There are two types of business--those that have had tough times and those that are going to have tough times. Generally tough times relate to money dramas, either a lack of business, or a client that goes broke or a combination of the two. Of course there are other issues that can create tough times but more importantly, what do we need to do to survive them?
I have experienced a lot of tough times in business and I've certainly helped a lot of businesses to get through tough times as well. From these experiences, there are eleven absolutely non negotiable things that have continually proven to be the most helpful to get through and actually come out the other side in better shape.
1. Don't make things worse by doing nothing.
Whenever you see a disaster looming, the single most important thing to do is take action. Sometimes we can be a little like a deer in the headlights, not quite believing what is going on, frozen on the spot. The problem is that if we don't leap into action, things will always get worse and they will get worse quickly.
2. Deal with facts not fiction.
In the middle of a tough time it is really easy to start freaking out based on "what could be" as opposed to what actually is. It is imperative to get all of the information about what is going on and to only deal with facts, regardless of what is going on in your head. Most of the things we worry about never actually happen, so don't let your imagination get ahead of the reality of the situation.
3. Always cement your relationship with your existing customers.
In a weirdly ironic way, when times are tough, many businesses actually stop servicing their existing and loyal customer. A depressed mood descends on the business and this in turn affects customer service. That's why businesses in this negative space lose far more customers than they should, which of course only makes matters worse. Now is the time to build bulletproof relationships with each and every customer you are fortunate enough to have. You need to be communicating with your customers, engaging them, finding out what is going on in their world and most importantly of all, becoming very clear on what your customers need from you.
4. Use this situation to rethink your business.
Tough times are crossroads in our business and they provide an opportunity to make hard decisions about what is working and what is not. This is the perfect time to stop and really reflect on your business and make the changes that deep down you know you need to make.
5. It is time to get out and chase business.
Just as we can stop servicing our clients during tough times, business development can also grind to a halt and we all know that this spells disaster. As hard as it may be, when times are tough, you have to ramp up your business development and push through the hard times. Winning a few new projects, or finding some new clients might just prove easier than you think and it will go a long way to making you feel better.
6. Be careful whom you spend your time with.
One of my favorite sayings is that "if you lay down with dogs you get up with fleas." It is more important than ever to avoid the harbingers of doom, those people who are negative all the time, they only ever focus on what they haven't got as opposed to what they have and so on. Don't let yourself get caught up in the negativity vortex. Keep away from people who are like this and find the positive, proactive and energetic business owners who are too busy getting on with it to get caught up with misery brigade.
7. Be prepared to try "NEW".
When what you are doing isn't working it makes sense to try something different. Now this sounds logical, yet I have watched so many businesses slowly go bust simply because they kept doing the same thing, right to the end. We have to be prepared to do new things, try ideas outside of our comfort zone and look to other for advice.
8. Invest in your business.
This is the very best time to invest in your business. It is time to give the outside a coat of paint, upgrade the website, come up with a new corporate image, train your staff, invest in new technology and really anything else that will make your business look more impressive and run more impressively.
9. Invest in yourself.
Just as I believe that it is an important time to invest in your business it is also an important time to invest in yourself. This means learning new skills through books, seminars, online training, mentoring, coaching, really whatever it takes. To do this you need to invest time and money.
10. Find someone to mentor you through the challenging times.
If you have someone who you admire and respect and who you know has been through a similar challenge, why not reach and ask for help. Be totally honest with them, tell them the problem, exactly how bad it is and what help you need. They can't be expected to take on your problem, but having them to talk to, and to offer advice on how they got through their own challenges could just prove invaluable.
11. Learn from the experience.
This can be such a cliche but it is true. Most business owners are really good at beating themselves up for things that go wrong but there really isn't much to be achieved from this. Far better to take a step back and learn from the experience. What would you do differently next time? What were the clues that you should have picked up on? What are you going to do to make absolutely certain that this never happens again?