Ebb and Flow
The past two years have delivered unchartered territory to all businesses, from global corporations to the sole proprietor. Even as consumers, we had to adjust to constant changes, which haven’t been easy. However, the challenges have been more complex for business owners. From shutdowns to employee shortages, supply-chain issues to inflation, how do you adapt and stay afloat to ensure your operations’ survival? Here are a few suggestions that may help.
Have a Roadmap
The great Benjamin Franklin stated, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” But how do you plan for something you’ve never experienced? As blogger Chris West explained in his February penning, “What is Your Roadmap?” developing a business roadmap can keep you “aligned” and cut down on time spent “figuring it out as you go.”
It will help you predict risks and identify how to manage them. If you are a new business, it may put the brakes on ambitious projects you have been eyeing, such as opening a second location. But for more established business owners, it can help you identify inefficient segments and allow you to explore new directions or fine-tune your focus in an evolving market.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
All businesses ebb and flow, just like changing tides. Avoid panicking. Now would be an excellent time to ensure you have outlined your purpose and vision and that you communicate it to your staff. When these are clear, you can implement proper decisions and achieve growth.
Another suggestion is to use downtime to reevaluate your current marketing strategy. Do you know your ideal client? They may be different than your neighboring competitor’s. Knowledge is power, and knowing this is crucial; you can consistently focus on attracting and retaining them.
You could also evaluate your present staffing needs. Perhaps you need to redefine the positions necessary to run your business effectively. Identifying how many employees you need during your busiest season will help, too. If you define expectations and training guidelines from the onset, you will create a more cohesive team.
It would be wise to take time to revamp your website and ensure it is up to date with recent projects. Along those same lines, ensure it is search-engine-optimized (SEO) to reach your target audience. Sometimes, a web page is the first impression a consumer has with your business—you want it to be great!
How has your marketing strategy been working? Are you hitting targeted results, or do you need to change it up? Some new options could be geo-fencing a particular neighborhood or zip code. You could also run targeted ads focusing on demographics that correlate with your services.
What about your networking? How are you getting your name out in the community? Local chambers, rotaries, or network referral organizations are out there. Consider participating in local events as a vendor—golf tournaments, car shows, and community festivals.
Are you advertising? Evaluate how ads fit into your marketing budget. You could investigate radio ads or billboards, or local magazines. There are abundant options that may fit your situation. The adage, “you’ve got to spend money to make money,” proves true.
Finally, is your Google My Business listing active, accurate, and up to date? Consistent posting can generate organic traffic to your website and bring in more leads.
Most businesses took advantage of full forgiveness with the Paycheck-Protection-Program loans during the pandemic. But what if those funds hadn’t been made available? How many of those businesses would have made it through 2020?
Financial advisers recommend six to eight months in a personal fund to cover expenses, so why not do the same for our businesses? They are our livelihood and those of our employees, so it would be prudent to save whenever and wherever we can. I realize that not everyone may be able to sock away a total emergency fund of eight months, but you can set small, reachable goals.
Start with $1,000 in a business savings account and aim to add more monthly. Unexpected expenses or events will happen, and having access to cash will help ease stress. Even a profitable company can go broke for lack of cash flow.
Also, confirm you are closely tracking income and expenses. Whether you use old-school paper methods or sophisticated software systems, paying attention to the amount coming in and going out could identify problem areas. Are your accounts receivable? Is your inventory increasing faster than your cash receipts? Maybe an employee is ordering film improperly, and a lot of cash is tied up in back stock. Perhaps you need to collect on some overdue accounts; reviewing these items today could prevent headaches tomorrow.
Are there large expenditures such as equipment, taxes, or a new location on the horizon? Having adequate cash flow and budgeting for large ticket items could guarantee your survival over the competition. You may also want to secure a line of credit from a local bank to assist with short-term business needs.
Prepare for the Flow During the Ebb
All businesses go through ebbs and flows, and each wave is unique. If your business is going through an ebb, things will rebound. But take time now to plan for the future flow.
One way to do this is to simplify your current process. This could entail payroll automation, investing in customer relationship management (CRM) software, streamlining human resources (HR), or creating a customer intake form. You could also use this time to improve yourself and your employees. Maybe there are classes you could attend or certifications to achieve.
You could also look at ways to increase revenue, such as new services or simple add-ons. Are there outstanding leads you need to follow up on? Have you reached out to past clients to obtain new feedback reviews?
I hope you can plan for 2022 and beyond while minimizing any stress about uncertainties lying ahead. Investing time into planning and re-evaluation may prove key to your business’ success—and survival.