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Last week, we began a three-part series on surviving—and even thriving—in a miserable economy. This week, consider if there are new practices your company could adopt to rapidly boost your effectiveness in critical customer-facing activities… such as sales management, pricing or marketing communications.

Have you ever joined a new company and found that your old company was doing some things much better than your new employer? And vice versa? Many companies improve areas of weakness when employees behave as honeybees, cross-pollinating practices from one firm or industry to another. But this is a slow process and you don’t have the time to wait when a downturn is upon you. You need to find and drive these best practices into your business quickly.

If that sounds overwhelming, consider two acronyms: APQC and ISBM. The American Productivity and Quality Center is one of the world’s top benchmarking firms. Based in Houston, Texas, APQC has likely already benchmarked any practice you can imagine. So instead of forming a benchmark team within your company that will take months just to set up their work, check out this non-profit organization at

But if—like many people—you prefer to learn from people over reports, find an association to tap into. If you are a B2B supplier (not consumer goods), you can’t do better than the Institute for the Study of Business Markets. Based at Penn State, the ISBM has over 100 leading researchers and 70 advanced B2B member firms. These companies know that firms that just "hoard their secrets" fall behind those that share and adapt. As Ralph Oliva, Executive Director of ISBM puts it, "It’s really about how you implement new tools. Tiger Woods wouldn’t be worried if I used the same golf clubs as he did." To access a wealth of reports, workshops, consortia, and other learning opportunities, visit