Inertia Inc.

I recently spoke with a business owner interested in hiring me to help him grow his business. In the midst of the conversation he unexpectedly threw out a dare.

“If you are so confident that you can help me,” he said, “name your competition.”

I thought about it for a moment before replying, “When it comes right down to it, my toughest competitor is inertia.”

He gave me a strange look.

“I’ve never heard of that firm,” he said. “Are they based in Cleveland?”

Deadpan, I told him, “Actually, they have offices all over Northeast Ohio.”

While this exchange was humorous, it’s reflective of the state of malaise in the regional business market. The lack of activity by most business owners creates unique opportunities for the contrarians among us.

If you have conviction — and a true belief in your company’s product or service — there is no better time to act. By making aggressive moves now, you:

* Compete with fewer people, as many have quit trying. As Woody Allen said, showing up is half the battle.

* Can choose from a multitude of sellers, the best of whom are eager to deliver excellent value. The winnowing-out process is causing the surviving suppliers in most sectors to have improved their service.

* Are able to focus on serving the more committed customers who will put your services and products to best use. Serious customers today are ones who have their affairs in order and have clear goals they intend to hit regardless of the economy.

If you are assertively doing business in this marketplace, identify and do business with companies that are equally bold. Bargains, value and timing have never been better if you know where you are going and what you plan to do. Andrew J. Birol is president of Birol Growth Consulting and co-founder of Independent Entrepreneur. He helps owners grow their businesses by understanding and targeting their best and highest use. Reach him at (440) 349-1970, by email at [email protected]