Business having a quiet period? Here’s how to turn things around

 

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.

 

Businesshands

Is your business going nowhere?

I was speaking to a fellow business owner during the Christmas break and as normally happens when you meet someone in the same predicament as yourself, we ended up talking about our businesses. I spoke of the successes we’d had in 2016 and our aggressive growth plans for 2017. Meanwhile she spoke of a difficult year past and the likelihood of another difficult year ahead. Her business she felt, was going nowhere fast and on further questioning, it was easy to see why and best of all, how to turn the business around. So if you’re in the same predicament, thinking that your business is in for a tough year and feeling like your treading water or worse still, getting swept off downstream – here’s a few ideas to help turn it around.

Know your business

The first thing I did was to ask what the most popular products were and what the most profitable products were. Were they the same? If not, how can you make your profitable products more popular or your popular ones more profitable? By having intimate insight into your clients buying habits and understanding exactly what you make on each product or service you sell, you can get a better idea of what needs to happen to make more money in your business.

Get rid of loss leaders and replace with profit winners

Following on from the above, if you’re offering products that lose the business money or merely break-even, get rid of them. Similarly, if you’re offering products and services that no-one is buying, bin them too. Expand on the products and services which are the most popular and most profitable.

Don’t do freebies

If you’re a service provider (or a software provider), the chances are you regularly get asked to do stuff for free on the promise of future work. DON’T DO IT! Some people run their businesses by going round to service providers and asking for free stuff on the premise of future work that they have no intention of giving. If someone asks you for a freebie, tell them you’d be happy to offer the equivalent value of the freebie in the form of a discount on future invoices after the first month. If they’re really serious about forming a long-term relationship, they’ll be happy to snap that offer up. If they’re not and simply want a free ride, they’ll walk away. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Make a Plan

One of the most amazing aspects of my conversation with this fellow business owner was that her business was 5 years old yet she had never made a (i) business plan or (ii) a yearly sales and marketing plan. The result was that she was still paying herself below minimum wage and continuing her business in the hope that things would turn around.

  1. THINGS WON’T TURNAROUND UNLESS YOU MAKE THEM
  2. HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY

Take a snap shot of your business today. How many clients do you have? What’s the average spend per customer? What’s your client retention rate? How much profit are you making off how many sales? Now ask yourself, what are your targets on these points for the year ahead and how are you going to do it? Put a plan in place, pin it to your wall and follow it. Do you need more marketing, more events, better products, better aftersales, more repeat business? How will you do it?

NO PLAN = NO IMPROVEMENT.

Motivate and reward yourself

Motivation comes in all shapes and sizes. For me its regular exercise and the promise of a new tattoo or a weekend away if I hit a key revenue or profit target. If you work from home, think about investing in a hot desk so that you can get some social interaction with other small business owners. If you sit at your desk all day, think about going for a midday run or doing an exercise session off your iPad. What about new skills? Would a training course help you to make your business better? There’s plenty of free or extremely cheap training available on the internet if you know where to look and websites like Eventbrite will point you in the direction of meetup groups and training seminars. Look to the future, don’t live in the past or even the present. If you hit your aggressive growth targets, how is that going to feel? How are you going to reward yourself? Won’t that feel amazing? Make it happen.

Know when to quit

Some of you might be surprised by this. After all, who likes a quitter? The reality is though, if you’ve done the sums and your business isn’t viable or you’re really not enjoying it – throw in the towel. Don’t keep ploughing your valuable time and money into something which isn’t going anywhere. Seasoned entrepreneurs will tell you that they’ve had businesses which have either not made it out of the starting block, or have cost them dearly and lost them money later down the line.

FAILURE IS NOT FAILURE…

Yes, you read that right. As someone who has had an expensive failure in the past, I’ll be the first to say the £10k I lost on a previous start-up was £10k well spent. The lessons I learnt from that have been invaluable in making a success of businesshands today and if I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Just to add some colour to my £10k loss – the company failed because I didn’t put a plan in place. I didn’t calculate how much profit I would be making from each customer and how many sales I would need to make for the business to sustain me and fund its own expansion. When I finally did the calculations and realised it was going to be impossible to make a living from it, I closed the business down within 24 hours and walked away.  Painful yes, but it would have been far more painful to live in denial and continue for months, maybe even years before finally throwing in the towel.

If you’re a business owner or senior director and need help with your business, we’re here to help. Not only do we offer a comprehensive outsourced marketing department service to get your business seen and heard by the people that count most, but we also offer strategic marketing advice. For more information, call us on 0207 458 4788 or email us at info@businesshands.co.uk.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share this article if you’ve found it useful.

How to maximise your business potential during uncertain times

Whether you were for or against in last week’s Brexit vote, one thing that we can all agree on is that there are uncertain times ahead as we move to disconnect ourselves from the EU. But uncertain times don’t necessarily have to be bad for business. In fact, with a bit of creativity and positive planning – you could get your business in the best shape ever. Here’s just 7 of many things you can do, not just to protect yourself whilst the dust settles, but to stride forward and maximise your business potential as your competitors sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting for answers.

Entice your customers into longer service contracts or into buying your product in bulk

Having a guaranteed pipeline of revenue is the perfect way to protect your business. If you have customers that are on a yearly contract and it’s coming up for renewal, entice them into a two or three-year agreement with a discount, free upgrade or some other special offer. You can also encourage customers whose contracts are not yet up for renewal to commit earlier to renewing by making a similar, time-limited offer. If you’re a business that sells a product, asking your customers to buy bulk “to guarantee a good price”, particularly in times of uncertainty is a no-brainer.

Look at exporting your good or services to outside of the EU whilst the exchange rate is low

You may not know this, but you can export services as well as goods and the UKTI are a perfect source of information and guidance on this. When the pound is week, your products and services become cheaper to foreign markets so if you’ve ever considered selling into new areas – now is the perfect opportunity to explore this further.

Bundle your products or services into something more enticing

McDonalds did it and it worked for them. If you’re selling individual lines of products or services, it’s time to think of your end market. Would they benefit from a product or service bundle/package at a discounted rate? We do exactly that here at businesshands with our outsourced marketing department services. Yes, your margins are thinner, but your turnover will continue to grow.

Use freelancers and outsourced service providers to enable your business to grow whilst minimising the risk

If you’re looking to grow, taking on a full-time employee when times are challenging poses a risk to the business. Instead look to freelancers, contracted staff and outsourced services providers to plug the gap and give you that extra flexibility to deal with changing economic circumstances.

Re-connect with former customers

The two easiest ways to get new business through the door are (i) upselling to existing customers and (ii) reselling to former customers. If you’ve had customers that have left you in the past few years, pick up the phone and find out how they’re getting on. Is there still a need for your product or service? If they’re with another supplier, what would it take to entice them to change?

Reach out to everyone on your database

Most organisations have databases (or at least spreadsheets) of client / prospect data they’re not doing anything with. Now is the time to make good use of it. Send everyone on your database an email to re-introduce your organisation and the products / services that you offer. If you need help with that, drop us a line here at businesshands on 0207 458 4788.

Spend more on your marketing

When economic times are uncertain, there’s a tendency to “close the shutters and bolt the doors”. Spending of absolutely everything gets put on hold until times improve.  But if you want to make the most of these times – you have to see this as an opportunity.  People still need your products and services and as other organisations retreat to “weather the storm” your marketing can make a significant impact in driving new business opportunities.

So there you go. 7 great ideas to help you maximise your business potential in uncertain economic times and there are plenty more ideas out there.  If you like this article, don’t forget to hit the button(s) below and share it and of course, if you would like help with your marketing – get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for taking the time out to read this post,

Chris

CEO – businesshands