Tough Times in businessLet’s face it, all small business owners will face some tough times over the life of their business. It will will happen at some point. Are you ready for it should be the question we are asking, not when will it happen.

As much as we dream about being brilliant enough at business that we will never face slow times, there are many things beyond our control that can negatively affect our business. In fact, we face issues of some kind nearly every single day.  Whether it is cash flow, delayed arrival of stock, staffing issues, suppliers not delivering adequate service, location issues, capacity planning – you name it and we have seen businesses face it.

“But tough times don’t last forever. And if you can push through, you may just come out stronger and better than before.”

Here are our four tips for getting your business through difficult periods so you can look forward to many more years of amazing business ownership.

1. Focus on your existing customers

When companies go through tough times, many owners turn their focus to bringing in new business. The downside is that existing customers are often forgotten and neglected, but those are the most efficient people to make sales to. You don’t need to stop marketing yourself to new customers, but make sure you give extra focus to the customers you already have, to ensure they remain loyal.

Find out what their current needs are, how successful you are at meeting them, and what you can do to maintain an ongoing relationship. Communicate with them, and always provide exceptional customer service. The best feedback you can get is from those who already like, trust and buy from you.

2. Reach out to others

Chances are, you aren’t the first person in your industry to experience tough times. Talk to other people who have been in similar situations to learn how they navigated those challenges.  And if you think other successful business owners have never been in a low place, think again.

Ask them what did and didn’t work for them, and what they learned from the experience. Some, if not all of their answers, could be applicable to your business, or could at least inspire a solution.

3. Examine your marketing plan

Your marketing plan brings in new customers. Now is the time to consider fresh marketing ideas to bring in new revenue. Is there an area of your business you haven’t promoted before but could bring in clients? Is there a new way to market yourself you haven’t tried? Is there a service you offer that nobody knows about?

Examine previous marketing efforts to determine how successful they were. If they were not successful, stop wasting your valuable time and money on them. Use your efforts on something new and remember to measure the return on investment all the time.

4. Improve your cash flow

Analyse your company’s financial health to see if there are ways to improve cash flow. Can you charge clients a deposit or encourage payment up front to increase cash flow? Are there products you sell or services you provide that bring in revenue more quickly than others? Are there ways to save money that won’t hurt your business in the long run?

It can be tempting to eliminate staff, but when things are good you will just need to hire employees again. Doing so costs time and money. See if you can find small ways to save money that won’t negatively affect your business when it starts booming. Cutting overtime, for example, can save you money without losing staff.

Make sure you can account for every dollar your business spends, so this means understanding your financial reports. Don’t hide from creditors, communicate with them to find out if you can restructure your debt or extend your terms. Free up as much money as you can without setting yourself up for failure when things turn around.

“Tough times are NOT here to stay, but to move through them you need to take action.”

Chances are your business will go through tough times at least once. Face it front on. Don’t hide (as much as you want to). It is important you take action to help get you through it, rather than crossing your fingers and hoping the difficulties pass.

The steps you take during these challenging periods will help you, but they can also help set you up for increased success in later years.