How to Guide: 7 Ways To Help Safeguard Your Business In Difficult Times

I am writing this at the very end of October 2020 when we’re all facing an uncertain Winter and unpredictable business conditions. It’s very easy to slip under a cloud of gloom, anxiety and negativity. Please note that you can drop into the Facebook Group, check out our space on Slack or join a Meet Up to share fears, feelings and ideas – you’re never alone.

However, what practical things can we do at times like these to help secure our businesses and keep going towards better days? What little steps can you take positively now that will help your business in the months ahead?

Here are 7 activities that you can work at now. Taking a step forward, however small, will help you feel less stuck and give you energy to work through any fear that you have. They are also great housekeeping activities for your business at any time, but especially now.

  1. Take a moment to take stock
    • Before we can do anything positive in our businesses, we need to take stock. It might be that there are gaps where you hadn’t spotted them or that worries about weaknesses are unfounded. Get a complete picture and ask yourself the following questions:
      • In the worst case scenario, can we operate in the way we do now?
      • How many weeks or months can you carry on with a reduced turnover?
      • What is the minimum turnover you need to keep the business ticking over?
      • What are your core skills and competencies?
      • Can you operate some or all of your business in a different way e.g. online only?
      • What skills do you need to help e.g. financial management, marketing support, tech help?
  2. Creativity & Innovation
    • Above, I asked the questions – what are your core competencies? Expand on those notes. Think about what it is you or your business excels at. If you’re struggling, think about what your customers love most about you? For example, if you run a cafe you might assume it’s your baking skills. Although this is true, in fact, your customers may say that it’s your presence in the community that counts most. With this in mind, start to get creative & innovate what you do:
      • Can you focus on your core competency to develop new products, services or communications? Using the example above, can you start community based delivery service or online baking classes?
      • Can you think about how you do business in a new way. Instead of asking are you doing this right – ask yourself, is this the right thing to do?
      • Connect these thoughts & ideas to what you customers need most now. For example, if you have been selling beer to customers to this point, can you develop new messaging that really resonates with your customers now – e.g. bringing beer & Christmas together or bringing Christmas to your door.
      • This is the time to bare your heart. At a time of challenge, don’t rely on standard marketing speak. Communicate from your heart. If your customers need escapism, let them know you get it. If your customers need nature, share your experiences. If your customers need business services, share that you empathise with them.
  3. Make sure your people are ok
    • For those of your with employees, your people are your biggest asset. Use clear leadership techniques to ensure that they are cared for, listened to, communicated with and looked after. This not only creates a resilient business that can weather storms more robustly but it also means that when better days come, your team has the energy, ideas and motivation to make your business grow again.
    • If you’re a single person business, check in on your freelancer colleagues or suppliers. Not only does this strengthen your supply chains, it also provides the right atmosphere to develop collaborative projects, supportive skills swaps or beneficial deals that may help them and you through the toughest of lean times.
  4. Revisit your vision, mission & purpose.
    • When you first started out in business, you will have had a dream or vision of what success would look like. For many micros, this isn’t often about becoming a millionaire, but more often about creating a lifestyle, supporting family, developing a hobby into an income and being of best service to your customers. Sit for a moment and look back on that vision. Do you you communicate this with your customers? Do they understand what journey they can travel with you? Are you telling them your story? This kind of sharpening of messaging and connection with yourself and audiences will help them understand better the value of buying from you, working with you or committing to return to you when they can – providing resilience and strength in your business.
    • Consider the following too:
      • Mission – what is it you really want to do for your customers.¬†What are the experiences you create that are of most value to them? Understanding this will help you with step 5. For example – you’re a business that offers professional services to your customers but in fact the thing they value most is that you save them time or reduce their anxiety. Consider how you communicate this better in your marketing.
      • Purpose – this is really the WHY you do your business. A little like above, dig into the real value your are to your customers. If you run a holiday accommodation, perhaps the biggest purpose is to provide a retreat or to help visitors get closer to nature. Are there ways you can do that even if they aren’t visiting you soon? Can you monetise that?
  5. Focus on your core activities
    • If your business is anything like mine, you ‘do’ a lot of stuff. You may perhaps offer a large range of products or a wide variety of services. Consider which of these are of most value to your customers and provide the best way to earn income in your business – and focus on that. Do you need to continue to promote product lines that are less popular or expensive to make? Are there services that you offer that are no longer attractive or require intense amounts of work for you with little profit? Here’s why streamlining your operations might secure your future:
      • You can save money by reducing your supply purchasing or time spent on promoting less popular products.
      • You can focus your marketing messages ¬†around what your customers really value
      • You can build your brand and values more clearly when you’re focussing on your core products and services (& competencies as mentioned above)
      • You can develop or pivot some of what you do to meet the needs of your customers in challenging times e.g. create new delivery operations, online selling opportunities or developing online services.
  6. Be a financial forensic
    • This is the perfect time to get forensic about the money. Understanding more than just what comes in and what goes out will not only put you and your business on a more secure footing, it will also help you more clearly understand what you need to do to steer a path through tough times. Here are some things to consider:
      • Use a system that allows you to get a ‘snapshot’ of your business health at anytime. Software like Xero will give you instant reports on your outstanding invoices, cash balance, upcoming expenses and profits. This knowledge allows you to react quickly and be more nimble in your business.
      • Use a cashflow forecaster all the time. Using a simple excel sheet or something more sophisticated online means that you can quickly predict what you need to bring in to secure the next month or what expenses are on their way for you to be mindful of. It will help you stay grounded, in control and calmer about the road ahead.
      • Reach out for help. We can be very British about money, but there are ways to get help. Government schemes have been notoriously neglectful of micro businesses but there are new supports coming in all the time and new funded programmes and projects from where you might get free help, support or ideas. Go first to the Simply member club hub where there are financial trackers, online guides, fellow members with expertise and people you can collaborate with to grow your way out of hard times.
  7. Look after yourself
    • Obvious or not, this should perhaps be at number 1 of this list. Without good sleep, fresh air & friendship, we’re all a lot worse off. The Simply Club is here for you always and remember you’re not alone. Build these core self care measures into your everyday routine now and you will be more resilient, more creative, more energetic to carry your business forward.