

Kramer’s consulting business provides a range of services, including

marketing plans, customer retention plans, and business sales plans.

Most of his clients are in the technology, finance, and service

industries.

A graduate of West Virginia University (Class of 1982), he set out

to be a journalist, covering sports and writing features for the

Ingersoll

newspaper chain. He found journalism "a very stressful

business"

with a high divorce rate, and one that doesn’t pay particularly well.

So he switched directions, working in accounting and consulting for

a number of companies.

U.S. Web was Kramer’s last employer. A recently hired partner, he

had just leased an office in Philadelphia and extended job offers

to 17 employees when U.S. Web told him its quarterly numbers were

down. The company changed its mind about the Philadelphia office,

and told Kramer to move to Boston.

"If you move to Boston, we’re staying here," was his wife’s

reaction. "Start your own business," she said. And he did.

Already Kramer had been consulting on his own part time. "It’s

the only way you can have control of your life," he says of the

life of an entrepreneur. "Right now there’s no loyalty in

business."

Being an employee is akin to having just one client, he says. A bump

in the road, and you’re left with nothing. No income at all, and the

unpleasant prospect of job hunting.

Still, drumming up business is a vital part of life as a business

of one, and doing so is not as easy this year as it has been for the

better part of the last decade. The flexible entrepreneur can still

land business, though, Kramer says. Here’s how.

Diversify. One of Kramer’s clients is an HR firm that

places temporary workers in corporations. Demand is way down. At the

same time, corporations are laying off in droves. "They need

outsourcing,"

says Kramer. This too is an HR function, so Kramer advised his client

to broaden his business, and to start offering outsourcing.

Businesses in any number of niches can similarly branch out, adding

services that use their skills and are more in line with what clients

need in a pinched economy. As an example, he says media outlets,

having

lost some advertising from consumer-oriented accounts, might contact

banks to see if they have repossessed buildings they need to get rid

of and might want to advertise for sale.

Interview clients. Sometimes it is fairly easy to

determine

the broad outlines of corporate requirements from paying close

attention

to the news. Other times, these requirements are not so easy to read.

In these cases, Kramer suggests that entrepreneurs take a direct

approach,

and ask their clients — and potential clients — exactly what

it is they need now. Assume they do have some money to spend, and

some problems that need to be solved, and figure out how your company

can provide the answers.

Don’t stray too far. In repositioning your company to

take advantage of corporations’ new priorities, be prepared to move

into new business areas — but don’t move too far. If you stick

with an industry you know, you can mine known contacts and provide

insight gained from related work.

Keep adding clients. Kramer says his observations of other

entrepreneurs have convinced him that the successful ones know how

to juggle clients, and avoid depending on too few. "It can take

three months to get a client," he says. That is if everything

goes smoothly. It is not unusual for the back and forth and approvals

up the corporate chain to take a year.

And once a contract is won, there are often delays. The project that

is supposed to be completed in four weeks can stretch to 12 if key

players on the client’s team are traveling or tied up on other

projects.

Meanwhile, the entrepreneur is not getting paid. Spreading work among

many clients is the answer. Kramer suggests that five to seven

projects

at a time provides a good balance.

Keeping the deals going is a challenge, especially now, but

for Kramer, this is a small price to pay for living the life of an

entrepreneur. He is confident in his skills, and that provides more

security than a job ever could.


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