We live in uncertain times. The future is even more uncertain. For small businesses, surviving volatile times calls for thinking on one's toes, staying ahead with strategies and always being on top of things. Why, even big corporates are struggling to survive these days!
The businesses that survive and succeed have certain specific characteristics, which distinguish them from those that disappear. They succeed because of certain decisions, actions and attitudes on part of the entrepreneur(s).
Let's look at some steps, which will stand the business in good stead when its future is unclear.
- Assess your business and its current cost structure. See whether hiving off certain sections of the business means saving the business without affecting the business vision. Shed operations or business areas, which are not core to the business. Diversifying may also make managing business more costly than sticking to one's specialization.
- The current short-term goals for your business may not be what it would have been a couple of months or years earlier. While taking a long hard look at the business as above, re-state the business goals. The new goals should address changed situations and needs.
- Draw up a new plan, budget and make changes to the short-term plans. Communicate to vendors and impacted partners, employees and customers.
- While re-assessing, see where costs could be cut and monies saved. Look at more efficient ways of doing the same things or to cut the activity altogether. Structural costs, which are affected by customers, geographic presence, basket of products and stock keeping units have to be cut, while keeping in mind the revised and current market goals and conditions.
- After the cost rationalizing, analyze the finance management and flows and see if a better way of managing or more fund flow can help the business.
- Now start on the implementations of the new plan. Have short-term goals, which cumulate into the longer objectives. Have smaller tasks and daily actionables for each team and all members of the team.
- Where the plan needs restructuring of the organization structure, then go about it immediately. Ideally, one way of handling this during hard times would be to stop recruiting when vacancies happen. Another option is to give staff the choice of working shorter hours so as to share a role rather than letting a staff go.
- Have a positive ‘we'll make it' attitude. Being optimistic saves you a lot of worry and will keep you better prepared for decision making and keep employee morale from falling.
- Better your skills and your team's. Let everybody get a stint in sales to understand that function, acquire a new skill by joining for a course and so on.
- As a business practice, don't wait for a downturn to manage details. These are things you can and should do on an ongoing basis to see a recession coming on and getting prepared for it.
- Always be on top of financial news and the way the industry is moving.
- Be on top of your costs and constantly be on the lookout to manage and reduce.
- Check stock levels and turnover.
- Review all product and service lines as well as individual customer accounts. Stop those, which do not make sense to continue.
- Look after and appreciate your good customers.
- Seek discounts and better deals from your suppliers and on your purchases.
- Always be on the lookout for better and smarter ways of doing business.
The future will not be unclear if you have been looking for the signs and working to better circumstances. You are the best asset of your business. Keep your head, work at your goals (make smaller and for shorter terms) and you will know how to sail through to better times!