When we look into the eyes of small business leaders today we see a ‘deer in the headlights’ look. A look that embraces the full gambit of emotions that goes with having no idea what is coming next but a sinking feeling that it can’t be good.

Without a doubt, the degree of difficulty in making decisions has gone up. Gone is the time when a healthy economy that tolerated the kinds of experiments and risk taking that enabled a plentiful amount of sales in almost every market. In its place is a new era of conservatism and cost savings that place many more limits around the amount of business being transacted?

This shift means fewer opportunities and more scrutiny for you and your business. In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily bad. The really bad part comes though when you take the wrong approach to dealing with uncertainty. Rather than accepting it as a reality and developing a better value proposition for your buyers, many businesses today try tactics that are doomed to fail … pressure, price cutting and pontificating on visions that the market doesn’t care about.

In a world of uncertainty, only the calm survive. To create an advantage, reduce your risk.

Winning Business Models in an Uncertain World

One of the hardest things to accept is that the things that got your business to where it is at today are largely irrelevant going forward. In July, we talked about the idea that you need to reset the foundation of your business to align it to how your buyers perceive you today, not five years ago or even five months ago.

Today’s environment is all about risk reduction. So, Job #1 is to systematically address and reduce the ‘risk’ of doing business with your firm. In a very real and tangible way, purchase decisions today are all about avoiding making a mistake.

Years ago there was a commonly embraced statement in the technology industry that ‘nobody ever got fired for buying IBM’. Today, this type of statement is true in all markets. Chances are that in the last 6-9 months, all of your customers and potential customers have done their own evaluation of your ability to serve them in this market. They’re assessing your viability as a business, how necessary you are and whether or not they can trust you going forward.

Gaining that trust means you need to develop a new business model. Here are a few tips:

Top 7 Ways to Reduce Your Risk

  1. Be authentic. Your buyers want to deal only with partners they can trust.
  2. Justify value. Everyone making a purchase decision is looking for an ROI that is believable and short-term oriented. Align and publicize exactly what value you provide.
  3. Re-train your staff. Make sure everyone on your team has an accurate picture of the environment and how you want them to interact. Train them in your new model.
  4. Have a plan for the future that you share freely. All of your stakeholders need to know what you are going to do to be a survivor (and winner) in this environment.
  5. Increase service. Before, during and after the purchase decision to eliminate the many barriers that surface to doing business with you.
  6. Offer a low-cost option. That makes it easy to ‘trial’ your offering.
  7. Improve your best references. To ensure that you not only have supporters but passionate, loyal followers that speak freely about your virtues.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list or even a prioritized one. What it is though is a baseline. If you incorporate these traits into your model, you’ll be separating your business from the competition. Whatever business there is out there, you’ll get more than your fair share.


So much of what we are dealing with today is new. Why should we expect that it is any different for our buyers? There are no well established rules for surviving, thriving or winning in this new economy we find ourselves in. What there are though are principles that work. A success model that you can follow to create a better reason for customers to embrace you.

The 7 Ways to Reduce Your Risk will help your buyers do something that is paramount to reducing the uncertainty you feel in trying to win their business. In short, they’ll start to trust you and talk to you. In those communications, you’ll find your purpose and pathway to success.