If you stay in Business long enough, you're going to experience a downturn or retraction. Regardless of how well you plan, there will be something that pulls the rug out from under you, and requires you to re-think your picture-perfect strategy.
This is when leadership really kicks in....when you're called upon to navigate your ship through a storm in the face of potentially devastating threats.
These threats may be market-driven (industry downturns), politically driven (changes in administration which drive different government spending priorities), environmentally driven (hurricanes, fires, snowstorms, etc.), business driven (loss of key contracts or personnel, litigation, cybersecurity breaches), or personally driven (personal illness, personal traumas, or illness/death of a loved one).
Regardless of the cause, Business Owners must be ready to mitigate loss and save the business.
In my 25 years of business ownership, I've personally experienced every threat I listed. And in working with hundreds of business owners throughout the years, I've learned that these threats impact businesses of all sizes, in every industry.
Business owners often believe that their challenges are unique. While their businesses may be unique, their challenges are not. There is great comfort in knowing:
- We are not alone in our challenges, and help is available;
- Others have endured and solved the challenges we face;
- We have within us the strength we need to move through the challenges - if we are strategic about our actions and decisions.
Here are 5 actions business owners can take to stop their business from sliding into obsolescence, and reposition it to be even stronger than ever.
Pivot Your Mindset and Accept Reality.
The one thing that stops us from moving forward with a new reality is our inability to accept what's happening. When we deny the truth, it's impossible to adapt an accurate perspective, and apply the necessary strategies to fix what's broken.
When business owners hang on to overhead expenses or personnel after they've retracted, or don't change sales tactics, they can bleed to death. They must accept the business in the present state, rather than cling to what the business used to be. They must also temporarily release their growth plans if they are in a mode to save the business.
Letting go of what once was, and temporarily releasing the vision of a future state to save the business now, is essential to move through the difficulty.
Up Your Hustle.
When you're in business-saving mode, the only thing on your mind should be business growth. Your weekends should be devoted to working your Linked In network. Your sales & marketing plan should consist of 3 activities: connecting with prospects, meeting with prospects, and going to proposal.
Your prospects are hiring companies just like yours to provide services just like the services you provide. The more you prospect and the more proposals you generate, the more business you will close.
Be Willing to Do What You Hired Others to Do.
A fellow business owner who I've known for 15 years owns a construction company. Her company experienced a significant retraction about 5 years ago. The first thing she did was lay off expensive billable resources on one of her largest contracts, and step in to do the work herself. She went back to basics. She went to the client site every day, and managed the account herself.
This also enabled her to grow the account because she reclaimed ownership of the relationship. A business owner should never consider themselves above any position that their employees hold, and must be willing and able to step in at any time to perform the work that the company has promised a client.
Make Hard Decisions.
Business ownership is a journey of difficult decisions. It requires us to face circumstances we didn't envision, and execute actions we didn't plan. It requires us to abandon strategies, and initiate excruciating conversations with those we have grown to love and respect.
Especially in times of trouble, we must develop the strength to do all of these things... close underperforming practice areas, lay off good employees, scale back programs that don't generate ROI.
Finally, business owners should seek help from others that have experienced similar situations, coaches that can guide them through the emotional fallout, and from professionals wo will protect them against the making the wrong financial and legal decisions (which can lead to other problems).
Business owners must apply different thinking to get out of a situation than they did to get into it.
Success and difficulty are intertwined throughout the business journey. What ensures business survival and longevity is the leadership's ability and willingness to do whatever is required to ensure stability, regardless of unpredictable market conditions.