As the economy continues to shift, businesses are looking for ways to remain competitive and stay relevant among their target audiences. But what business owners might not realize is there are a lot of opportunities to produce success within their own company.

As a business owner for 25 years, I understand the pressures of the ever-changing economic climate and trying to determine what needs to be done from a business perspective in order to survive. Consider the following ways companies can optimize their business operations to stay ahead in their given marketplace.

Create employee recognition programs. Employees are the most important product of a company. Without them, clients wouldn’t be serviced, goals wouldn’t be met, and success wouldn’t be achieved. A key to fueling your employees’ fire is creating a recognition program that gives them an opportunity to be recognized and rewarded for their efforts.

At CMA we established a Crew Star program that honors a CMA employee every quarter for exemplifying our core values. They include the willingness to go above and beyond, providing clients with the utmost in customer service, and bringing a positive outlook and energy to every situation. In addition to the recognition, employees earn a prime parking spot, lunch with the executive team, and their picture on the wall in the CMA reception area. This program encourages our employees and lets them know we truly value all they do for the organization. The more you reward your employees for their work, the more motivated they are to participate in the company’s overall success.

Prepare a strategic plan for growth. It’s easy to become disillusioned in the current economic climate, and many companies may feel they have lost their way. Now is the time to develop a strategic plan. Meet with your leadership team to take an in-depth look at your company, employees, and goals, diagnose any areas of improvement and opportunity, and commit to change. Hold yourself and your leadership team accountable to ensure the execution of the plan.

Our strategic marketing process, Marketecture, helps our clients with this task and enables them to play a role in identifying and analyzing the relationships between marketplace competitors and the criteria used by their target audiences in making buying decisions. The result is a tactical marketing plan that creates a blueprint for clients’ marketing programs and specifically spells out key messages and branding strategies as they relate to key audience segments. Having a plan in place can help your company by establishing a clear path for growth. Make sure you take the time to execute it and track the results.

There are many things business owners can do to survive the recession. Look within your own business to see where there are pockets of opportunity. You might be surprised by what you find.

Jeffrey Barnhart is president and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA), a full-service marketing communications firm celebrating 25 years in business. Contact CMA at, E-mail, or call 609-297-2235.

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