When the going gets tough
Few people will voluntarily put their hand up and ask for the poo to hit the fan let alone yell “throw it to me, throw it to me”. But all those clichés about “what doesn’t kill you....” and “when the going gets tough....” can actually be true, if you are in the mindset to embrace change. In fact the steeper the challenge, the higher the mountain, the bigger the risk, the more likely you will be forced to tap into super-human strengths that you didn’t even know you had. I was thinking about how people handle really rough times in their business....prompted by the bush fires here in Victoria, and in particular the bush fire risk in my beautiful township of Warrandyte. It is not just homes and lives changed for ever; many businesses are based in these regions too. When the disaster happens there will be those who put their head in the sand (...taking the occasional peak to see if it had all passed by yet), and those who ran around with their hands in the air screaming ‘the sky is falling, the sky is falling’.
As business owners we are always subject to external forces out of our control. But a recession, or a big competitor who changes the market-place, or a physical emergency, could actually be a source of opportunity for small business; when the going gets tough we have the option to do nothing, or do something. So, what is the ‘something’ that you can do – the new way of thinking or doing that frankly you probably wouldn’t have got around to unless you had a big wake up call? Creating new profit centres I would be the first person to rally against the non-strategic and often brand-debilitating practice of endless line-extensions. But there are new products and services that can be strategic and core to your business that will allow existing customers to spend more and become rusted onto your brand. Think the salad bar that offers soups in winter as a very basic example; offering a training course in your core competency; the accountant who offers a monthly service to pick up your box full of invoices and receipts; the piano teacher who starts offering online theory classes. The best way to tap into new profit centres is to ask your existing customers what they do and don’t want from you. Form strategic partnerships Can you form strategic partnerships to build a team of like-minded businesses targeting the same market with complimentary services? Have you built in a lead-referral or commission structure? Jettisoning all the extra stuff – including customers When the going gets tough and we all get really focused upon our core business it is time to get rid of all of the stuff on the periphery – and that can include the occasional or difficult customer. Have you had to question some of your processes, suppliers, and stuff to work out what you really need – vs what you have got use to having? Getting rid of stuff doesn’t necessarily mean less – in fact it could well lead to more! Finding a new funding model Customers want value. But that doesn’t necessarily mean discounting your prices. Remember - you will need to come out the other side of the disaster without having established unrealistic expectations that your product or service will always be discounted! Can you adjust your prices to offer quicker/shorter versions of your service? Or address whether there are a variety of pricing models for a variety of your products or services for different segments of your customer base? Keeping your prices the same but value-adding can thrill customers whilst protecting your cash flow. Tweaking (and tweeting) your marketing Hopefully you don’t stop marketing....Aaagghh. If you are trying to steady your business through a rough time, to survive and thrive out the other side, you actually need to boost your marketing activity. If there is actually less work occurring during this disaster period – it gives you the time to get up to speed with all the opportunities that the digital world delivers. Upgrade your website; learn Ad Words; set up Google Analytics; embrace social media; and keep communicating. It may make sense to be quite publicly while you set up your future marketing initiatives, privately. But don’t stop. Marketing is NOT optional. There will always be recessions. New strong competitors. Physical disasters. Health issues. But they can be an opportunity for your business – if you have the right mind-set. Got any examples to share of when you had the feet knocked out from under you and what you did to get back up?