16 Business Tips in Northern Virginia – Real Solutions, in a Challenging Economy

Here at WestXDC with KME.digital, we’ve been collecting, digesting and absorbing information from many sources about the health and welfare of the region’s business community. From local Chambers of Commerce, from Federal and financial news, from colleges, business leaders and networking events, and of course from the ground-level view of hundreds of our own regional marketing customers, partners and economic data analytic reports.

In a word, as overhead from a local bank forecast at the Alexandria Chamber, “it’s going to be “choppy”. All leading and current economic indicators are not very positive, nor reliably trending that way, now in this expensive conflict between Recession and Inflation. The general, top-level trends are well reported, with slowdown expected in payroll, jobless rates, CAPEX investing and significantly in manufacturing – among many other challenges. Detailed metrics on local business performance and outlook, however, are very much under-reported in common media. Our business communities and networks see it all, and are living it, however.  Payments are delayed, loans are impossible, layoffs are noticeable, costs remain high, contracts are defaulting, investment has dried up, productivity and labor quality is poor and along with falling consumer spending and confidence, overall business optimism is “dismal” (per the NFIB). 

From a positivity angle, however, good feedback, solutions and practical optimism can be found around the NOVA business community.  Charles Kapur, for example, past Chair of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce (great local business networking group to join!): 

I believe a significant issue of importance for all businesses as we enter 2023 is capitalization.  Most experts forecast more interest rate hikes in 2023 in the ongoing battle against soaring inflation.  Many feel a recession (if we aren’t already there) isn’t far behind.  The combination of higher loan rates and more stringent underwriting guidelines by financial institutions will create a more difficult environment to obtain debt financing.  Equity investors, likewise, will be more challenging to bring onboard, assuming that is even an option for your business type.  Increased costs of raw materials, higher salary demands for an increasingly smaller pool of skilled workers available in the market, and possible diminished spending power from consumers as the cost of credit grows will all create downward pressure on business operating margins.  Developing a sound strategy, which includes having firm relationships with key business advisors, to ensure your businesses in Reston and the greater Northern Virginia region are well capitalized in 2023, will help ensure a year of successful operation.”

(Subscribers – note the SEO-optimized marketing message above from one of our community advisors; let us know if you’re interested as well in searchable, effective outreach and advertising like this!)

Despite the negativity, in our spirit here of “news you can use”, we offer summary advice regarding these business headwinds, what can and should be done to protect, preserve and even grow in the new year. There’s lots of work to do, and lots of optimism to generate – if we work together.  If you own/operate a Northern Virginia area business – or really anywhere else – pay attention to these tips for 2023.

2023 Business Tips for Northern Virginia

  1. Continually update your tactical business operations – continually test, change, update, innovate in every corner of your day-to-day operations, from merchant credit card processing, to HR support and office services, cloud app consolidation and marketing automation. 
  2. While optimizing your “run the business” spend, accelerate your “change the business” agility. Meaning, make it easier to hear, notice, find out ideas for change, from your entire relationship network, and particularly employees. 
  3. Practice absolute ROI, be ruthless in cost savings and avoidance. Execute lean, offensive OPEX (i.e. operational expenses targeted at displacing the competition). Delay CAPEX (capital, strategic expenditures) unless a verified “buy low” or market share gain play exists. Is your marketing spend delivering 10x ROI? It should be. 
  4. Your competition is going to shrink, pull back in their brand and marketing spend. Quickly fill and capture these marketplace gaps, openings with your own light brand refresh, value reminders, very competitor-targeted advertising. Recruit their employees.
  5. Increase the diversity and depth of your business solutions intelligence (i.e. what can help, vs. what the problems are) – basically read, subscribe, ask, dig and find business data analysis sources and reporting help, expanding beyond the traditional. Lean into social. Coincidentally, that’s the core mission of WestXDC, to provide this.
  6. Plan for and execute resilience – this means to assume and be prepared to spring back, recover, repair lost contracts, lost relationships, lost customers. No matter how small. Don’t be shy, get them back.
  7. Deploy hard into your networks & collaboration venues – we’re essentially done with Covid, out and about, and everyone’s very eager to meet, do deals, share leads or help. Engage every week with your Chamber, BNI, college, EDA, legislator, industry SMEs and advisors.
  8. Learn fast, fail fast – if it isn’t working, don’t dwell on it, move out with plans B and C.
  9. Lean into retention – of your leadership, employees, partners, vendors and customers. Keep the band together, work extra hard to avoid losing your relationships, no matter how infrequent, transactional or seemingly unimportant.
  10. Adopt and cultivate the hybrid workforce, with consistent opportunities and clear, communicated value for physical presence. Employee retention is particular now relies on an offer of flexibility in workplace and hours, however it can be constructed – but in-person contact needs to be consistent.
  11. In your digital marketing, win before, during and after search – meaning, cement the engagement and interest of potential customers via your presence, contributions, feedback, information-sharing and other brand and community-building activities, before they just search Google for an answer.  But crush those search results, with lots of follow-up and follow-through.
  12. Sustainability is a good message to continue to consider in your business practices, offerings, operations – it’s a useful common language, crossing many divides. Doesn’t require activism, but a pragmatic recognition and intent to continually avoid waste of any kind of hard-to-replace resource.
  13. Find, build, constantly curate pipelines for new talent, anywhere they are, however they express or offer it. Build your file of resumes and contacts ready to go. Ramp up your internal workforce development and succession planning – promoting and advancing from within is going to be critical this year.
  14. Practice real-time risk management – create a set of indicators from reports, meetings, data sources that can alert you to critical business risks, including financial (like late payments), HR (employee dissatisfaction), cybersecurity, etc.
  15. Have you listened to your customer calls, looked at the status of your lead and campaign activity efficiency (i.e. optimization of configuration, controls, schedules), whether the automated tools you use are cost-effective and managed well? For smaller businesses, this might be difficult, for example managing your online Google Local Services Ads console, where your costs actually depend on active management and engagement with the tool.
  16. If you’re B2G/GovCon, particularly small and mid-market and emerging set-aside community (i.e. 8as, SDVOSB, etc.) – that sector is still producing, though with some delaying action among the procurement shops. Tighten up your bid lifecycle process, optimize generation of outreach and knowledge capital sharing, production for target procurement, market research, influencer and Prime audience targeting. (We can help with B2G GovCon sales, BD, bid, capture and proposal lifecycle here, as well).
  17. ..and one last tip for kicks – identify who your CDAO is (Chief Digital and AI Officer – an interesting development in the DoD). Maybe not a person, but a source or process or activity to regularly learn and consider how these subjects (i.e. dealing with data, considering how AI can help) can really optimize your business this year.  More on that later.

 

Happy New Year 2023!

Share:

More Posts