Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Focus on the basics

We're excited this morning to have our first of what we hope will be many contributions from Steven W. Smith, president and managing director of WSP-SELLS (Briarcliff Manor, NY), a 250-person transportation and infrastructure firm. The company is part of the WSP Group family, which ranked third in The Zweig Letter 2009 Hot Firm List. Inspired by one of his managers' requests to venture in to new areas, Smith looks at what firms can do to ride out the economic storm, even when it reaches historic depths:

"In a difficult economy, remember to focus on the basics. As we enter the second year of The “Great Recession,” I have been pleased that we have been fortunate enough to maintain our revenue and bottom line, but it has not been easy. As with most things in life, it all comes down to hard work and a little luck, such as coming in first rather than second on an important project. I believe the real trick to surviving in these times is by staying totally focused on what makes your firm tick.

"It is so tempting to try new avenues of business when some of your existing revenue streams are drying up. More often then not, these side ventures result in dead ends. Spending that effort on the existing areas of your business that are working well will, more often than not, provide a far better return on investment. If you think about it, when project opportunities are few and far between and competition is intense, our clients will protect the ones they know! While there are exceptions to every rule, when the choice is between investing in an area of your business you know well or taking a leap of faith to a new business area, I will always choose the known route, especially in times like these."

So, what's your firm's approach? Do you stick to the basics or do you try to chase whatever you can find?


  1. By the way, you can read more on this topic in the Nov. 23 issue of The Zweig Letter,

  2. I agree, Steve. One of the big "basics" firms need to focus on is their CLIENTS. I think some companies forget why there are in business. They have to meet a real need that a client has--and do it better, faster, and (unfortunately, sometimes cheaper)--than the other guy.


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