July 24, 2008

In a Weakened Economy, Product-Line Diversification and a Strong Customer-Focus Are Key to Business Stability and Growth, According to James Schlueter of Total HR Network

James Schlueter, President, Total HR Network, (www.totalhrnet.com) addressed a group of business consultants via a webinar focused on business development and sales strategies in a weak and soft market. He noted "the old adage, if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten, isn't as true today."

The webinar, attended largely by CPAs, attorneys and insurance agents, explored the impact the weakened economy is having on business professionals that serve small to mid-sized employers. "This economy is really tightening," said Richard Callahan an attorney from Hamden, CT, "the work is there but getting the go-ahead and then getting paid is much more problematic than it has been in years." Teresa Long-Pike, an insurance consultant from Charlotte, NC noted that "the competition in our business has always been tough, but this market has made things much more aggressive."

One insurance agent, who preferred not to be named, said, "We lost an account we had for 17 years because they hired a payroll service that subsequently got them to switch carriers to save three-percent on their workers' comp. Who would have ever thought I'd lose one of my better customers to a payroll company?"

"That," said Schlueter, "is exactly the point. The old rules for success are changing. It used to be that you could depend on hard work and customer loyalty to support your success. Today, working smart trumps working hard every time; and, customer loyalty isn't something you can take for granted. You've got to earn it every day by staying close to your customer, understanding their needs and working to help them resolve their problems."

Schlueter responded to the agent that lost the account to the payroll company, "You didn't lose that account to a payroll company. You lost it to a company that better understood the needs of your client and offered a more complete business solution. Odds are you weren't the only vendor that lost business in that deal; I'm willing to bet a couple other vendors did too."

"The Total HR Network," said Schlueter "is here to help local business consultants broaden their service offerings in ways that have been proven successful with local business owners. However, success only comes to those who take the time to ask clients about issues they are dealing with. You have to put your client's story above yours. Rather than trying to sell your products, you need to focus on understanding your client's problem so your client can believe in your solution."

Schlueter commented, "Employers do value the relationships with the vendors they've had for years. However, that value has to be weighed against the need to build effective and efficient business. It's not just about saving money today. Consultants that can show employers how to maximize their time are seen as delivering a real value. That's why value-added product-line diversification offered by the Total HR Network is so important to building a strong consulting practice in today's economy."

THRN (www.totalhrnet.com), is a network of insurance agents, brokers, CPA's, and other business consultants serving small to mid-sized employers. The Network is responding to the challenges created by the weakening economy, soft insurance market and competition from PEOs. The Network incorporates total outsourced human resource solutions into the value-added service offerings of its members. THRN may be reached at 818-790-2392.