Every 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.
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 Adjust outdated strategies and look for new potential markets that you could get into.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.