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Surviving Through Business Droughts

DroughtEvery business goes through tough times. Expecting to have season after season of continuous growth without any dips or downturns is pretty much unreasonable. And despite all your strong marketing pushes, there will always be times when business isn’t as swift as you’d like it to be. But that doesn’t have to be cause for concern. Well, OK, concern is good, but there are things that you can do to make slow times a whole lot less stressful on you and your finances.

1) Prepare

When business is going good it is important–now more than ever–to prepare for the future when things may take a downturn. Remember the children’s story (and excellent Pixar movie) about the ants that store up food for the winter and the grasshoppers that don’t? This is more than just a fable about bugs. It’s about learning to plan ahead during the times of plenty and to be prepared for times of famine.

Another great story to illustrate this point is the Biblical story of Joseph. No, not the coat of many colors story, though it is the same Joseph. Years later he was told by God that there would be a severe famine in Egypt. So for seven years, while things were good, he stockpiled food. This allowed Egypt to become the go-to place for other nations to buy food once the famine struck.

Nobody likes to think about the possibility of having a bad year, but it’s wise to be prepared for it. You may not see it happening any time soon, but most people don’t. Which is why these things often devastate companies that are not prepared. Make sure you have the resources in place to keep the business running when funds start thinning. Have contingency plans to reduce expenses and cut costs, without losing valuable assets or necessities.

2) Stay calm

When the unthinkable happens, it’s important to stay calm. This is so much easier to do if you stay prepared. But even if unprepared, panicking never makes things better. Keep your cool and start exploring ways you can improve your current business model. Look for ways to get out there and find new business. Adjust outdated strategies and look for new potential markets that you could get into.

I’ve often found that my downtime is often my busiest. This is the time that I work on projects that have been put on the back burner, or re-evaluate what we are doing and why, and start adjusting to make our services and offerings better. I get a lot of stuff accomplished during the slowdowns because I know that if I take care of these things while I have “less” to do I’ll be in a much better position once things start picking up again.

3) Keep sight of your goals

Never lose sight of the big picture. Sometimes when it’s slow, it’s tempting to reduce prices or make cuts that are designed to create an immediate boost in new business. All too often, though, these things make you worse off in the long run. This advice might seem a bit contradictory to point number two above, but it’s really not. Adjusting while keeping site of your goals is far different from making changes out of sheer panic. Never adjust your model in a way that is contradictory to your long-term business goals.

Be willing to evaluate and change what must be changed, but don’t make changes that are not in line of your plan for long-term success. If you feel game-changing decisions are in order, then make a conscious decision to change your long-term goals before changing short-term strategies that will throw you off your current long-term plan.

Business slowdowns and stoppages in growth are never enjoyed, but they can be vital to your business longevity. Even crops have downtimes. But if you plan ahead and then use your downtimes wisely, you’ll find that you come out of them in a much stronger position poised for much greater success.

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

6 Responses to Surviving Through Business Droughts

  1. Hello Mr. deGeyter,
    Thanks for your very wise aticle delivered in such a clear and hype-free way.
    It makes the advice doable without the panic and hysteria one often finds with such articles.

    I especially liked what you said about evaluating changes: Knowing those that must be made, while still adhering to and keeping your long-term outcome in focus.

    Thanks again, very sage advice!

    Yvonne Finn

  2. Anthony Donnelly says:

    Excellent article! Another way businesses can ride out the drought or the storm of a recession as we are about to crack wide into is to belong to a reputable barter exchange, like the one I’m a part of: Merchants Barter Exchange.

    Barter has always been a very effective business tool and way for businesses to move surplus inventory, capacity or unused time. When used effectively it can improve the efficiency of a company immeasurably.

    Great article!

  3. Stoney G deGeyter
    Stoney deGeyter says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Anthony. A few years ago I would barter with my clients around Christmas. it was nice to have that option.

  4. Ian Denny says:

    Having been and gone bust, these are all wise words.

    While few people talk about what happens when it’s not recoverable (except me!), it’s certainly not the end. Even if you end up penniless like I did.

    An experience like this is sobering. But it also frees you to apply all of that expensive experience you have of what not to do. And at least from my story, it’s actually an investment in your own education.

    So if you get there, don’t give up. There are ways and means of bounding back, bigger and better (and wiser) than before.

  5. Ian – how true.

    With that atitude you’ll be sure to bounce back. I had an “all my eggs in one basket” breakdown and I’m now focusing on another stream of income.

    We never stop learning particularly from wise folks like you.

    Thanks and good luck!