My favorite bookstore Borders just announced today that it is closing all its stores. Recession may be over, but times remain challenging — especially for small businesses.
Getting capital remains hard, while customers remain guarded and cautious about their spending. There’s still the looming economic uncertainty, plus growing concern about what Washington’s next move would be.
To survive these uncertain times, here are some strategies to consider:
1. Streamline your processes to improve operational efficiencies.
Layout all the processes involved in your business. Think of everything that you are currently doing, listing all the steps needed to complete the process. This is especially true with the administrative processes that your business is using. Find ways you can streamline your process, while at the same time improve accuracy, including checking available technology that can save you on cost, and cut back the time.
2. Negotiate everything.
Always check if the prices of the items you are buying for your business can be lowered. Negotiate everything — even on items that you may think cannot be negotiated (you never know until you try!). Try to get better deals from suppliers, get better financing terms on equipment purchased, and negotiate purchases such as insurance.
3. Boost networking and referrals.
When times are tough, now’s the time to work overtime on your marketing. Network with other businesses, particularly those that are complementary to your own business, and work with them on referrals. If you run a painting contracting business, for example, try to partner with real estate agents in your area who can introduce you to new homeowners that may need their new houses painted or to sellers who need to paint to spruce their houses for sale.
4. Talk to customers and ask questions.
Customers react to tough economic times and adjust their behavior, spending habits and preferences accordingly. Find out how they are changing how they buy in the face of a recession. They may stop purchasing some items, buying lower cost alternatives, or changing how they consume things. If your clients are businesses, they may be eliminating products, negotiating different terms, foregoing special offers, changing how they negotiate credit lines. The more you know about how your customers are adjusting their spending and purchasing habits, the better you are able to present your business in ways that address their concerns.