What have you done this week to inspire your customers and employees to be excited about your products or services?

Perhaps your business is doing OK, but not thriving. Maybe you are struggling to keep the doors open. And because of these conditions, you’ve focused all your time on cutting expenses, lowering overhead, and serving your remaining clients.

If so, it’s time to rethink your priorities. Quickly.

I’m not dismissing hunkering down. There are times in a down business cycle where we all have to do it. This recession has been brutal to everything related to construction, remodeling, and maintenance.

But there comes a point when hunkering down is counter productive. Fatigue sets in and weakens your staff. Customer contact suffers. Prospecting disappears.

There are ways to counteract this downward cycle.

* Take pride in what you’ve accomplished during this economic storm.If you’ve made it this far, chances are good your company is going to survive and be well positioned for success going forward. Praise your staff for helping you get to this point.

* Look forward and cast a vision.Don’t dwell continuously on your current challenges. Look ahead and share your positive vision with your staff and customers.

* Focus on innovation. Yes, I know your budget is down and it’s hard to invest. But imagine how motivated your staff will be when they brainstorm, create, take risks and share new ideas/products to your customers.

I saw how innovation can energize people while attending the AHR Expo in Orlando last month. Two of my stops included boiler companies that were introducing new products at this major HVAC trade show. If boiler companies can be innovative in the midst of a huge construction decline, the rest of us have no excuses.

In both cases, their press briefings and product demos were packed. More importantly, their booths were humming, as potential buyers were drawn in by innovation.

One company, Lochinvar Corp. (www.lochinvar.com), introduced a variety of new water-heating products. These products featured increased energy efficiency, consumer convenience like touch-screen controls, and even solar water heating.

The Lochinvar team created numerous reasons for staff to engage customers and prospects. They continued investing in R&D, which resulted in lot of curiosity.

A second company, The Fulton Companies (www.fulton.com), also took the innovation route. They introduced several models of geothermal-based water heating products and the AHR crowd was intrigued. Several attendees stayed after the product demo to ask questions.

Likewise, many other companies introduced new products and services at the AHR Expo, the International Builders Show, the Surfaces Show, and the World of Concrete in the first two months of 2010. Many booths were packed, but some were empty.

My guess is those companies still innovating drew crowds, energizing their staffs and developing momentum. Most likely, they will be better prepared to rebound as the economy improves.

Next week, why not set aside time to brainstorm and think creatively with your staff? What new product or service can you offer? How will it benefit your customers? How should you market these innovations?

Although I cannot guarantee immediate financial success, I can promise this exercise will refresh your staff.  It will give them a positive direction and energy. Right now, that could be a game-changer for companies stuck in a slump.