The news recently has started to put a more positive spin on the economic situation in the UK but this may be cold comfort to many businesses who feel they are holding on by the skin of their teeth. Over the course of the current economic difficulties the weather has seemed to mirror the cold economic conditions particularly the past two years when we never seem to leave non ending wet conditions. Further bashing businesses with a cold winter chill in many sectors.
To take a few in turn. Retailers . How difficult is it to be a retailer just now.? Money is tight and people are still carefully looking at where and when they spend money. So with wet weather it is no surprise that clothes retailers are suffering and also it must be a nightmare for garden centres. Tourism is also suffering. At first the downturn seemed to benefit the tourism industry with the rise of the staycation and people staying at home. But all it takes is a few bad summers and non stop rain so far in 2013 and people start to want to return to the sun. The season may pick up but right now like the retailers its tough going in the tourism industry. These are just two sectors. I could also mention many others including the farming industry who have had a series of never ending nightmare years. All of this impacts on other sectors too so that despite the fact that the media may now be trying to talk things up more many businesses are feeling just now that they are holding on by a thread and any positive reserves they had about the future and survival are being rapidly used up. So what do you do?
I do not have a magic wand but experience of running a business tells me that you will have low days in business days when you wonder why you are doing what you are doing. As you are dealt a blow or a series of blows that you didn’t see coming and find yourself having to put on a smile and face the world when you really want to curl up and cry. We have all been there and had days like that or weeks when things just don’t seem to be going your way. So what can you do? Well me I do tend to have that cry and or that rant and I do allow myself 24 hours plus to feel sorry for myself and then I rise from the ashes and get going. Because that is what we humans throughout history have done. We have faced tough times much tougher than current times and we have survived and evolved.
So what do you do in business when you are facing tough times? A few pointers from my own experience.
1. Plaster on a smile – You may be feeling miserable and things may be very tough but your customers or potential customers don’t want to hear this. So its important to put on a cheery demeanour and smile and I personally find wearing something bright and cheery. It’s not a complete fix but I find it does even help you to think positively.
2. Communicate and Communicate – I say this time and time again but its an essential mantra in business. Existing customers will only remember to buy from you again if you keep reminding them that you exist so make sure that you keep in touch with them on a regular basis. New customers will only find out about you if you spread the word about why they should buy from your business. At the start of each day decide how you are going to communicate you business that day and at the end of the day reflect on how this has gone and decide what you are going to do tomorrow.
3. Network and network – we all have networks not just business networks but also personal ones. Make sure you use them get out there be seen be visible. Arrange meetings with existing customers and see if there is any thing more you can do for them. Meet or contact lapsed customers and see what you can do to get their business back. Meet with partners and potential partners and see if there are ways that you can work together. Attend local business events where appropriate and make sure that you have a visible on-line presence using social media and that you update that as much as possible with interesting and relevant information. If possible daily.
4. Be aware of all aspects of your business. Make sure that you are on top of all aspects of your business. Cash flow is key to this so keep an eye on this daily and chase debts. As a friend said nobody looks at a business that has gone bust and say “They did so well but never chased us for money.” It’s essential that you personally chase your debts and keep on top of your finances. You need to be aware of other aspects of your business too. Make sure you know that people are happy with the way the business is run. Offer great customer service and make sure that you deal with complaints as and when they happen.
5. Be market aware. No business is an island you need to make sure that you are up to date with current and future business trends so that you know where the market is going not just today but also tomorrow. Planning is key to this we can’t 100% predict the future but we can take time to imagine what might happen and make sure that we have contingencies in place to deal with it. And that includes the weather!
Finally if you are in business and you are still here after all that has been thrown at you in the past few years. Pat yourself on the back! You are doing well. Many have fallen by the wayside. You are still here you’ve already shown that you are a survivor. I hope these tips assist in proving that you are tough and when the going gets tough the tough get going.