5 Ways to Keep Your Business Going in Hard Times

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Keeping a small business afloat in difficult economic times is challenging, and the coronavirus pandemic has definitely roiled the waters on which owners must sail. Unfortunately, there is no set playbook to follow to ride out the storm and right the ship. Every small business is different, and each carries its own risks and rewards. These differences make copying another company’s turnaround strategy to the letter unrealistic. Still, there are some general strategies business owners can follow to help them stop taking on water and start bailing themselves out.

Key Takeaways

  • Keeping a small business afloat in challenging times can be difficult, but extra attention to detail can help ensure that a business survives.
  • Because every small business is different, and each carries its own risks and rewards, there is no set playbook to follow for survival.
  • Some useful advice that applies across small businesses includes looking at the big picture, inventorying the staff, making sure the business has ready access to cash, sweating the small stuff, and avoiding a sacrifice of quality.

1. Look at the Big Picture

People have a tendency to attack the most obvious immediate problems with vigor and without hesitation. That’s understandable and might make good business sense in some situations. However, it is also advisable to step back and look at the big picture to see what is still working and what might need changing. It’s an opportunity to better comprehend the size and scope of existing problems and further understand your company’s business model—determining how its strengths and weaknesses come into play.

For example, suppose a small business owner discovers that two employees are consistently making mistakes with inventory that cause certain supplies to be overstocked or understocked. While an initial reaction might be to fire those employees, it could be wiser to examine whether the manager who hired and supervises them has properly trained them.

If the manager is to blame, that person could be fired, but this might not be the best approach. If the manager’s relationships with existing clientele have a history of bringing in repeat business and substantial revenue, they are likely someone you’d want to keep. Retraining might be a better alternative than termination.

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While businesses have been hurting financially, Steve Leondis’s air freight company has remained strong and prosperous. .. The Christian Broadcasting Network CBN http://www.cbn.com

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By thoroughly scrutinizing the strengths and weaknesses of the employees, the owner is looking at the issue from a top-down perspective, reducing or eliminating the chance that the problems will recur while avoiding a change that could adversely impact future sales.

Fix a similar kind of lens on analyzing how your product or service fits into the marketplace now, how the economic crisis has affected your customers and suppliers, and all the other key aspects of your business. You need to know how well your business model fits the current environment and forecast what various alternative scenarios of the future might mean for it.

2. Inventory Your Staff

Payroll is often one of the top costs a small business owner has, so seeing to it that the money is well spent makes sense. This may involve a thorough review of the staff—both when a problem arises and during the normal course of business—to make sure the right people are on board and doing their jobs effectively.

Both small business owners and large corporations tend to be penny wise and pound foolish when they hire the least expensive workers. Sometimes the productivity of those workers may be suspect. Hiring one worker who costs 20% more than the average worker but works 40% more effectively makes sense, particularly during periods of crisis. By constantly seeking résumés and interviews from new people, business owners can make changes to staff when needed to increase efficiency.

3. Ensure Access to Cash

Small business owners should take steps to ensure that the company has access to cash, particularly in periods of crisis. Visiting a bank loan officer and understanding what’s required to obtain a loan is a good first step, as is opening a line of credit in advance to fund possible short-term cash-flow problems. Establishing a good relationship with a banker is always useful for a small business. For example, business owners who had such relationships had an easier time accessing PPP loans during the COVID-19 pandemic.1

Small business owners should have other potential sources of capital lined up as well. This might include tapping into savings, liquidating stock holdings, or borrowing from family members. A small business owner must have access to capital or have a creative way to obtain funds to make it through lean times.

4. Start Sweating the Small Stuff

Although it is important to keep an eye on the big picture, a small business owner should not overlook smaller things that may have an adverse impact on the business. A large tree obstructing the public’s view of the business or the company’s signage, inadequate parking, lack of road/traffic access, and ineffective advertising are examples of small problems that can put a big dent in a business’ bottom line.

Considering and analyzing the numerous factors that bring customers in the door can help to identify some problems. Going through your quarterly expenses line by line may also help. Owners should not be checking for one-time expenses here, as those items were most likely necessary charges. Instead, they should look for small items that seem innocent but are actually draining the accounts.

For example, the cost of office supplies can quickly get out of hand if they are ordered improperly. Similarly, if your supplier increases product prices, you should consider looking around for a cheaper supplier.

5. Don’t Sacrifice Quality

Keeping a handle on costs is crucial in tough times. Owners need to stay on the offensive and get employees on board with changes that are being made. However, be cognizant of not sacrificing quality when making these product changes.

Business owners seeking to improve profit margins should be wary of making dramatic changes to key components. For example, if a pizzeria is going through a dry spell, the owner could seek to expand margins per pie by purchasing cheaper cheese or sauce ingredients. Note that the strategy could backfire if customers become dissatisfied with the taste of the pizza and sales decrease. The key is to make cost and other cuts that don’t compromise the quality of the finished product. Perhaps there is a way to cut the price of takeout boxes or paper napkins instead.

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Source: 5 Ways to Keep Your Business Going in Hard Times

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7 Actionable Tips Every Business Should Try

When the news is constantly negative and the world seems down, are you going to take your business down with it? Of course not!

It’s time to rise up and get your business in gear during these difficult times. Get those gears churning and make your business a success in even the toughest of times.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, it’s time for you to look into some of these actionable business tips. Just keep reading.

1. Save, save, save

One of the biggest problems that businesses have is that they don’t have enough cash in the bank for when bad times come. When there’s a slow down in your business or a slow down in the economy in general, you have to be prepared.

Think about this as a savings account.

It’s highly recommended that everyone keep six months’ worth of living in their savings account. This means that you should have at least $3,000 in your savings account if you spend $1,000 a month. This includes all living expenses like rent, food, utilities, gas, and more.

You should have enough in your business’ savings to cover six months of employee pay, supply pay, and more. If you’re not keeping this amount in your business’ account, you need to reevaluate how your business is operating and allocating its expenses.

2. Take care of your great employees

The best thing you can do to keep your business running on a positive note is to take care of your employees. You need to recognize who your most valuable employees are and take care of them as much as you can.

If you continuously take care of your best employees, they’re more likely to work harder and stay longer. Having faithful employees is great, especially when it makes for a great environment for your customers.

The employees that you’re taking care of will appreciate your friendly and encouraging workplace over others they may have worked at. The point in caring for these employees is to make your workplace stand out. Take advantage of your great employees and show them that you care so that you can stand out for making them stand out. 

3. Say goodbye to bad employees

It is never too early to fire a bad employee. While you should understand that giving second chances is okay, you should know when to fire them.

A bad employee isn’t an isolated issue. These are people who are interacting with your business’ customers and other employees. They could be making a bad experience for everyone else.

If you’re finding that one of your employees is building a poor experience for your customers and employees, it’s time to say goodbye.

Before moving on from this idea, we should explore second chances though. It may be useful to have an unspoken system when it comes to disciplinary actions for poor employees.

You may want to give one or two chances for small, isolated incidents. If an employee has blatantly made a customer have a poor experience, you shouldn’t be shy about hiring someone else for that position.

4. Look at yourself before anyone else

If something in your business is consistently going wrong, your probably the reason why. This is why you should always look at yourself before anyone else when it comes to workplace mistakes.

You have a great influence on your workplace, from your leadership style to your workplace rules to even your mood. It’s important to recognize how you could positively and negatively impact your workplace.

Make sure to evaluate yourself before pointing fingers. Even if an employee made a mistake, you should think about how you could have poorly communicated your expectations.

5. Listen to your customers

The customer is always right, at least the majority of the time. They know what they want, and it’s your job to help them get what those things are.

As your business grows, your customers will tell you what they want. Whether it’s through your social media channels or directly to an employee, it’s important to take down any complaints or suggestions.

Make sure that you tell your employees that they should always make a note of what the customers have been saying.

6. Trust your gut

Your gut is normally right when it comes to split-second decisions. Go with your gut.

In business, you’re going to come across a lot of decisions to make. Sometimes, you’re not going to have the time or the energy to get into a full-scale investigation for every question and problem. That’s the perfect time to depend on your gut.

Focus your time and energy on bigger decisions. Let your gut lead you when it feels strongly about something.

7. Keep your business separate

You need to keep your business life separate from your personal life. Keep them separate when it comes to everything.

Your social life will thank you when you’re keeping your work life at work. You shouldn’t be working on work tasks at home, just like you wouldn’t bring your children to work with you every day.

You should also make sure that your personal and business accounts are different. You never want to tap personal money into your business accounts. It’s going to be a tough call to make if your business is ever on the downturn, but you need to make sure that your business is sufficient outside of your personal savings account.

Getting More Business Tips

Getting business tips like these are great for any business person who’s looking for a little bit of inspiration and encouragement. You should always be looking to take in great information like the seven tips we shared in this post. If you have more specific questions to ask, contact us here. We’d love to hear from you and help you with anything you need.

By: Adam Jacobs / Managing Director Bubblegum Casting & Hunter Talent

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Stop Asking, ‘Can I Pick Your Brain?’ Harvard Researchers Say This Is How Successful People Ask For Advice

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“Can I pick your brain?”

Five words that make up the most thoughtless, irritating and generic way to ask for advice — and any person who is a rock star in their industry has heard it more than a dozen times.

The phrase, while well-intentioned, is overused, vague and way too open-ended. When conversations start this way, there’s no telling where it’ll go or how long it’ll take.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for giving — and receiving — advice. Offering advice is a sign of good leadership, and asking for advice is a sign of intelligence. If the exchange goes well, both parties benefit.

“The whole interaction is a subtle and intricate art. It requires emotional intelligence, self-awareness, restraint, diplomacy and patience,” Harvard Business School professors Joshua D. Margolis and David A. Garvin wrote in a 2015 Harvard Business Review article.

But the process can derail in many ways. It can quickly lead to “frustration, decision gridlock, subpar solutions, frayed relationships and thwarted personal development,” according to Margolis and Garvin.

To avoid those consequences, here’s some guidance on how to ask for advice without annoying the other person:

Start with a positive tone

The way you initiate the conversation is everything. Instead of starting with, “Can I pick your brain,” shift the language to a more positive tone.

When in doubt, I recommend: “I’d love your advice.” No-frills, friendly and simple.

Identify the type of advice you’re seeking

Immediately after your opening line, address the topic of your problem in the form a question.

In order to craft a question with great precision, ask yourself: What type of advice am I seeking? What does my problem involve? What are my desired outcomes?

Below are the four general types of advice, according to Garvin and Margolis’ research:

  1. Type of advice: Discrete
    What it involves: Exploring options for a single decision
    Desired outcomes: Recommendations in favor of or against specific options
    Example question: “Where should we build the new factory — in China, Brazil or Eastern Europe?”
  2. Type of advice: Counsel
    What it involves: Providing guidance on how to approach a complex or unfamiliar situation
    Desired outcomes: A framework or process for navigating the situation
    Example question: “How should I handle my domineering supervisor?”
  3. Type of advice: Coaching
    What it involves: Enhancing skills, self-awareness and self-management
    Desired outcomes: Task proficiency; personal and professional development
    Example question: “How can I work more collaboratively with my peers?”
  4. Type of advice: Mentoring
    What it involves: Providing opportunities, guidance and protection to aid career success
    Desire outcomes: A relationship dedicated to building and sustaining professional and personal effectiveness and to career advancement
    Example question: “How can I get more exposure for my project?”

Just the other day, someone approached me for guidance, and her execution was perfect: “I’d love your advice. My company is asking me to relocate. There are several factors to consider and I’m not sure if I should do it. Do you have 45 minutes to chat?”

Forty-five minutes is a lot, I know, but I appreciated the fact that she acknowledged it would be a longer conversation. I happily blocked off some time on my calendar and we ended up talking for an hour.

Come prepared with specific details

As you move further into the conversation, it’s important to clearly define the problem. Otherwise, you’re doing what I like to call a “bait-and-switch.”

(This is another reason why you should never ask to pick someone’s brain; it makes the other person assume that the exchange will only take a few minutes. But more often than not, it ends up being a deep dive.)

According to Margolis and Garvin, when you don’t come prepared with specific details about your problem, you’re more likely to end up “telling a lengthy, blow-by-blow story” that might cause the advice giver to tune out, lose focus or misidentify the core problem that needs solving.

Simply put, don’t come into the conversation empty-handed. Put realistic guardrails on the conversation and include any essential background information that your advisor might not be familiar with. Providing specific details also keeps the conversation pleasant and interesting.

Ask the right person

Several field studies have discovered that advice seekers are more likely to ask for guidance from people they feel comfortable with, like a close friend or family member.

“Though friendship, accessibility and non-threatening personalities all impart high levels of comfort and trust, they might have no relation to the quality or thoughtfulness of the advice,” Margolis and Garvin wrote. This is especially true if you’re seeking career-related advice.

Think creatively about the expertise you need. Who will bring in the most valuable insight? Who has the most knowledge that’s relevant to your problem?

For example, if you’re asking a seasoned CEO for advice involving your personal life, don’t expect to have lunch with Yoda. Your advisor is offering up valuable time to listen and provide professional feedback, not to hear you vent for an hour.

 

Don’t ask everyone

Things can backfire quickly if you run around asking a bunch of people for advice. Clearly, you won’t be able to follow everyone’s advice.

Research shows that those whose advice you don’t take may have a worse view of you afterward. They may even see you as less competent or avoid you,” according to Hayley Blunden, a PhD student at Harvard Business School and co-author of the 2018 study, “The Interpersonal Costs of Ignoring Advice.”

For example, a marketing executive who is widely respected is pleased when you ask her what to do about a particular situation, but is then less pleased when she finds out you didn’t do it.

Remember, you’re not running a Gallup poll (but if you really are, then just say so).

Don’t assume you already know the answers

Garvin and Margolis pointed out that people often have a hard time “assessing their own competence and place too much faith in their intuition.”

As a result, they end up asking for advice simply to gain validation or praise. Those who have a tendency to do this often believe they’ve already solved the problem, but just want confirmation or recognition from their bosses or peers.

“It’s a dangerous game to play because they risk alienating their advisers when it becomes evident — and it will — that they’re requesting guidance just for show or to avoid additional work,” the professors noted.

Be grateful

It should go without saying, but based on my experience, I still feel the need to emphasize it: Be grateful.

Thank your advisor for their time at the conclusion of your meeting. It doesn’t hurt to thank them again the next day via email. Follow up later to let them know how their feedback helped you. If they sent you an article or book, let them know how it you benefited from it.

Showing that you’re humble and appreciative will go a long way in maintaining good relationships with those in your professional network.

By: Gary Burnison

Gary Burnison is the CEO of Korn Ferry, a global consulting firm that helps companies select and hire the best talent. His latest book, a New York Times best-seller, “Lose the Resume, Land the Job,” shares the kind of straight talk that no one — not even your partner or close friends — will tell you. Follow him on LinkedIn here.

Source:https://www.cnbc.com

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Notes from a Freelancer During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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There is a lot of talk about how many people are losing their jobs and the economy is going to tank. This is obviously a terrifying thought for many. The majority of people in the U.S. and around the world have a job with a boss that they go to. Their doors have likely been shut (or there’s a looming sense that they will) because of the Coronavirus.

It is a magnificent act of “human love” that we all care enough as a whole to stay home, but of course there is also a reality. For all you entrepreneurs out there who have some attachment to a brick-and-mortar establishment, I’m sure there is a lot of uncertainty on how you’ll stay afloat. A family member of mine has a yoga studio in a smaller city, and even with just one month of it being closed, the writing is already on the wall for her, she’s closing shop.

There is a lot of sadness in this, and it’s hard not to fall into the abyss. We aren’t free, and for those of us in countries that have always been free, this is a hard pill to swallow. There is the other side of things though. This time to reflect and figure out what you really want. To take stock of who you are and what direction you’re going in life. We have slowed down to a glacial pace in life. Haven’t we asked for this (even if just secretly). As you take stock of your life, you might also want to look at your possibilities for starting anew. It is possible even with very little money. While the world might be scared, and perhaps very broke at the end of all this, there will be needs everyone has. Can you fill those needs?

Shifts in the Freelance World

I can see how things have drastically changed for many people, especially for those who work in an office. For me, things haven’t changed too much. Okay, other than the fact that I was very comfortable living in Vietnam and felt the need to come home when the country threatened a strict lockdown. I work from home, and have for many years. My clients are all over the world. I am a writer of all kinds and I am finding that currently, the business is thriving.

I am still doing the same thing I’ve done for years. I do some yoga, grab a simple breakfast, and go to my desk at home to start working. When it comes to work opportunities, I have found that they have grown. In fact, I have found that my work opportunities have doubled since Covid-19 was deemed a pandemic.

Many online businesses are needed or desired more than ever. As many people move quickly to make money online, there is a lot of support that they’re going to need. Businesses that have been long established are all of a sudden looking to change their content online. I am writing articles on the Coronavirus that are helpful for the general public. Certain sectors, such as  coupon websites, are stepping up their game as they’re sure to see a surge in popularity.

Enter the Online World (if you haven’t already)

I have friends who teach abroad in brick and mortar schools. Some of these schools shut down, but it didn’t take more than a day for these teachers to get gigs. In fact, the money was much better, and they didn’t have to deal with the bureaucracy or contradictions of an international school system in a developing country.

As I work online and travel around the world, I have met a lot of people around the world doing the same thing. It’s a pretty common theme actually, and so easy to do. Though I have to say when this virus went viral, many of the people I met went home right away. There’s something about being an expat when humans are considered “weapons with a potential deadly virus” in them, you start to feel uncomfortable.

Friends I’ve met around the world who have always worked online are finding ways to get through this time. In fact, many people are incorporating the pandemic into their business content as a way of helping others. For example, during the toilet paper panic, a successful Instagrammer buddy of mine was tipping off people on how they could get toilet paper from another source. Usually he was giving business tips, but he had to shift his message to be relevant (and do his part to help).

Another friend of mine abroad had just begun her online marketing business to help businesses with their social media marketing. She was worried at first, but when she reached out to some businesses, she actually ended up getting many clients. Businesses are taking this time out to reinvent their companies, to rebrand and do some of the things they didn’t have time to do while business was moving along. I guess the moral of the story here is don’t tell yourself that things aren’t possible and not ever try. Tony Robbins has said in the past that you can still make money when things fall apart. He said this after the housing market crash in 2008.

Making This Time Count

There is always a way to be of service if we can be creative and understand people’s needs right now. Not only are you keeping yourself busy, but you’re also helping people through this. Maybe you’re a yoga teacher or personal trainer. This is something you can do online. Maybe you wanted to before, but didn’t have the time. That’s all changed now.

This time of reflection can be a real benefit to you. With all the free apps out there, you can start something meaningful, and it won’t cost you a cent. This is the time for creativity. You have all the time and tools you need to reinvent yourself and start doing something in life you’re passionate about. The world really is your oyster. Striving for the things you want are going to keep you out of a depressive, desperate state of mind. It will get you out of bed in the morning and keep you passionate about life. When this is all over and you can live again, you’ll be bounding out to share what you’ve come up with.

So think about the things you love to do. Think about what people need right now. How can you fulfill those needs with your special talents? You have something to give to the world. Think about what you like to do in your spare time. Do you have a talent? At this point, you literally have nothing to lose by following your dreams (in the confines of your own home for now). Dare to dream and start to take the steps to get you where you want.

Loraine Couturier

Source: https://startupmindset.com

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The federal stimulus package is supposed to cover additional unemployment benefits for freelance and part-time workers, but a growing number of those workers say they’ve been unable to access that money.
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