Keeping a small business afloat is challenging enough. During slow periods or in the event of an economic recession, it is almost impossible. Rebounding from a slow market or recession and returning to steady growth in the years that follow takes hard work and perseverance. It also requires an instinct that many small business owners may lack.

At TC Merritts Land Surveyors in Westchester County, N.Y., we realized during the last recession in land surveying that just “keeping the business alive” wasn’t enough to ensure the company’s longevity or future growth. Cost-cutting strategies worked short-term, but certain strategies need to be implemented immediately if we want this business to not only survive an economic downturn, but prosper and be successful in years to come. That includes during the inevitable periodic dry spells, not just possible future recessions.

From the lessons learned preparing for and managing through the earlier downturn, here are five strategic steps to help position a land surveying company to survive.

We are always looking ahead to the future and expansion of the company. By studying economic trends and revenue opportunities, it was possible to project and develop future expansion projects. Careful analysis of organizational operations aided in identification of opportunities for improvement. Combined with constant review of cost reductions and system enhancements, this helped in the accumulation of capital to fund expansion and enabled the company to continue to experience tremendous and steady growth.

Additionally, the following strategies are some of the most important and can be practiced during times of prosperity as well as economic stagnation alike with beneficial outcomes.
 

1. Diversify

Serving multiple market sectors enabled the company to experience steady growth over the long term. Initially, we were predominantly doing construction layout and boundary surveys. In order to grow, we needed other alternatives. We branched out by adding a GIS division and a title services division, and began marketing to towns/municipalities and title companies.

2. Market Yourself

Speaking of marketing, there are many ways to utilize creative and inexpensive marketing techniques. By handling our marketing in-house, and with heavy use of social media and email blasts, we were able to balance marketing efforts and costs, and maintain a constant presence.

3. Invest in Technology

Technology advances rapidly, and the surveyor who does not invest in the latest technology puts themselves at a disadvantage. This is not where you want to cut corners. Acquiring cutting-edge GNSS and robotic total station equipment, and implementing GIS capabilities enabled the company to diversify and pursue more projects. Additionally, it enabled its field crews to be more efficient.

4. Be Professional

Answer the phone! Respond to client inquiries promptly. Immediate response time and a well-trained, courteous staff will go a long way in a world where excellent customer service is a thing of the past.

And last, but definitely not least, one of the most important things you can do is…
 

5. Don’t Lower Your Prices

While this may appear to be a good short-term fix, the long-term effects could be disastrous. Concentrate on the quality of products, services and deliverables instead of slashing prices. When the market turns and there is less demand, price reduction is not an effective way to combat loss of demand. There are those out there who believe that price is a direct effect of supply and demand. This is true to a certain degree. However, by reducing the industry pricing standard drastically, it will have a negative long-term effect on the surveying industry by driving down the perceived value of your product/service, thereby eliminating the ability to recover when demand increases again.

Conclusion

This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it a deep examination of the strategies. It is a good place to start the discussion. These are proven steps. Feel free to expand, modify and add to the list, but if you want to do more than survive the next downturn, start working on your own strategy.