Ride out the roller coaster: How your small business can thrive despite economic uncertainty

Oct 02, 2011
Ride out the roller coaster: How your small business can thrive despite economic uncertainty

Is a double-dip recession in the cards? Hopefully not, but just in case, there are some smart moves small business owners can make now to not only survive, but thrive—even in lean times. 

MONEY

Watch cash flow like a hawk. Pay particular attention to your accounts receivables and follow up immediately with customers whose payments are late.

Audit expenses. Go over costs for travel and entertainment, utilities, subscriptions, memberships and other “little expenses.” It’s time to tighten the belt again.

Explore financing. Estimate cash needs you may have in the near future. Then investigate possible sources of funds. If it makes sense to do so, try to get the money now.

Get your business finances in order. Get your business’s credit report for free at Experian.com. Good credit? Keep it that way. Bad credit? Get started repairing it.

MANAGEMENT

Keep employees happy. Your workers are worried and they need a dose of motivation to stay productive. Offer whatever nonfinancial incentives you can, whether it’s flextime, comp time or just having more fun in the office.

Plan ahead. If you do need to cut payroll, how will you do it? Can you avoid layoffs by shortening everyone’s hours or instituting blanket pay cuts or salary freezes? Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Investigate options. What if you need to ramp up suddenly? Explore low-cost hiring options such as interns, independent contractors or temporary workers. Just be sure you know the legal ins and outs of each option.

MARKETING

Get social. If you’re not already doing so, take advantage of social media to market your business. Whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, there’s a tool tailored for each type of business—and they cost nothing but time.

Improve your customer service. In lean times, customer loyalty diminishes. Make sure you provide standout customer service, so they’re not more tempted to leave.

Keep in touch. In times like these, you really need to know what your customers are thinking, doing and worrying about. Be present in your store, office and online to ask them what they want and if you’re helping them.

TECHNOLOGY

Update your tech. It may seem counterintuitive, but upgrading your technology is a smart move right now. Prices are low and having all your systems “go” can give you a competitive edge.

Think free. There are countless free or low-cost online services for entrepreneurs that eliminate the need to buy software and the accompanying hassles. Check into tools like Basecamp, YouSendIt and Google Docs to help you collaborate, for example.

Get mobile. Smartphones have become indispensable for entrepreneurs and, depending on your business, a tablet may be a worthwhile investment for doing business on the go.



Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a communications company offering custom content and expert insight designed to help entrepreneurs build their businesses and achieve success. Lesonsky spent 26 years at Entrepreneur magazine, where she worked her way up from a research assistant to editorial director. A native of New York, Lesonsky is the author of Get Smart and the best-selling Start Your Own Business, and co-author of the books Young Millionaires, Ultimate Book of Franchisingand 303 Marketing Tips. She served on the Small Business Administration's National Advisory Council for six years. The SBA also honored her as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate. She is a nationally recognized speaker and appears often on MSNBC's “Your Business” program. Visit her site at www.smallbizdaily.com