5 Tips to Help Your Small Business Survive Tough Economic Times
Owning a small business is not for the faint of heart. It's hard enough to keep your head above water at any time, and it becomes exponentially more difficult in a tough economic climate. But thankfully that bit of stark reality doesn't stop entrepreneurs of all kinds from starting up new ventures every day. Almost half a million small businesses are started each year in the United States, and they account for about 20% of new job creation. Small business is the backbone of our economy, so the success of these ventures is important to all of us.
It's been tough times for many of us since the downturn a few years ago. Economic uncertainty, shrinking markets, rising inflation, a surge in global and online competition, adoption of ever changing mobile platforms - all of these factors put great stress on SMBs and have resulted in thinner and thinner profit margins. But those businesses who managed to survive the global recession learned a few things. I'd like to share with you a few nuggets of wisdom I've gleaned from it all. Here is my list of the top 5 tips to help your business survive in the face of enormous financial odds.
1. Have a plan.
Map out your strategy. If you don't already have a business plan, then make one now. Right now. And while you're at it, do a marketing plan. Review and update them regularly as your business model adapts and changes (trust me, it will). Don't let the day-to-day routine of operating the business keep you from staying focused on your goals. Formulate a mission statement for your business, print it, frame it and hang it on the wall, and read it at least once a day.
2. Streamline your operations.
Cut unnecessary expenses. As an example, we recently got rid of two of our phone lines. When we examined our customer interactions, we found that most of them are done online, so we were actually paying far more for phone service than we needed. Be realistic when determining what should be cut. If it takes 5 people to run your operations, don't cut back to 4 employees or your productivity will suffer. Take stock of the products and services you offer. Are they all profitable? Or are some just taking up space, costing you money in the long run? Concentrate on those products and services that you excel at, and that are in demand.
3. Keep on marketing.
Don't slash your marketing budget. Advertising is essential, and even more essential in hard times. If people can't find you, they can't use your services. It's vital that you keep your business top of mind with your target customers. You can spend your marketing dollars more wisely by buying smaller ads, negotiating better ad prices, and advertising in the spaces where your target customers are most likely to see them. Think about other ways of marketing your business, such as social media. Get on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +. Start a blog. Write articles for blogs on other websites. Get your company name and brand some visibility.
4. Update your website.
If your business doesn't have a website, my first question is "Why not?" This is 2013. EVERYONE has a website. Nobody uses the Yellow Pages anymore. If you're not on Google, you don't exist. If you do have a website and it's underperforming, hire an SEO consultant to come up with a strategy for improving your traffic and search engine rankings. And don't forget mobile - by 2015 mobile users are expected to outnumber desktop users. Make sure your site is mobile friendly.
5. In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, DON'T PANIC.
Keep Calm and Carry On. I know that's easier said than done. But if you can manage to keep your head and stay focused on your goals and objectives, you stand a much greater chance of making your business a success in the long term. Get some advice from other professionals - talk to your banker, your accountant, your lawyer, and other business owners. They may have solutions you never considered to deal with your immediate cash flow issues and help you steer the course.