Now that I have been doing business coaching for almost 10 years I have had the privilege of some very long-term clients. The benefit is learning what different cycles look like in the life of a small business. I have had my own small business for this same decade to learn along side of my work with others.
I know we all hope that the growth in sales and profits will be a continuous line going up. In reality, the line graph frequently looks more like a roller coaster where by the highs get higher each climb back up and the lows don’t drop down as much each turn down. Regardless, when you start to approach the valley, if you are honest, each time you wonder if this time you will stay here until the ultimate demise of your business.\
During the season in the valley sometimes we just get depressed, frustrated and hide our heads in the sand. We hope that eventually the market will turnaround, because of course we have told ourselves it is external forces, and then we can get back in the game.
There are many problems with this strategy:
- sometimes it isn’t the market it is you or your business
- it may take longer to get out of the valley if you wait on the market
- it is not good for your mental health….which usually ends up affecting our physical health and our relationships
- the impact to the business could be catastrophic
Yes, sometimes it is the market. But I would still contend that for the most part, we are all so small compared to the entire market pie, that if we get going we can still beat out competition and grow even in a down market.
What do we do when we start heading to the valley?
- Tighten up on expenses. Don’t go and burn the furniture. That is counterproductive and self defeating. What you can do though is stop spending on discretionary items that are nice to haves not have to haves.
- Pro-actively work on client/customer care and satisfaction. Make sure the business you are doing is stellar. If the slow down give you extra time, pour in to your current clients/customers as they will stay with you and hopefully continue to refer others.
- Get in touch with past clients who are no longer purchasing. If they were satisfied clients at some point, then they are a warm prospect instead of a cold one.
- Create consistent marketing plans that you will execute consistently along with your sales efforts. There are some less expensive marketing tactics like guerrilla marketing, social media marketing, email marketing. They can work without big bucks behind them if you are proactive and consistent. They may not be an overnight home run….but they will keep the valley from dropping deeper and they will begin to add business over time.
- Take the time to shore up systems and processes. We all cringe at the idea of a bunch of policies and procedures but I promise you need some when you grow bigger and they are much, much more difficult to implement when you are big. The time to put processes in place is when you are small and have time.
- Try to enjoy a little slower pace. I don’t mean to slow down and get depressed and sleep all day. I mean use the slower season to start walking again, hit the gym, and take the extra time to cook healthier. Or join that small group or business networking group.
- Turn to God constantly and consistently. The Lord helps us keep depression at bay. Our Father does care about our business just like the rest of our life. The Holy Spirit will guide us to a straighter path and give us the discipline to stay consistent.
The point is that there are many things you can do when business is slow. And if you do them consistently and purposefully, I am positive that your business will have a more shallow valley, and in some cases where your competition is in bed nursing their depression, your business will actually thrive.
What will you do when a business down-turn is up ahead?
Sometimes you may need a little encouragement and accountability. You may think this is a time where I need to save money, but the best investment you can make to ensure recovery and thriving in business at all circumstances is finding a Christian business coach that you can connect with and count on.
With a Christian business coach, yes there are some, you have a behind the scenes partner that can help you navigate and who is looking to the Lord for direction as well. In my experience, it has been my faith that has given me the strength and perseverance to continue to grow a healthy small business. Your faith has the same power.
Great post, Sue. I’m in the midst of a significant downturn in my business right now and this was a message I needed to read. It’s a tough situation and one where it’d be so easy to stay discouraged, angry and frustrated. But, I know God put me on this path and he’s teaching me to rely upon him completely.
My wife shared a quote with me years ago, during another difficult season that took me some time to embrace. “Don’t worry about what you can’t do; focus on what you can do.” So, each day, I focus on just that. It was encouraging to see the actions you listed confirm the steps we’re taking right now. Some positive reinforcement is always good….and a little breathing room, isn’t the worst thing in the world, too.
Thanks again for the timely post!