As small business owners, we've all learned that we may be on top of the world today and under its weight tomorrow. Cashflow is one of the drivers that make this so. Whether your industry takes a hit or the economy plunges, a sudden income drop can become paralyzing.
It takes work, ingenuity, and smarts, but rest assured; you can find your way through the tough times. You'll need to keep your head on straight and view this period as an opportunity for change. If you engage in negativity, then see it for what it is–Bullshift!
1. Find the Bullshift™ by examining the true reason for your financial woes.
It's not unusual for struggling business owners to blame fickle customers, employees who don't get it, and a changing industry that leaves them feeling out of control. The blame list goes on and on, and some of these reasons are sound, but that doesn't mean you can't do anything about it. Usually, the more significant problem is within the entrepreneur, so your mindset is the first thing to examine. What is the real reason for your situation? Be honest with yourself, asking what you are afraid of about taking the next steps.
Once you isolate the problems (usually, there's more than one reason for financial stress), you can create a plan to address them skillfully and creatively. Often, it's not as tragic as you may believe. This is where a good coach or therapist comes in handy; perhaps that could be your very first step.
2. Eliminate expenses unnecessary to your small business.
During more abundant times, many entrepreneurs are tempted to spend money unnecessarily. Some of these temptations are new office space, nicer cars, overstaffing, and increased personal spending. Always consult with your accountant and talk things through with your coach or mentor before making decisions like these. Look at your profit and loss statements to help you recognize opportunities to adjust your spending. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of laying off team members. If it leaves you in the position of doing all the work and none of the strategic growth efforts, it may not be a wise choice.
3. Find your low-hanging fruit.
Sometimes we don't see the opportunities right in front of us. The most efficient means to increase your small business's cashflow is often found within your existing customer and prospect lists. Upsell them, offer something new, and connect them more often and more effectively.
Is your website's traffic volume adequately reflected in your conversion rates? Are you missing an opportunity to sell something that visitors to your site aren't finding? Examine your sales funnel if your conversion rates are low.
Lastly, look at your accounts receivable; how many of your accounts are past due? AR is often a goldmine that small business owners hesitate to act upon. Put a plan in place to get more aggressive about collecting monies due.
4. Market like crazy.
If a dip in the economy is the reason for your cash flow issue, other businesses are likely suffering. Just like you, they are tightening the budget. The marketing budget is usually one of the first cuts that business owners make, and that's not always a smart idea. However, you can use this to your advantage because advertising rates may also be slashed. Take advantage of lower rates and out-market your competition even if the economy causes buyers to cut back and the audience is smaller than it used to be. You'll get ahead of the game if you gain the lion's share of the audience.
5. Repackage your services or products.
How can you offer a bargain or something fresh and new to your customers? I have a client who manufactures and sells a popular line of dishes and accessories for tabletop décor. By examining her market more closely, she determined that customers like bundled product offerings in addition to individual selections. With a slight break in price and attractive packaging for these gift sets, now her customers buy more items from her website. She has made purchasing and gift-giving easier, appealing to the customer's urge to buy.
You can do the same if you offer a service. Look for missed opportunities in the way you package and price your services so you can create something new and attractive for your audience.
6. Adapt and innovate.
Innovative companies survive difficult times because they adapt, not only when times are tough but always. You can ask your customers what they want, but, as Steve Jobs said, they don't know. Where do you see future trends going?
The templated design platform, Canva, is one example of a trendsetter. They are listed on Fast Company's 2022 50 Most Innovative Companies, referred to as a word processor for our modern digital design culture. The company has rolled out tools for every form of content imaginable, making good design accessible to people like you and me.
How can you become a leader in creating new trends?
7. Show your customers more love.
It's impossible to place a value on brand loyalty. Provide a great product or service, ease of use, outstanding customer service, and other efforts that make you unique. Your customers will become vocal advocates for your brand. Don't be stingy in developing campaigns and implementing policies that will turn your customers into raving fans.
Make sure that your efforts are well thought out, or you will suffer the consequences as this restaurant owner did:
Restaurant “xyz” is the fifth dining establishment to occupy a specific building in my area. The other four have failed miserably. When the newest restaurant hit the one-year mark, they sent a clever email blast about breaking the property's curse. Almost as an afterthought, they thanked their loyal customer base for making it possible. Nice, but where's the real show of appreciation? They ended the email by telling us to keep coming in to purchase more food and drink so their success could continue. No discount offers or other creative expressions of thanks. This indiscretion has not gone unnoticed, as diners have made comments on social media and among themselves. The restaurant saw a dip in business. While it wasn't long-lasting, I'm confident the restaurant was negatively impacted.