Many business owners surveying the worsening economic fallout from the recession feel that they too will have no option but to join the hundreds of companies that are cutting costs and laying people off.
The Government can do very little that will impact the vast majority of SMEs in the short term, and many entrepreneurs are reacting to this lack of clear action and leadership by taking the path of least resistance.
But this isn’t always the best course of action. Take responsibility for your own business environment and adapt to it. Bear in mind that you may have to adapt your approach several times in order to weather the economic storm.
The following steps will help you to achieve this:
We’re all painfully aware by now of the marked contrast between the leadership demonstrated in our own country and that of Barack Obama.
Analyse your business and plot where you want to be in six months’ time. Then decide how you’ll get there, taking into account any perceived threats that could occur along the way.
Your staff are looking for leadership. Meet with them and develop a plan for the business. Look at opportunities for saving costs and getting more business.
Strive for Success
Study the success of others. To be a smart businessperson, you need to study smart businesses. Smart businesspeople ask a lot of questions, keep their eyes wide open and adapt good ideas whenever they can.
Study the competition, learn from your peers and consider every situation you encounter as an opportunity to gather ideas to use in your business.
President Obama has also re-emphasised the power of oratory and the advantages of effective communication, demonstrating how it helps to build trust and confidence.
Keep your staff in the picture about what’s going on. Without communication what develops is fear and a lack of motivation. Negotiate with your customers to get paid. Can you meet them half way or help each other in other areas?
Understand their position and look after them like you’ve never done before. Understand your own personality and weaknesses, as in a time of stress you may not be aware of the impact you are having on others.
Manage your staff performance. What is happening at the moment is that some staff are staying late in the office just to give the appearance that they are working hard.
To avoid this, you need to have looked at the reality of the situation and communicated a plan of action to them. Involve them in this plan so they can buy in to it.
Match the tasks you give to your employees to their abilities. Be objective and see how their strengths can add value to your business.
Cutting costs in what seems like the easiest way might look good on paper. But a series of less tough measures might work better than one drastic one by giving you room for manoeuvre if your other efforts pay off and business begins to pick up.
Manage your finances using up to date information so that you can see what’s happening in the business on a daily basis. If necessary, ask your accountant to help you.
There are still opportunities out there that businesses can take advantage of. Surviving in the current climate means actively seeking and evaluating every one of these that is relevant to you and making the most of any that are appropriate.
What new developments are there in your business sector, and how can you position your business to take advantage of them in a way that benefits you, your customers and your employees?
Where in the past we were all able to pluck the low hanging fruit, now it’s time to get the ladder out, climb a little bit higher and pluck the higher fruit.
In addition, you have to question how everything is done in your business and see how it can be done differently.
Get inspiration from books, talking to other business owners, your staff and your customers.
Now, more than ever, consumers and businesses are looking for value in every product or service they pay for. Make sure you’re providing value for money to every client and that you can demonstrate this to every prospective client.
We’ve all been accused of just taking orders in the past. Now is the time to learn how to sell your products and services. We’ve got to market ourselves and this doesn’t always have to involve spending money.
Is your website up to date and would your business benefit from having a blog, for example? Are you an active member of your local Chamber of Commerce?
Newspapers, radio stations and industry magazines badly need to sell advertising at the moment. Is there an opportunity to negotiate a good deal with one of these mediums that raises your profile amongst your target market?
Focus on the Positive
It’s hard not to be negative at the moment when listening to the radio or reading the papers. But if you are negative, all you’re going to see is negativity.
Taking time out from your routine, by exercising, having a walk at lunchtime, taking part in voluntary work or enjoying other pastimes will help you in two ways.
Firstly, a new idea that can be applied to your business might occur to you. Secondly, it should give you a natural boost to help you feel more positive.
If the opportunity arises, don’t put off meeting up with a friend, a relative, a business acquaintance or a prospective or existing client, to catch up over a coffee. The worst that can happen is you both exchange your news and share a rant about the recession.
But on the other hand, for the price of a couple of coffees, you might learn about something that could benefit your business somehow.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
If the pressure is getting too much or you don’t see how you’re going to get out of your situation, then it’s time to get help. We’re a nation of wanting to help, so all you have to do is ask.
Why go it alone and make the same mistakes as everybody else? Learn from the people that know, and have done it before. There is always a solution and a way out. All you have to do is ask for help.
Take Action Now
We’ve seen how, as they were coming to terms with the new reality of the economic crisis, the Government seemed as if it had been paralysed into inaction. A lot of business owners have reacted in the same way.
Be honest with yourself and ask what you’ve done to bring in business. Stop putting off what needs to be done.
It’s no use waiting for the economy to turn around. Here and now, there’s no such thing as the economy. There’s only your business and your customers.
Get out there, meet people and market yourself and your business.