A few years ago, survival tips for the small business owner would have focused primarily on productivity issues and marketing strategies. In the face of a failing economy the topic has shifted to evaluating your choices and redefining some, or all, of what you do.
It's not necessarily a bad thing; in many cases rebranding, redefining and refocusing have been at the core of significant success. And, many former corporate employees are re-evaluating their life direction and career path, choosing to add to the ranks of small business. Since small businesses in America have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade, this may be exactly the boost our economy needs to begin digging out.
Here are a few things to evaluate and consider if you are not happy with your current revenues. If you have other tips, please add them to the list in our comments section!
Office space – If you are renting space outside of your home, re-evaluate how and why you are using it. Is it simply because you are not productive at home? Is it because you have part-timers who report to work? Or is it a space to see clients and prospects. Things that we once deemed necessary may now be luxuries. If you are reluctant to move your office back home, try some of these options to soften the blow of monthly rent.
Consider subleasing on a part time basis. Do you really need your office all day, every day? There may be another renter in the building who would like to share space to cut down on expenses.
Rent virtual, shared space at much lower costs. There are many perks to virtual space, including a dedicated phone number, a mailing address and a receptionist to answer your phone. Some companies even have 'co-op' space for as little as $25 a month. This is a large, shared area with access to the internet and is ideal if you simply don't have the discipline to work from home.
Look at the budget closely. You may think you are operating on a shoestring but take a closer look. Are there additional places to make cuts? Do you absolutely have to have the highest speed internet? Do you use all of the minutes on your mobile phone package? These small cuts can add up.
Expand your offerings. Have the needs of your client/customer base shifted in recent years? Is there a market for a variation on the products or services that you currently offer? What kind of package deals can you introduce to the market? Can you bundle services to create discounts? Are you able to add a 'do it yourself' version to your product or service? If you are a coach or consultant, have you considered forming less expensive group coaching/consulting options? If you are a web designer or SEO strategist, do you offer templates for web design or an eBook focusing on SEO strategies that your prospects can implement on their own? Do you have a Small Business Council or a business school in your area where you can offer classes or do presentations? The possibilities here are endless; how can you reshape your business and expand your offerings?
Seek joint ventures. Are there other business owners who target your audience with a complementary service or product? If you manufacture a product have you approached larger companies about a packaging deal? What popular brands might be interested in combining your product with theirs for incentive buys and special promotions? If you offer a service, who would you like to partner with to create a product or service offering to a larger audience? Do you have a skill that might complement something they are already doing? Don't be shy about approaching others, the worst case scenario is that they say no and you move on to the next person.
Most importantly, don't give up! There are always choices; we never run out of those. If you're not sure about how to move forward, seek assistance from a coach or mentor. You will be surprised at how much a meaningful conversation with someone outside of your circle can stimulate thought and bring your options to the surface.
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.