| Jan 22, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - January 22, 2009 Survival advice for local business

By Julie Druker

Frontenac CFDC's Dave Smith and Jenna Farnsworth host Amber and Ryan Seeds of Seeds and Company

The Frontenac CFDC presented a free workshop, “Surviving in Difficult Economic Times” at the Sydenham Town Hall on Monday January 19 with guest speaker Ryan Seeds of Seeds and Company of Sharbot Lake and Kingston.

Geared to small businesses, Seeds’ presentation was a general overview of the current economic situation and advice to local businesses of how best to prepare for what might be considered a difficult year.

While some guests debated the media hype of the certain doom and gloom forecast, and insisted that they have done as well this past year if not better than previous years, Seeds weighed the widely varying views of the professionals and concluded, “The consensus is that this year is going to be a down year.” He continued, “You want to weather the storm and the storm is coming.”

Seeds was also adamant that different businesses will be affected differently. His goal for the evening? “I hope this will start you thinking: ‘How will this impact my customers? How is this going to trickle down to me?’”

Seeds summed up the doom side of the equation: the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the decline in the construction industry, banks wary to lend, huge layoffs (Canada lost 105,000 jobs between Nov. and Dec. 2008), and the financial market collapse.

He then focused on “cash flow” since it is most likely to shrink as a result of decreased consumer spending, the latter being the most likely outcome of the economic downturn.

Seeds explained how to keep the money flowing. His suggestions were punctuated by examples offered up from local business representatives in attendance:

Among them: increase revenue by paying attention to big customers to find out if you will be impacted by them and also explore new products and new markets

For example, Darcy Snider and Chris Bliss of Uptown Dairy in Sydenham will be milking 1500 goats instead of cows come mid-February, a foray into a completely new product and market.

Seeds continued: Reduce expenses by reducing employees and overtime, do what work you can do yourself, and advertise by networking, emailing and giving referrals

The former owner of Desert Lake Family Campground near Verona took advantage of this trend years ago. When competitors totally dropped their advertising, he doubled theirs, which put the business on the map in a big way.

Seeds suggested improving cash flow through emailing invoices to speed up payments and accepting Visa, MC and debit. Seeds admitted, “We’re just starting that this year at our company.” He also encouraged bartering and said, “My dad’s been bartering since I was a kid. We got free skis and a snowmobile and whatever we could work out with a client.”

Seeds encouraged business owners to take time to consider the dreaded “What if” scenarios. He suggested, “You need to measure things and pay attention so that you can take action when you see things starting to slip…There has to be a specific point where you decide to take action.” Letting things slide and being hopeful that things will eventually turn around was not the suggested approach.

Seeds ended the evening on a positive note and explained that opportunities always arise in difficult situations. Service businesses can benefit from large company layoffs, which make space for part time and contract workers to step in and pick up some of the slack.

The tendency of customers to price shop can also give smaller companies more business. Seeds admitted that he has recently gained new clients this way.

He also cited the example of the green paint lawn painter who is making a fortune painting the dead lawns of foreclosed homes in the States at $100.00 a pop to enhance their resale value.

While no one will likely be making a bundle this side of the border on foreclosures, Seeds is right that every cloud has its silver lining, “If you’re out there looking”.

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