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Book Review: Business Techniques in Troubled Times: A Tool Box of Small Business Success – by Thomas H. Gray

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tg_frontWith over 30 years’ experience in the business community, Thomas H. Gray knows about keeping companies operating with a profit margin. His resume includes management in telecom, aviation manufacturing, travel and consulting. He earned an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management. He has taught MBA courses, and currently works as a consultant for small businesses. He is a member of the Turnaround Management Association and Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).

Throughout his career he assembled a toolbox of techniques that he shares with you in Business Techniques in Troubled Times. This book provides information for successful companies now in decline. Whether their product is no longer competitive or they have had a turnover in management, good companies can find themselves going downhill. They need to make changes. Thomas Gray’s book will help them make those changes. It also provides information for people interested in starting a new company.

In the introduction Gray tells us that within three years of startup about 50% of small businesses fail, and after five years 50% of corporations fail. He says small business owners and entrepreneurs are doers not planners. One of the reasons that companies fail is poor planning. He provides a strategy for planning a new business and improving an existing business.

Business Techniques in Troubled Times provides six sections or compartments of tools. Choose to use Business_Techniques_Front_Coverthe whole collection of tools or grab the one you need. The sections are: strategy and planning; financing; effective marketing; managing the day-to-day operations; growing and exiting your business; and distressed businesses.

Section one tells you how to write a vision statement and a business plan. Every company needs to develop a business plan. It helps define the product, price it and differentiate the company from the competition. A business plan will also help identify clients, and provide a marketing strategy.

Once a company has a business plan it can pursue financing. Gray provides information for identifying lenders. In section two, readers learn about small business loans, micro loans, community banks and asset based lending. Sometimes a small business has no choice but to owner finance. Gray explains the risks and ways to protect yourself under self-financing.

With a business plan established and financing in place, it’s time to announce the company to the world. Gray provides six driving concepts of marketing. He favors product bundling, and pricing that allows enough profit to stay financially sound. Don’t let the competition drive your pricing. Differentiate your business from the competition by other means such as a better product or better service. Make sure the marketing message conveys the difference. In this section Gray also discusses distribution and sales.

Entrepreneurs are doers. They are also idea people. They think up new products or ways of doing things. They repackage things and start new companies. They may not be strong on day-to-day operations, and could benefit from reading section four.

Gray’s main concept in section four – if the company is losing money, the day-to-day operations are not working. Companies must do financial analysis to understand what is successful. Company owners must understand their accounting books. Section four can help with this.

Growing and exiting a business are often overlooked in business management books, but not in this one. Too often business books assume the company will be successful, and the owner will never want to leave. Entrepreneurs want to start, grow a business and sell it. They seldom want to stick around for the long run. They want to develop new ideas.

Gray emphasizes focusing on the core product or service in growing the company. Expansion of core markets and products is okay, but keep them under control. Maintain a financial analysis, and those sections not meeting return on investment targets should be eliminated.

In Chapter 16 Gray proposes using an employee stock ownership plan as an exit strategy. Not all entrepreneurs would agree with this strategy, but it is worth knowing about. Throughout the book the reader will find that Gray favors management styles beneficial to workers, and recommends including the workers in many management decisions.

In the last section, Chapter 17 the reader learns about distressed companies. Gray discusses whether a company can be saved or if the owner should close the doors and walk away. He also discusses if Chapter 11 bankruptcy provides a feasible alternative to shutting down.

As stated earlier Thomas H. Gray knows his stuff and he has helped many companies. Business Techniques in Troubled Times contains a lot of useful information. Gray uses many cross-references, organizational charts, tables and bulleted lists to present the information.

I used a print version of the book, and navigating the cross-references was a bit cumbersome. On the Kindle Fire the e-book uses hyperlinks for navigation of the cross-references. I only had access to a small sample of the e-book, but that maybe a good option for Business Techniques in Troubled Times.

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About Bruce G. Smith

I'm a part time writer with a few articles published here and there. In addition to writing, I'm into nature and architectural photography.