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Associated Press
David Rosenbaum, president of Real-Time Computer Services in New York, says keeping costs down should remain a priority for small-business owners.

Take stock and take risks

Experts offer tips to small-business owners as recession ends

– The economy is showing signs of life, and that makes it a good time for small-business owners to re-evaluate how they are running their companies. Experts say it’s time for owners to think about taking some risks and to make sure they are taking care of employees.

Look ahead

“Back away from the business and look strategically at next year and ask, ‘what can I do differently?’ ” says Paul Sarvadi, an adviser to many small-business owners as CEO of Insperity, a human resources provider in Houston. “Look at your (business) plan. Are you going to beat it or be behind it?”

Keeping costs down should remain a priority, because customers are willing to bolt to another business that offers lower prices, says David Rosenbaum, president of Real-Time Computer Services, a technology services company in New York.

“You need to be putting an additional emphasis on figuring out how to less expensively deliver what product or service you’re delivering,” Rosenbaum adds. “You may not be able to charge what you did before.”

Owners also must help customers understand that their products and services are more valuable than what competitors offer.

Owners should take an honest, hard look at their companies and see whether there are fundamental changes to make, recommends Kathleen Allen, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

Donít be afraid

These days, many owners see hiring even one employee or investing in an expensive piece of equipment as risky. But that strategy isn’t always the safest bet.

“To do nothing is to take a risk, and more often than not, it’s as great a risk as taking calculated action,” says Dennis Ceru, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass.

Consumer spending and the economy can rebound quickly. Companies that can’t jump on an opportunity because they don’t have the staff or equipment may lose out to competitors.

Not moving forward because of uncertainty about the health care law is a mistake, USC’s Allen says.

“Do you stand and wait for everything to be figured out before you do anything to grow your business?” she says.

Show that you care

As the labor market improves, many people will look for new jobs. Retaining staffers is key, says Maria Martinez, owner of Respira Medical in Linthicum Heights, Md.

Martinez, who has 60 employees, uses incentives such as flexible scheduling and tuition reimbursement to reward and keep staffers. They can come in late or leave early when necessary. She gives each employee four days a year with pay to volunteer at charitable organizations.

Owners who had to cut 401(k) contributions or other benefits because of the recession and its aftermath should start restoring them, Insperity’s Sarvadi says.

“I would consider, if not all at once, then incrementally bringing some things back,” he says.