This is a “size 12 wellies” article. Lots of sweeping generalisations and treading on some people’s sensitive toes. Here goes…. 10 things to do in the next 10 days.
Before we can list the things you need to do to survive in business, let’s get the difficult conversation out of the way.
Is your business viable – in the short term and, more importantly, in the long run?
If it is not, then now is the time to shut up shop, stop beating yourself up, and get on with the rest of your life. Suddenly you can paint the spare room, and take the kids to school. You will probably earn more (with a lot less hassle and worry) stacking shelves at your local supermarket.
Is the problem cash or profit?
Now we’ve got the insolvency/bankruptcy issue out on the table let’s get on with the show.
Take two hours with your best business partner, mentor or advisor and implement the majority of the following:-
1. Put up prices by, say, 3%.
This creates more profit (per sale) and if you lose any customers it will be the price-sensitive, disloyal ones that probably cause you more hassle than they are worth. You will be able to afford to lose them because you will probably make more money from the price increase than you will lose in leaving customers. (More profit)
2. Decrease direct costs by 3%.
Go to all your suppliers and ask them for a better price. Ask: “Is that the best you can do?” and say nothing till they come up with a better price. This normally works. (More profit)
3. Sack underperforming suppliers, customers and staff as appropriate.
Only once you have improved your business model (see above) so that you are making a decent profit per sale, should you consider increasing sales.
4. Rethink the way you present your business.
Customers are not that interested in ‘what you do’ but they are interested in what ‘what you do can do for them’. Make a commitment to start talking about what people get as a result of buying from you – what’s left after the purchase. Focus on the benefits that they gain from using your product or service. This will improve your sales performance massively (oops I just did it then!).
5. Sort your proposition or offer.
Why should people buy from you if you are the same as the competition? What make you different from the rest? Be able to articulate the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of your business in a way that is truly effective. You should be able to do it in 10 words or less.
6. Get more leads, say, 10%.
Go networking, find out about Google AdWords, get up earlier, and talk to more people.
7. Get better at talking to people, asking for the business and closing the sale.
Going on a decent sales course will add 10% to each of these fundamental steps in the sales funnel. These 10% improvements will create 46% more customers(!!!)
8. Get customers to buy more, say, 3%.
9. Get customers to buy more often, say, 3%.
10. Stop them leaving – run a customer survey right now
Simply talking to all your existing and past customers will generate more business, I assure you. Most customers who leave do not leave because of rubbish products or service; most defectors are content but someone came along who wanted their business more than you appear to.
11. Collect money quicker, 10 days quicker.
12. Write cheques slower, 10 days slower.
13. While you are at it, decide on three things you can do right now…
… and which cost nothing, that you can do to blow away your existing customers and make them talk about you. Don’t procrastinate please. Take some time out, make the tough decisions and get on with it. Take massive action now.
OK, so I lied about the 10 things and really it is more like 14 if you include having the meeting where you make the decisions.
Like removing a sticking plaster from your skin you can make these decisions and take these actions slowly or quickly. Your choice. However, every day you waste in the no man’s land of indecisiveness adds to the gap between you and those have already made the tough decisions.
Those that have done the tough thinking are seeing exponential change; every day in the new world builds on the changes made on a previous day. Every day you don’t make these decisions is a day nearer bankruptcy.
In reality, there may actually be a deeper, more subtle set of changes required of you. It is one thing to recognise what needs to be done and it is great if you make the commitment to implementing the changes.
The problem is that as well as making the business decisions you also need to change your mindset. The mindset of a loser will only result in one inevitable outcome. The mindset of someone feeling the pains of being in the midst of a recession tends to be incredibly defensive and risk-averse. This is not the best frame of mind to have when you are considering rebuilding or restructuring your business.
It used to be easy to make money but that is not quite the case for some people.
And the mindset that is attached to that difficult world will affect and corrode your thinking. You need to take on a new way of looking at the world, a new attitude, if you want your Plan B to work. Without that attitude you will inevitably fall into the old habits that got you where you are today. And that may not be good enough.
Create simple, easy to understand plans and communicate them with clarity and passion. Then take the massive action required to make the difference needed. This is not about small, nervous, tentative steps but it is about boldness and passion –a great combination!