Robyn Haydon from Flying Solo has some great ideas about how to survive as a small business or sole practisioner in this economic climate.

A wise business mentor once told me ‘the best job security is the security you create for yourself’. I think this is true in any economic environment. So what is the answer for solo businesses? I think it’s planning. If we establish defensive measures now, we will be ready if and when this wobble turns into a full-on slump. Here are a few ways to weather-proof your business against the looming clouds of an economic downturn.

1. Review your target markets Geoff Kelly, a leader influence consultant I spoke to, believes that not enough of us “spend enough time targeting the right niche”. Kelly has shifted his focus from small-to-medium clients to those “more medium” sized. The risk-averse could consider government clients, if the offer suits, as government will always pay its bills.

2. Adjust to short-term thinking Expect prospects to be tight with time and cash and don’t take it personally. Try improving something they already have or do, rather than selling something completely new. Accept smaller projects.

3. Adapt your offering to what customers want now Talk to your customers and find out how the economic downturn is affecting their business. Come up with ideas, products or services that will solve the new set of problems. Always be relevant.

4. Be smart about keeping your customers Turn that long-term handshake agreement into a monthly retainer for regular work. Incentivise repeat business by offering extras without devaluing your core offer.

5. Widen your new business net Sharpen up your market presence – revamp your website, or get one; revisit your customers for testimonials; talk up the value customers get from you as opposed to competitors. Shelve brand-building in favour of marketing campaigns that get an immediate return. Ask existing customers to refer new ones. Think about how you could do business with customers based interstate or overseas.

6. Know and respect your value Shawn Price, an independent career management consultant, points out that we ‘independents’ can be attractive in an economic downturn because we can offer more expertise, more flexibility and a lower risk and level of commitment than full-time employees.

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