Small business is a life of hard knocks: discuss!

Small businesses under fire

I wrote a little while ago about the tough economy  and what might we do in the face of it.  We can all write the best advice we can and we can try to take advice in a positive way. However certainly since I have run my own businesses these are the hardest times we have faced; harder than a couple of years ago even.

I am always listening to what is going on. I hear news from my colleagues in the same businesses, from other businesses through networking on-line or otherwise, and of course from my clients. The word is that people (by which I mean consumers of our products) are spending only on what they see as essentials.

Of course what our previously potential customers see as essentials may not include our offerings although they should. It is difficult in my case to persuade people to spend money in order to save more. They just can’t get past the prospect of paying out even though we can tell them the benefit of saving more money even before they have paid us. And of course being in recession is all about confidence; the herd instinct worrying about Euro-land, borrowing (even if you can persuade the banks to lend) and financial commitment of any sort.

We have come to a stage where fewer people are prepared to purchase a new car or have a new bedroom fitted or a new bathroom or kitchen. So life is a struggle for car dealers and well-nigh impossible for small independent fitters of bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms. Some may be making almost no sales at all and word on the ground is that this is true.

I am not going to suggest that there is an easy solution. I wish there were. I think that business owners do have to think how to adapt their skills. Perhaps our home and bathroom furniture fitters and plumbers should emphasise the skills they must already have to repair existing fittings. Things will need mending in order to continue to function and repairs are usually essentials in any consumer’s book.

If your business has dried up you need to reach out to your friends for help and advice. Don’t be proud. We all need help sometimes. Who do your friends know? Can they get you in where a big corporate is offering poor customer service?

Can you compete for insurance work where there has been damage to property if you are in the home fitting line of business? If your work has dried up, can you spare time to help a charity, which will enhance your reputation and maybe get your business recommended for paid work?

No, there is no easy answer, but be adaptable. Don’t sit in your office or home feeling gloomy, because gloomy doesn’t pay.

We have diverse businesses, so there are diverse solutions, but they are all based on staying visible, approachable, adaptable and practical. Give it a go. How are you managing?

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