The world's biggest and most successful businesses didn't make it to where they are now without a few rough patches. If anything is guaranteed in the business world, it's that challenging times lie ahead.At first, this might appear as a negative way of thinking, but thinking and planning realistically will protect your business when those inevitable hurdles appear.
Whether you're going through a tough time right now, or want to prepare for the unexpected, learning how to navigate unfamiliar and unexpected difficult times will be one of your most valuable skills.
What a rough patch looks like will be very different to every business, but we can all learn how to prepare, ride it out and make it through to the other side with a little guidance and support.
Here are some tips to help get you through those difficult periods.
Assess the facts
Don’t make guesses or assumptions about what is or could be happening.
Get the facts and figures in order before taking any action. Having concrete numbers and facts will help you define a strategy that addresses any issues directly and intelligently. And, you can make a more informed decision about what to do next - whether that’s raising funds, hiring, or planning a new strategy. But by all means, avoid any rash decision-making.
Whatever the challenge, start with the facts - and you never know, it might not be quite as bad as you initially thought.
Are you being realistic?
If you’re a new startup, it takes time to bring in stable revenue. Are you expecting too much too soon?
Be realistic with your forecasts. All sustainable businesses take time to grow, and the first few years will most likely be the hardest.
Ultimately, success can depend on things like reputation, brand exposure and targeted promotion, which all take time. Prioritise those areas as well as just sales.
It's not uncommon to operate at a loss for the first year or so - are you being too hard on yourself?
We all know the phrase: it costs money to make money. And there’s a lot of truth in that. But that doesn’t just mean you need to rush out and buy a shiny new premise or an all-singing and dancing website.
Think about what’s a necessary investment for your business at this stage. Perhaps some training for your employees or yourself? Perhaps the innovation of a product? You get out what you put in, and if investing has been neglected, this could be slowing things down.
Time to get out there and put a face to your business. If you’re already a keen networker, take things up a notch.
Small conversations and exchanges here and there will put you at the forefront of the minds of the right people. This helps build reputation and familiarity among your network.
You might identify potential investors, employees or suppliers that will take your business up to the next level, but you won’t find them shying away.
If networking makes you feel a bit awkward, you're not alone, and we've written at length about how to overcome that initial nervousness, plus what not to do at networking events. It’s important to get out there and connect, but equally important to extract the most value from your activities, plus, you might be able to offer value to others too.
Nurture existing customers
Customer retention is imperative in any business. It takes more time, money and resource to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, and not only that, but existing customers can vouch for your business and become advocates of your brand.
Do you have customer service teams, processes and follow-up procedures to ensure your customers feel appreciated and nurtured? Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, and if existing customers are happy, they'll do a lot of the work for you.
Successful, sustainable businesses always have processes in place to prepare for the worse. They are lead by adaptable leaders and their workforces are prepped to deal with the unforeseen. But what does this kind of preparation look like? Imagine you have just been met with an unfavourable review or a product fault. How would you react? How would your team react?
While you may not want to focus your energy on things that haven't yet happened, preparation is at the heart of any resilient business. We can't always predict the economic, political and commercial landscapes - yet each of them can impact business greatly with the slightest flux.
If you would like more guidance on how to prepare for the trials and tribulations of business, make sure you're subscribed to our newsletter which includes regular content updates and useful business guidance and exclusive invitations to our networking events.