Conference Offers Survival Guide For Hard Times

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans opened the forum for businesses on dealing with tough economic times by recalling his early years in business and the troubled times he went through.

In light of the current economic downturn, a panel of experts recommended Wednesday that small-business owners be creative and persistent to survive. The speakers encouraged business owners try outside-the-box approaches for hanging onto the customers they have, and luring in the customers they need.

“You must be in a fight mode because growth is slowing and competition is intensifying,” said the deputy director of the state’s small business development office Teri Williams. “Make sure your product is different than your competitor’s. You must have a plan and follow it. No plan — you fail.”

Williams was one of the speakers who shared wisdom with about 80 Rim Country business owners gathered at a presentation in the Payson High School auditorium Nov. 19.

Members of the panel urged hard-pressed business owners to employ “guerrilla tactics” to survive economic hard times.

The forum sponsored by Gila Community College, Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation (PREDC), the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Town Office of Tourism and Economic Vitality and the Payson Roundup, which furnished a buffet for attendees.

Speakers from each of the sponsoring organizations in addition to small-business experts were invited to participate.

Payson Tourism and Economic Vitality Director Cameron Davis said, “Do you realize that $200 is spent every 10 seconds — and how much are each of you getting?”

Davis ran through a presentation detailing recent economic cycles and encouraged the struggling business owners in the audience to stay strong.

Ken Volz, director of Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation, emphasized the need for businesses to search for customers beyond Payson’s town limits.

Volz pointed out the mainstays of the area’s economy are tourism, recreation, recruitment of new businesses, retention of present businesses and creating partnerships with other entities such as nearby towns and the Tonto Apache Tribe.

Ron Nielsen, Small Business Development Center (SBDC) director at Gila College, noted that even during this economic downturn, enrollment at the Payson Campus of Gila Community College is growing. He said businesses can get free help in analyzing business trends and challenges. He said businesses need to produce financial statements everybody can understand.

He also advised looking at nontraditional ways to cut costs and to seek professional help now — not later.

Scott Flake, a financial adviser for Edward Jones, pointed out that capitalism is still the best system ever devised, but it does have its weaknesses, as evidenced by the current problems.

“Businesses who survive this downturn will emerge much stronger,” he said. Flake blamed the media for frightening consumers, pointing out that during the Great Depression unemployment rose to 30 percent — compared to the current 6 percent.

“Even the most pessimistic economists predict the recovery will begin toward the end of next year. The Great Depression lasted from 1932 until World War II in 1941,” he said.

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