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Weathering the Storm

January 22, 2009

Five strategies for handling the recession

Business professor shares insights on how to thrive, even in a difficult economy

Joseph Stasio has a clear and stern message for businesspeople navigating the weather of the current economic storm.

"Customers still need your services if it provides real value," said the associate professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at the Girard School of Business at Merrimack College. "If it doesn't, yours will be the first to go."

He's not just speaking as a wise professor; Stasio also has had ownership interest in 15 companies over the past 40 years.

Drawing on his academic and business experience, the professor provides the following five strategies to help business owners improve their value proposition during hard financial times.

1. Refocus on your existing customers

When sales begin to sag, the usual reaction is to go after new business. Stasio says, instead, in hard times businesses should concentrate their efforts on leveraging their existing customer relationships to look for new business opportunities.

"Very often, companies don't understand their relationship with their existing customers," Stasio said.

That's a mistake, he said. Because if you have a good relationship with your customers, along with a good grasp of their needs and how they are using your product, "new products and new services can arise because of your relationships with your current customers."

He cited an example from one of his companies, Cardea Technology, Inc., a medical software firm in Somerville.

Cardea has one major software product that helps doctors interpret and manage bone density scans. By getting to know the needs of the doctors and hospitals who use the program, Cardea has been able to do ancillary software projects for these hospitals and physicians.

"Doctors have made tremendous suggestions to us about new functionality for our software which helps us to expand our business," Stasio said. "We can now offer things to doctors that we weren't able to before."

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