Businesses, enjoy the fire sale.

It’s interesting to note that many of the people that handed out business advice when the going was good have strangely gone quiet now that things aren’t looking so good on Wall Street. The reality of the current situation is that entrepreneurs still have to wake up every morning, head to work and pave a path to a better future.Most small businesses are already focusing on aggressively cutting costs by streamlining their current business processes and focusing on cash flow as if their life depended on it. That’s great, but it seems to me that one big thing might be getting overlooked:

Buy or Bury the Competition.

If you’re cutting costs across your business and you’ve done a decent job of keeping your employees focused on the right things, you’re probably in a good position to take advantage of the one big benefit of the economic downturn: the opportunity to hurt or, better yet, destroy the competition.

Two tactics that might be useful as you start going after your competition:

  1. Steal their customers. The competition is probably hurting for cash, but you’re probably in a better position to extend some decent credit lines to customers that you may never have been able to reach before.
  2. Steal their employees. If you’re doing well, start talking about it. Your competition’s employees are probably getting concerned about their job security — use this to your advantage and get some great talent that you might not have ordinarily had access to.

Look, there’s no doubt that you’ve got to get on the defensive in times like this. Just don’t forget that there are some benefits to going on the offensive while everyone else is weak. In the words of Jack Welch,

There’s little downside to an overaggressive response to economic turmoil. The risk lies in wishful thinking and timidity.

Rather than focusing on your own survival, think about how you can take advantage of the fire sale.