End of Year; A Time to Re-Assess

I can't believe that it's the end of 2008 already! This year flew by, and considering all of the melt-downs we were bombarded with I think I'm definitely ready to move on.

The last quarter of the year is a very busy time for a lot of us, not just because of school starting again and the holiday season, but because those of us with businesses have a lot of year-end preparation. Looking at where we stand tax-wise, making certain the books are in order and up-to-date, looking at what is and isn't working and making plans for the coming year.

I own several businesses but the main one is one that my husband and I started over 21 years ago. We've been through bad times and recessions before and we always planned for the worst-case situation because it was our only source of income and we had a baby under a year-old and my 80 year-old mother living with us. No room for making mistakes. And because we were so focused and careful we did well, even in economic bad times.

In this last quarter we realized we hadn't been as focused as we could have been. So out came the sharp pencils and the lengthy conversations between my husband and me and our management team and we found a number of ways to save money, tighten our belts and ways to keep ourselves in front of our customers, at a lower cost than mailing catalogs and flyers.

One of the best ways we keep in contact with our customers now is in a non-commercial way; we're not asking them to buy anything from us, we're just sending cards and postcards to say "hi," and keep our name in front of them. Basic relationship building.

The system we use is easy and reliable. We have regular campaigns where a card goes out to thank them for their business, wish them a happy holiday (all months but June and August have one); a postcard goes out periodically with a picture of our most current catalog on it in case they didn't receive one, etc., etc. The cards are especially good for saying "sorry we goofed" or thanking them for a nice comment about us.

The economy isn't going to turn around quickly, so it's important to stay connected to your customers. And it's important to stay in-touch and connected to friends and family. I don't know of anyone who is not stressing or affected by this economy. I stopped sending holiday cards a couple of years ago because it was too time consuming, but this year I feel compelled to reach out to friends and family and even acquaintances to wish them well and let them know I care. One of the worst things about a bad or sad situation is how lonely it can make you feel.

And I've made a commitment to not just send holiday cards this year, but "thinking of you" cards, birthday and anniversary cards, Valentine's cards, etc. Reaching out and making a connection with a card makes me feel good because I know it will bring a smile to someone...and who knows, maybe it will be the one good moment they have in a crappy day!

The system I use for both our business and also personally is easy to use and much less expensive than buying cards at the store. And it's automated so I can send them with a click of the mouse but they are real cards that are put in good 'ole snail mail. Perfect for some of my older relatives (Grandma!) who don't use the internet, and more personal than a e-mailed greeting. Finding something in your mailbox instead of bills or advertisements is nice.

So join me in making an effort to reach out to the people in your life on a regular basis; life is tough right now and I think we all can use a sense of community that has been lost over the last couple of generations as we as a society became more mobile and more high tech.

If you're interested in the system I use, drop me an e-mail (it does have its place! LOL) at bridgewayconnections@hotmail.com and I'll be happy to tell you more about it.