Louis Nastro provides executive leadership in the aerospace/navigation and management consulting industries.  His specialties include business restructuring, international business management and business development in advanced technology market segments.

Louis is member of The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Boardroom Metrics Accomplished Executive.

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Many watched in wonder and disbelief as the world’s biggest economy had it’s credit rating cut for the first time in history.  Add that shock to the jobless recovery since the recession and now pundits are speaking of the dreaded double dip recession scenario which would make a bad situation much worse.

The discourse in Washington was about debt and spending, but not about bailed out firms failing to hire people back at the same pre recession rates. The situation is the same in most G20 countries and with Europe’s financial woes increasing, the jobs situation is most likely going to persist as a long term issue.

However, another issue that is not being put on the table as another crisis is the lack of coherent strategies on innovation, not only at the individual firm level, but on the  national strategic level.  While most would argue that this is a time to hunker down in the face of great uncertainty, this is a time for small to medium sized private firms to resist this myopic view and take advantage of this downturn and focus on those innovative product strategies which will fuel longer term success.

If one looks at successful firms (ok, Apple), their spending on Research and Development has always been constant and a key driver to their growth.  Unlike a segment of their competitors who have focused on incremental product features and updates, Apple seeks to reinvent it’s products and create new ones as part of a coherent product plan.

Most public companies unfortunately are looking at one thing, stock price, and in doing so try to put more cash to the bottom line in three segments, controlling G&A spending, hiring freezes and cutting research and development.  What they produce are products with incremental feature add ons and those with some disposable cash, seek to grow through acquisitions as a means of acquiring market share and giving the stock some news upon which to attract more investors.

What does this mean for privately held SMEs?  I would argue this is the time to see how you can profit by filling the holes bigger competitors have left due to concentrating on the wrong things.

  • First and foremost a comprehensive review of the competitive landscape needs to drive your immediate and short term product plans.  Fill those gaps in your current markets and see how those gains can be leveraged in non traditional market segments.
  • Second, with stock prices dropping if acquisitions in certain market segments or technologies make sense for your strategy now is the time.  There are many distressed companies you can acquire at a bargain (and with the right team turn them around).  Remember, you do not have the same stock price handcuffs as big public companies, SMEs can utilize speed and a longer term focus to not concentrate on the next quarter, but take a holistic long term view of where you need to be in the next couple of years.
  • Finally, this is the time to attract great talent.  Hiring freezes have given very qualified people more work in environments which are generally lack luster when it comes to innovation.  Those who are looking to get back to a more innovation focused culture are waiting for your call.

 

There is no better time.