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Author details How to Fearlessly Keep Your Small Business Sailing through the Rough Seas of the Recession

How to Fearlessly Keep Your Small Business Sailing through the Rough Seas of the Recession

As a small business owner in the murky waters of a bad economy, you may be scrambling for solutions on how to keep your company afloat. But author Robin Fisher Roffer says that letting the fear take over, and not being true to yourself and your company's mission, can be a recipe for recession-related disaster.

Hoboken, NJ (March 2009)—If you own a small business, you've probably been losing a lot of sleep at night while you spend your days poring over budgets, hoping desperately for a new client to walk through your doors. Indeed, with the economy in trouble, businesses everywhere are feeling the crunch, but no one is more worried than small business owners. While fear may drive you to go into survival mode and compromise your values, author Robin Fisher Roffer says do that and you may be making a huge mistake that in the long run can hurt your business far worse than the recession.

"You can't let yourself, or your business be paralyzed by fear," says Robin Fisher Roffer, author of The Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed When You're the Only One Like You(Wiley, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-4703166-8-9, $24.95). "In times like these it's more important than ever to maintain your brand identity and focus on what makes your company stand out, what makes it great. You have to be what I call a 'fearless fish out of water'—shining a light on those qualities that make your company different and more desirable than the other businesses in your industry. Playing up what makes you special could be the very thing that keeps you in business."

While other companies are taking on any project that comes their way (whether it's the right fit for them or not), Roffer says that now more than ever is when you should be staying true to your company's brand by sticking to projects where you can excel.

"If you try too hard to work outside the boundaries of your talents, it will be reflected in the quality of your work," she warns. "And in an economy when new business is already hard to come by, providing less than stellar results is a sure way to put the nail in the coffin."

So, what should small business owners do at a time like this? Roffer says it's time to refocus on your company's core values, to remind yourself and your employees what it is that sets your company apart from all the rest, and most importantly, to be fearless.

Read on for Roffer's seven steps to being a fearless fish out of water in the small business world, and how they will help you survive and thrive in this economy:

Go fishing for the real you.It's time to focus on what your business does better than your competition and put that out there to your clients and prospects. Maybe you're a boutique ad agency that can create any kind of campaign, but your best work is in B2B advertising. Or maybe you own a sandwich shop where you've been sticking to the basics, but your true passion and talent is in creating specialty sandwiches that your customers love.

"You have to peel away all the layers that have made you a jack-of-all-trades and focus on the area that you are truly passionate about so you can excel," explains Roffer. "That's your vein of gold. Sure, ham and cheese on rye is a guaranteed sale, but your customers can get that at any sandwich shop. Get back to being creative. That's where you can show your clients your value, and impressing your customers is how you can ensure you keep bringing in the revenue."

Use your differences as a lure. In extraordinary economic times like these, the natural tendency is to just hunker down, do the work, cut back on expenses, and try to keep as many clients as possible. Newsflash! That's exactly the kind of strategy that will hang you. Because if you're not luring your old customers back and new customers in based on something they feel they can't get anywhere else, your days may be numbered.

"Small business owners get so caught up in stressful economic times like this that they essentially just start going through the motions to keep their doors open," says Roffer. "Unfortunately, often this means they start giving their customers the bare minimum. Just enough to satisfy their order but very little of what most likely attracted the customer to you to begin with. Now is the time for you to hone in on what has always made your business great. Is it exceptional customer service, your creative flair, or organizational skills? Time spent refocusing your efforts is not time wasted. You have to prove to your clients why they should go with you over your competition and once again lure them in based on what makes you special."

Find a few fish like you.While your first instinct may be to fly under the radar right now, Roffer says that now is the time to build relationships with your clients so that you can anchor yourself in these rough seas. Rest assured that you aren't the only small business owner worried about what will become of your company in these tough times. Your clients are likely feeling just as nervous and unsure as you. Invest in some serious face time to build your client relationships. Doing so will help ease your fears and theirs.

"Now is the time to meet with your clients face to face," asserts Roffer. "Find out what attracted them to you and ask what you can do to be of further service to them. Brainstorm with them. Bounce revenue-boosting ideas off of each other. Show them that you want to be more than a vendor or a provider of a certain service. Partner with them now and not only will you make it through the recession, but you'll have an even stronger business when the seas have calmed."

Swim in their ocean your way.Every time you pitch your company to a new prospect, you are a fish out of water. When you've won them over and you finally get inside their organization, it's important to learn how to be part of their culture without getting lost in it. Remember that your clients have hired you because you bring an outside perspective, and you have talents and skills that don't already exist within their organization. It's okay to tailor your ideas to fit their particular needs or style; just make sure you hold onto the core of what makes you you.

"I once was hired by an organization that threatened my integrity," Roffer says. "Just from the disrespectful behavior that was commonplace among the employees, I knew right away I would have trouble fitting in. What I thought would be a great fit turned out not to be, and I concluded that no amount of money was worth my soul and I made the decision to walk away, despite the loss in revenue. Look for people with values that resonate with yours. If you don't, at the end of this recession, you may not recognize yourself or your own company, and that can have damaging effects on your business long after the economic crisis is over."

Put yourself out on the line.Businesses that shine a light on what's different about them are perfectly positioned to makea difference. You may be paralyzed by fear, cutting the budget on anything that's not payroll and necessary expenses, but Roffer says you should instead be finding ways to give back. There may come a time when your own company is in need of a little help, and people will be more willing to return the favor if they've seen your willingness to help others in the past.

"Getting behind a cause is good for business and makes you look like a hero," says Roffer. "Now is the time to step up and volunteer, join a board, or give what you can to a local nonprofit. When clients see your philanthropic nature, they will trust you more. For example, if customers know that your company is environmentally conscious, it can give you a great competitive edge. And even if giving back doesn't mean you'll see an immediate profit increase, it can help you to re-identify what you are passionate about in life, and that passion will bleed over into your work."

Evolve by casting a wide net. As any business owner knows, each year can be vastly different from the one before it, and 2009 is already a whole new world compared to 2008. We have a constantly changing economy and a new president, and our clients will certainly have different needs this year from last. In tough times many business owners hold strong to doing what has always worked for them in the past, but Roffer says refusing to change with the times can have disastrous effects on your business's success.

"Operating with a business-as-usual mentality will not allow you to distinguish your business," advises Roffer. "You have to continue reinventing yourself, changing with the times and with your clients. But remember, don't let go of who you are as a company while updating your style, your website, your advertising, and the way you think about things. The key is staying true to the essence of who you are, and then recasting your image to feel brand new. Your clients, both existing and new, will appreciate the break from the business-as-usual approach. Working with you will be a refreshing change in a stifling business world, and that will garner success for you this year."

Reel in your unique power. In these tough times, it is only natural that you will experience moments of fear and anxiety when thinking about the future and your business's fate. However, you know that you and your business are valuable, or you wouldn't have started it in the first place. And nothing, not even a bad economy, can change that. Roffer says that the fearless among us overcome these doubts by practicing their ABCs—action, belief, and courage—and doing so will help to free you from the fear and allow you to move forward and be successful.

"It's time to stop wringing your hands and start using them to improve your business," says Roffer. "The story that you tell about your company is what others will believe, so make sure it's a story of strength and success. If you believe that now is a time for your company to start a new division, have the courage to do it, despite what others may say. Maybe you have an idea for a new product or some thoughts on unconventional ways to approach customer service. Now's the time to believe in your instincts and have the commitment to follow through. Have the courage to use your unique power to make them believe that you are indispensable and that is exactly what you will be!"

"The biggest problem is that most small business owners are failing to see the big picture right now," Roffer concludes. "And when your livelihood and the livelihood of your employees is dependent on your ability to be successful in a tough economy, I can't say that I blame them. The trick is to quit thinking about what's going on right now. And instead think back to who you were when your business first started, and what kind of business you want to have on the other side of this recession. If you hold on to who that person is, and who your business truly is, you'll sail through this time and into an even brighter future."

# # #

About the Author:

Robin Fisher Roffer (Los Angeles and New York) is CEO of Big Fish Marketing, one of the entertainment industry's preeminent brand marketing and digital advertising agencies. She has provided the rocket fuel that has ignited the launch pad of dozens of brands all over the world, developing brand-building marketing plans and promotional campaigns for top media companies like Sony, Time-Warner, and Twentieth Century Fox.

Roffer has written strategic plans and executed marketing tactics for a prestigious client list that includes ABC, A&E, AMC, Bloomberg, Bravo, CNN, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel, History, Lifetime, MTV, Oxygen, and Turner Networks. Today, her client roster includes over 25 television networks, a global cosmetics company, and several insurance and investment firms.

A dynamic and engaging speaker, Roffer has given keynote presentations to some of the nation's biggest companies and organizations, including AOL, Mattel, Verizon, Wharton School of Business, and many more. In addition to her work with Big Fish Marketing, she serves as a strategic branding consultant for a variety of corporations.

Drawing on her experience in creating some of the world's leading entertainment brands, Roffer penned her first book, MAKE A NAME FOR YOURSELF: Eight Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal Brand Strategy for Success. Her latest book, THE FEARLESS FISH OUT OF WATER: How to Succeed When You're the Only One Like You, hit stores in February 2009. It shows professionals how to stay connected and relevant at work while maintaining a unique identity, how to fit in without blending in, and how to transform exclusion into high impact.

Roffer's core belief is that entertainment should be leveraged for a greater good. She has received accolades for developing community outreach programs like Lifetime's "Women Rock," a concert event designed to raise awareness for breast cancer issues; CNN's "Your Choice Your Voice" high school-based election promotion; FSN's "Reading All-Stars" literacy campaign; The History Channel's "Save Our History" initiative, which raised money and awareness for the World War II Memorial; and Comedy Central's "Comedy RX," a hospital-based program promoting the healing powers of laughter.


About the Book:

The Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed When You're the Only One Like You (Wiley, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-4703166-8-9, $24.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, or direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797.

For more information, please visit and


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