It’s amazing what lessons we learn in tough times that are quickly forgotten in times of growth. Below is my list of necessary remedies for ensuring your business can thrive in a tough economy.
- Have cash available – Check out my blog about cashflow first. In essence, if your receivables are high or you have an issue with billing or you just have a slow month, make sure you have access to cash so you don’t have to miss payroll. That doesn’t help team member morale much. Discipline yourself to build up a company savings account with at least enough money to cover 1 payroll. Another way to help cashflow is to pay for performance instead of just hourly or flat salary.
- Improve Marketing – Don’t cut back on your marketing unless that marketing isn’t producing results. More and more people are skipping the Yellow Pages and going to the internet. Or they’re going to the yellow pages simply to get your phone number once they already know who they’re going to call. How much are you spending on yellow pages? Is it paying off? Invest time into making your website better if that’s an area that drives leads. Try some direct mail campaigns. Place an offer along with your radio and print ads to measure the response. If it’s working invest more money into it. If it’s not, cut or eliminate it completely. Focus on referrals!
- Cut Expenses – Use better technology (VOIP, Quickbooks Payroll, Online bill-pay, online backups). Improve employee efficiency with detailed procedures and performance based incentives. Search for better deals before purchasing anything. Shop from multiple vendors and keep a database of vendors available for each part so you know where to get the best deals. Find out from ALL of your vendors if they have quantity and pay-quickly discounts (i.e. pay in 10 days to receive 2% discount instead of in 30). Cut out some of the owner perks if necessary.
- Ask your team for help – It’s a team and they’re all working with your customers every day. What can they bring to the table as potential cross-marketing, upgrade, and add-on opportunities that you’re not taking advantage of right now? Get everyone involved so they “buy into” new programs. At the same time, work to improve the productivity of your team.
- Sell to your existing customers – They know and trust you so how else can you help them?
- Know your numbers -Taking a page from Michael Masterson, each leader should only have 3 numbers to focus on.
- Your office leader needs to know total receivables, outstanding payables, and bank balances.
- Your sales leader needs to know # of outstanding leads, # of new sales, and average dollar sale.
- Your marketing leader needs to know # of leads coming in from each marketing project, # of sales from each project, and average dollar sale.
- Your service leader needs to know # of work orders completed, # of work orders outstanding, and # of customer complaints.
- Acquire competitors and/or complimentary businesses – If you have the top 6 under control, it’s time to really take advantage of the economic climate by acquiring more businesses. Competitors are perfect since you can cut out nearly all of their overhead expenses by absorbing them into your business. Generally if they’re for sale they haven’t done as good of a job as you so they should be ripe for new marketing, cross-marketing, add-ons, up-sales, etc. A complimentary business can help you do the same thing. You may not get as many synergies as quickly, but with a complimentary business you can now sell the service your new business provides to your existing customer base and vice versa.
- Avoid starting a business – When you start a new business, you have a lot of expenses up-front and NO customers. You have no immediate cashflow, no systems, no marketing, no referrals coming in, no name recognition. Nothing. By relying on an established business as your primary source of cash you don’t have nearly the time invested as starting from scratch. And on day 1 you have sales and money coming in.
There are lots of “little things” you can work on to improve your business to make sure it’s resilient in times of economic slow-downs. However, don’t get bogged down in the details! This was a quick overview of just the most basic things every business should be doing. Obviously all of this is true in good times and bad so when your business starts picking up, don’t forget to stick with it!
To your success, Bryan