Is it time to save your business?

Save your Business?The economy is in the tank and there’s no sign of when things will get better. Some small businesses are doing well…and some are not. To do well now, or even survive, every business must review its market, its business practices and its finances. Big changes may be needed to realign the business for success in this market. And if the down economy has compounded previously existing problems, it may be time to save your business…before it’s too late.

I say before “it’s too late” because I feel really bad when I have to tell someone I can’t help them. They’ve waited too long. Sometimes it’s just too late – and there’s nothing left to work with. You don’t want to find yourself in that situation.

It’s important for business owners to identify the Warning Signs that spell trouble ahead. Unfortunately, many don’t recognize these signs early enough to take corrective action…before it’s too late.

So tell me: what is not going well for you right now? Would you answer “yes” to any of the following questions? Be honest. This is meant to help you take a hard look at your business.

– Marketing efforts are not producing results

– Business is being lost because we’re not properly set up to handle it

– Productivity is poor; too much time is wasted on problem resolution and corrections

– I end up doing the work that others are supposed to do

– I’ve had to borrow to meet payroll more than once in the past 6 months

– Standard operating procedure is “Chaos”

These are only a few of the Warning Signs that could indicate you need to take a closer look.

Fortunately, there is a solution to these situations if caught in time. It consists of two major steps.

Step One is to analyze the situation honestly, make some critical decisions and choose a new course of action ASAP. That means taking a really hard look at the issues and the problems, then clearly identifying where changes are needed.

Identify the top three priorities where a change in policy or practice will make a measurable difference in the business results. Set specific short term goals for these three priorities, develop a strategy to meet the goals and then create a plan of action to make the calculated changes. This does not need to be an in-depth assessment; it’s meant to zoom in on the critical areas needing attention right now. It does, however, mean stepping back from your business and taking a very objective look. Ask yourself: what would someone else see if they were looking in at your business?

Jill and George were partners in a 5 year-old insurance agency located in a New England town of 28,000. Sales were falling, customers were leaving and there was friction growing between them. What they learned upon assessment was that although they were sharing an office, a business name and structure, they were each doing their own thing. Customer service was sporadic and mostly ineffective. Meanwhile expenses continued to climb while revenues did not. Both felt things were on a downhill course. They knew a change was needed – soon.

Their short term goal was to get the business functioning as a unified operation. To do that they added some software that allowed them to better integrate their operations. They set basic business policies that included a plan to meet with all clients to assess level of satisfaction and resolve any outstanding issues. This became an opportunity to up-sell. To offset the cost of space rental, a conference room was turned into a temporary office for a financial planner. Once the business was back on its feet, the conference room would be reclaimed. As a first step to establish accountability, financial reports were reviewed and analyzed each month.

Step Two involves redefining the business basics and creating a plan to realize the potential of your business. It includes rethinking the Purpose, Vision and Mission, and using personal and business assets as the foundation to develop a brand platform, market message and position. Now you’re ready to restructure your business and carry out the plan of action that will create the Results you want.

Jill and George recognized they already had a small market share. Both were dedicated to the business and enjoyed working in the industry. Their personal assets were their tenacity and their complementary skill sets. Jill was the networker; the outgoing one. George was better at back-office operations. They decided to divide the duties accordingly.

By consolidating their offerings they found they could make a bigger impact and reach a broader market as well as do more cross-selling. Their marketing message became “total asset protection – whatever your needs”. Using this message they created a year-long marketing campaign that included direct mail, some speaking engagements for Jill and an e-mail piece emphasizing the total scope of their services with an incentive for referrals. By consistently putting out the same marketing message and building affiliations with other financial services partners they set their course to become the number one casualty and indemnity agency in the region within 3 years.

Call to Action: I’m sure you went into your business with a dream of what you wanted it to be. You don’t have to give up on that dream. Tackle those killer problems, regroup your efforts and take the actions necessary to make it happen. Make up your mind you’re going to succeed. Is it time to save your business?