Most business owners will find themselves struggling from time to time. Maybe sales are sluggish or it’s become difficult to maintain growth. Maybe your location isn’t ideal and you’re looking for ways to make your business a destination. Maybe your employees don’t seem to believe in your vision, or maybe you’re not even sure yourself.
Whatever challenges you’re facing, you’re not alone. Most of the greatest businesses have had to overcome challenging periods to grow into prosperity and maturity. What separates the most successful businesses, however, is how they respond. There are many tips, tricks, and strategies that can be used to breathe life into a flagging business. Today, we’ll look at eight of the most commonly used and successful.
1. Take a hard look at your business model
If your business isn’t built on a viable model, you’ll have a hard time making it competitive. If you didn’t spend enough time validating your business model before you started your business or your model isn’t working out according to your calculations, it might be time to take a second look. Take the time to sit down with your books and use business model validation techniques, such as the Business Model Canvas, to work out whether or not your business model is truly a viable one. Don’t forget to take into account new information you’ve learned about your market, your customers and your product since the beginning.
2. Focus on your strengths
Many businesses struggle because they try to do too many things. Slimming down your options can help you focus on what you do best and build a solid foundation before you take more risks. When Steve Jobs took back the reins at a struggling Apple in 1997, he killed dozens of projects in the works and pared the company’s offerings down to just a few core products. Thanks to his willingness to bite the bullet, Apple turned a billion-dollar loss one year into a $300 million profit the next. Like a tree, your business sometimes needs to have the extra limbs pruned in order to grow in the ways that are healthiest.
3. Think about pivoting
Of course, there are always times when your strengths really aren’t all that strong. If your original idea isn’t taking off, you might be in the wrong geographic market, or there may be insufficient demand for your product or service. If there’s a side product or service that your customers love or a demographic you weren’t intending to market to has latched on to your business, do a little research and find out why they love it. This can tell you some things about what elements of the big picture your business may be missing and which directions might be profitable to pursue in the future. (Of course, you’ll want to take the key steps to prepare for a pivot and rigorously validate the new business model first.)
4. Get your cash flow under control.
Keeping sufficient liquidity in a business is a common problem, so it’s critical that cash flow management becomes a priority if your business is struggling. Start with a cash flow analysis to get a good idea of how and when cash moves in and out of your business and then move forward using best practices for cash flow management. That can include using automated accounting software, maximizing cash inflows through models such as security deposits and subscription services and working with an eye toward anticipating future cash needs rather than reacting to them.
5. Change up your marketing strategies and branding.
Have you ever seen how a beat-up old car can look downright stylish with some detailing and a new coat of paint? That’s what marketing can do for your business. If you’ve been doing your marketing in-house, consider hiring a marketing firm with expertise in your sector if you have the resources—but remember that there are lots of great DIY strategies available if you don’t. Learning the basics of social media, PPC and email marketing is easier than you might think, and these techniques can make a big difference in attracting new business and creating a memorable brand.
6. Take steps to create customer trust.
When customers like and trust your business, they can become “brand ambassadors”—giving you repeat business, recommending your business to friends and family and writing positive reviews. To overcome the initial trust barrier, it’s a good idea to take steps such as offering a money-back guarantee or purchasing business service bonds to protect your customers’ property. (In some industries, license bonds such as contractor bonds are even required by law.)
7. Reach out to create partnerships.
Sometimes joining forces can create a whole greater than its parts. Whether it’s recruiting a new investor or partnering with another local business to offer joint promotions, fresh eyes and fresh resources can go a long way toward bringing business back to life. Recruiting new blood can be especially useful if the partners or employees you’re recruiting have expertise in areas that you’re struggling with. And even when your business is doing well, you should always be networking so that you can establish relationships well before you need to call in a favor.
8. Don’t be afraid to start over.
Sometimes, the strongest and most successful businesses emerge from the ashes of failed ones. If the numbers just aren’t there, it may be time to cut your losses and get out. If you’re hemorrhaging assets, the market for your product or service just isn’t there or the business is taking too much of a psychological toll on you, it can be more important to live to fight another day. There will be time later to apply the lessons you’ve learned when you’re ready to try again.
Not all of these strategies will be right for every business. You’ll need to evaluate your business’s needs and choose the most applicable ones. Whichever tactics you go with, remember that the ultimate goal isn’t a short-term fix—it’s to create a path for sustained growth and prosperity.
Jason brings 15 years of deep technology, product development, and marketing experience to Surety Bonds Direct. He has been leveraging Agile practices for well over a decade and is versed in various Lean practices as well. Jason has worked on substantial and complex systems dealing with secure information ranging from payroll & employee systems, to e-commerce, to travel-reservation APIs.
Prior to co-founding Surety Bonds Direct, Jason led a product innovation team for Equifax where he was recognized with several technology awards including The 2014 Brandon Hall Technology Excellence Award and The HR Tech 2013 Best Product award. Jason is the founder of Xavier Berkeley, a technology consulting practice that has worked on software development and advanced data analytics with various companies including UPS, Whole Foods, TripAlertz, and over 50 others.
Beyond his technology and product expertise, Jason also has experience in online marketing and optimization. At Ozone Online (later acquired by Teradata) Jason led all marketing strategy for the agency’s engagements with clients such as Autodesk, Hyperion, and BEA. A veteran of the San Francisco / Silicon Valley technology scene, Jason now makes his home in Charleston, South Carolina with his wife and 3 children.