Business in the doldrums? Here’s how to kick start it back into life

If you’ve clicked through to read this article, the chances are your business is a little bit stuck at the moment. The phones aren’t ringing, your inbox is empty and your sales team aren’t delivering the goods. You could of course, put it down to Brexit, or the Election result or even the hot weather, but that doesn’t help to get things moving again. What you need is a plan of action, a business turnaround plan to get you back off the blocks and below we’ve listed some key pointers to help you do just that.

Be Brutal

It’s time to cut needless expenses out of the business to give you more money to spend on creating new business. Here’s what to check:

  • Technology – Are you paying for software you’re not using? Are there cheaper alternatives to the software you do use? Are you getting the best value from your IT support contract? Are there any contracts you can renegotiate?
  • Utilities – Don’t pay over the odds for your electricity, water, gas or internet. Shop around and you could save big
  • Rent and business rates – Do you really need that expensive office in that exclusive postcode? Do all of your employees need to come into the office every day or can you hot desk and downsize your office space?
  • Staff – Is every member of staff adding value to your business? If not, why are they on the payroll? What about your sales team? Are there individuals that always have a deal “just round the corner” that never closes? If so, it’s time to give them a deadline to close their deals or find a new job.
  • Your bank statement – Last but not least, go through your business bank statement with a fine toothcomb. You’d be amazed at what you’re probably paying for on a monthly basis that you hadn’t accounted for. Eliminate all unnecessary expenses and question any payments you don’t recognise.

Go back to basics

For many business owners, the idea of writing a business plan when you’re already years into your journey could seem like a waste of time. After all, you know your business, you know your industry and you know your clients, right? But times change and if that were the case, the business wouldn’t be in the position it’s in today. A business plan forces a business owner (or leadership team) to ask itself questions about the business that are often overlooked. It questions the assumptions a business has been built on and can lead to genuine business insight which can help to reshape the company going forward. Putting a business plan in place with strategic objectives and revenue targets for the next 1 – 5 years helps to focus your mind and your business development activities on achieving those goals at all costs. Most importantly perhaps, it can help to justify any expenditure needed to change the business to meet those long-term objectives. The savings you made in point 1 should go some way to help pay for any changes that need to be made.

Look at the market and adjust your message

Following nicely on from point 2 – if you’ve done your business plan correctly, you’ll have taken a deep dive into your customers, your competition and your industry. That means you will hopefully have identified if your customer’s needs have changed. You’ll also have noted if the industry or most importantly your competition are talking about the product or service you offer in a different way. Ask yourself, is your message and your offering still as relevant today as it was when you set up the business? If it’s not, you need to adapt to survive. Failure to do so will almost definitely result in the failure of your business.

Communicate

Having a business that is not hitting its sales targets is not just a worry for business owners and CEOs. It’s a worry for employees too. It’s important to explain the predicament the business is in to employees, particularly if you’re planning on making changes. Make sure they understand the gravity of the situation and their role in helping the business move forward to better times. By keeping your team in the loop, there will be less pushback about any changes that need to be made and it may even work to your advantage by bringing everyone together to work towards a common goal. Remember, communication is not only about delivering bad news. It’s important to celebrate the good news too so be sure to make public any big business wins.

Put a comprehensive sales and marketing strategy in place

A common theme with many companies that find their sales figures heading south is their reliance on just one method to get new business through the door. Enterprise software companies for example, tend to focus heavily on using sales teams to make outbound, new business calls. E-commerce websites rely heavily on Google Ads, whilst restaurants tend to rely on review sites and online guides. Of course, they use these methods because they work, but they need to be backed up with secondary and tertiary business development channels at the very least. This means that when one method is drying up, the other methods can pick up the slack. A good business will use an array of business development tools including Google PPC, social advertising, blogging, email, events and outbound calling.

Don’t get complacent

So you’ve reshaped the business and things are looking good. Now it’s time to sit back and reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve put in… or maybe not. Industry leading companies are always looking for new ways to drive their business forward. They want to be ahead of the competition, trying new ideas, engaging with potential clients in different ways and innovating wherever and whenever possible. It’s a good strategy to have. The best time to try new things, is when you’ve got cash in the bank to absorb anything that doesn’t work out. If it does work out, you’ll be in even better shape should you run into difficult times again in the future.

How to start a business on a shoestring budget

If you’re looking to start your own business, you’re going to need some starting cash – but how much will depend on how well you plan. Don’t be tempted to jump straight in with a start-up loan or investor money when you can save thousands with just a little extra thought… so here’s our 7 rules to start a business on a shoestring budget.

Rule Number 1 – Only pay for what you really need

Sounds obvious but every penny counts when you’re starting up, so ask yourself – if I buy product xyz, how much value is it going to deliver to my business. Do you really need a separate mobile phone or loads of plush, branded stationary? If it’s not essential at the start, leave it until you’ve got more cash in the bank.

Rule Number 2 – Use free public spaces to work in or cheap shared office space.

This is kind of an add-on to rule number 1. It’s so easy to get excited, hire a small office somewhere and buy some quirky office furniture only to realise that £500 per month could have paid for your marketing to get the product off the ground. Libraries, conference centres and other public buildings are a great free way to get away from working at your kitchen table without forking out on expensive space. If you need an occasional place of work and a place to have client meetings, how about a Regus membership for £49 per month.

Rule Number 3 – Embrace Technology

There are so many free or incredibly cheap technology platforms out there to help your small businesses thrive. Some great (and free) starter tools to check out are MailChimp (mail), Hootsuite (social media) and Canva (graphic design).  Don’t sign up for anything that pushes you into a 12 month contract and test comparable platforms out to see which one suits your style of working.

Rule Number 4 – Barter on everything

You’ll be amazed at how much money you can save if you simply ask. Most companies will throw in some extra freebies or give you a discount for a quick sale. Similarly, if you’ve been loyal to a service provider for a while – ask them for a loyalty discount. There are very few things that can’t be discounted, so get on the phone and speak to a sales person rather than clicking straight through to buy on-line.

Rule Number 5 – Use crowd sourcing for all your design needs

Sounds complicated but it really isn’t. If you’re looking to get a website created, a logo created or even some content written, there are literally hundreds of platforms that you can go to, post your project and receive offers. 99designs is a really great place to start, but if you’re really on a budget you might want to look at fiverr.

Rule Number 6 – Stay away from Google AdWords

Yep, that’s right. If you have a limited budget, Google AdWords will suck every penny of it from you and deliver very little. Explore other ways of getting your message out there like paid Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn campaigns. Perhaps look at banner advertising through someone like Clicksor but leave AdWords until you’ve got £1000+ per month to play with and only then use it if you’re sure you can make it deliver a return on investment.

Rule Number 7 – Make a 3, 6 and 12 month plan for your business and revisit it regularly

Without a plan for your business, you’re like a driver of a car without a route or a destination. Sure you can drive around, but where is it taking you and is that productive? Sit down and fully understand what your business means to you and what you want to achieve from it. Set yourself goals and always measure your progress. That way, you can stop yourself from getting distracted and veering off course.

That’s our 7 top tips for starting a business on a shoestring budget. If you want expert advice and some hands on help with your business, you might want to check out our unique consultancy service offering to really help drive your business forward.

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