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9 Timely Tips for Small Business Owners January 21, 2010

Posted by John M McKee in "John M McKee", Action Plans, business intelligence, business strategy, Business Success Coach, executive coach, leadership coach, business consultant, career advice, Notes for Business, small business coach, Veracity, women in management.
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Is your small business feeling the pressure of a new year that’s starting slowly?  In this blog, executive and leadership coach John M McKee provides tips he’s seen used successfully by winners around the world.

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“John, I need some help and some different ideas!  My business is slowing down – I’m concerned it’s going to get worse before it starts getting better and I want to make sure I’m still here when the economy gets good again. I do not want to lose my business after all the hard work and struggles I’ve been through. What can  you suggest?”

These comments were from a client of ours at BusinessSuccessCoach.net. She runs a small business that, while still profitable, is very dependent upon the economy running smoothly. And, obviously, the outlook for the US economy is still not exactly positive. The economy is tough right now and forecasts don’t call for much improvement in the near future.

Credit remains too tight, many costs are going up. Revenues seem hard just to maintain with each passing month and that’s across almost all industries.

So, what’s a small business owner to do?

First, don’t over react. Economies cycle up and down. Admittedly, this one’s more severe than we’ve seen in a long time; but it’s going to pass. And when it does, the market demand for services and goods will return.

In the meantime, here are 9 tactics and strategies I’ve seen used successfully over my 30 years as a company leader and coach:

1. Have a plan. Great businesses – of any size – have a plan that looks ahead at least 3 years and includes all their critical needs such as revenues and expenses by line, cash flow forecasts, new options to grow the business, and ideas for surviving in a bad situation. Any business person who says that (s)he’s just focused on making through each week or even month will have more difficulty recognizing opportunities as they arise. And opportunities always arise for those who are watchful.

2. Manage your plan. Your plan isn’t something to do annually and then file. It should be reviewed frequently and regularly to help you understand trends that you may otherwise may not want to face up to. At least as important, it may clue you in that a new business option which didn’t look great before, is now much more viable.

3. Check your receivables. You may be surprised to see that your “best” clients are paying more slowly than others; or that your suppliers aren’t giving you the same discounts you’d been promised.

4. Cash is King. You already know that credit is more difficult than way back in 2009; and even when one’s been given it, they are often surprised when they go to access a credit line that it’s being withheld. Keep enough cash on hand to survive at least 2 months in the worst case.

5. Reward your best clients. Keep them happy, show them you care, make sure they don’t ever want to try out another business partner – which is how you should regard yourself.

6. Cut expenses to the bone. It’s those “everyday” little things that need to be examined now and you may be surprised to find goods and services at lower prices as everyone adjusts their offers. Just like some people saw McDonald’s new coffee drinks were about the same as what they’d been buying at Starbucks have saved big; most businesses can do the same.

7. Keep your perspective. As I said at the beginning, “this too shall pass”. A primary trait of entrepreneurs is being able to see opportunities that others miss it entirely and that skill may be what got you into business in the first place. So, while it’s important to be realistic about the situation, doom and gloom has no place in small business success.

8. Look for small successes.  Celebrate them. Focus on success by being on the lookout for those little wins. And when you find them exploit them and be grateful. If someone on your team accomplished something, make a big deal about it and encourage more of that behavior.

9. Look after yourself (and your loved ones). Everyone can behave well in good times but how we behave in difficult times is a true measure of who we are.

Here’s an old adage that bears repeating in today’s business climate, “The harder I work; the luckier I get.” Keep this nugget in mind as you make sure that your small business isn’t just surviving – it’s thriving!

– john

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