Everyone reading this in some way shape or form has been affected by inflation as of late. It’s not secret, the cost of goods is increasing, the cost of gas is increasing and as a result everybody is getting tighter with their wallets and not spending as much on items that are not a necessity. What is and isn’t a necessity is different to each person. So, what can you do to protect your small business during these challenging times?
Step One: Assess Your Business
It is time to take a step back and look at your business, the full picture. What does this business do for you and your family? Does it provide the sole income, is it just fun money or perhaps it is something in between? Write out your expenses vs what you charge and include what you are currently bringing in on average. Put it in a spreadsheet so you can look at all the numbers together. How much do you make off item A every time it sells, and be sure to include EVERY detail, right down to the business card you drop in, the box or bag you use to mail it and the time it takes you to drive it to the post office. Also include a column that looks at general business expenses, these would be expenses that maybe don’t tie in specifically to an item but still costs your business on a regular basis. Be sure to put everything down in one spot.
Step Two: Evaluate Your business
Now that you have all the numbers in one spot, it is time to question every expenditure.
Question One: Do you carry items that you almost never sell? If so, drop them like a bad habit. Discount them and move them along.
Question Two: Do you have a hot seller? If so, how can you make the most of it? Do you need to increase your stock of the item to sell more, do you need to promote it more, do you need to have a sale to encourage even more sales? How can you focus on the item that you are currently selling the most of?
Question Three: Are there areas or aspects of your business you can cut back? For example, do you pay for an app, website, shipping service? If so, how much do those costs and is there a better/cheaper way? For example I know many people who were using ‘Website A’ to host their site, then they were using ‘Program A’ for newsletters and then they would go over here and use ‘Service A’ for their shipping… when all said and done, spending $50+ a month for all 3 but for example you can use Shopify for all 3 of those things and prices start out at half that! Re-Evaluate everything you do and make sure in the end it is worth your money and time and effort. If it is not necessary, cut it. If there is a cheaper option, change it.
Step Three: Maintain Your Relationships
No matter what your business may do over the weeks and months to come, it is important to maintain the relationships with your customers! Be understanding, be a friend, be an ear to listen. The reality is we are ALL on hard times and the last thing your customers need is you telling them that they need to spend more when they can’t. But if you are understanding when things turn around and they have some extra $$ and they want to spend it, guess where they will return? They will return to the people that showed care for them the most.
Step Four: Find Others Like Yourself
Make sure you have a community of other small business owners. Ones you can bounce ideas off, ones that will encourage you and motivate you. Surround yourself with positivity, not complainers. Maintaining a positive attitude goes a long way in the success of your business! Share in the hard times but look for solutions. Having a team and community you can share with helps your morale but also it feels good to be reminded you are not alone.
Step Five: Simplify
Simplify your life. Simplify your routines and set attainable goals... aka... take baby steps! If business has slowed and you find it hard to focus, cut back on how much you post to Facebook for example. Don't stop but don't do it as much and make it easier on yourself. Give yourself credit, cut yourself some slack. Decide that you will only ship items 2 or 3 days a week. Decide that you will only do something new once a month... just a few ideas. Point is, don't burn yourself out trying to pedal the bike uphill at a high speed... put things in a lower gear and take it nice and slow.
Lastly, it is my hope and prayer that we are all able to survive and then thrive through these times. However, it is also times like these where some businesses do not make it, and I just want to say if you are someone that is considering whether to even stick it out, do not feel guilty if you can’t! Being a small business owner is not for everyone and ultimately each one of us must make the decision that is best for us and our families. Sometimes that decision is not easy, and I just want to encourage you to follow your heart. If your heart is saying this isn’t for you anymore, do not be afraid to walk away. If your heart is saying to push on and give it all you got, then do that! Whatever your dreams, wherever your heart leads, follow it!