Is money flowing out of your small business a lot faster than it is coming in? With stiff competition, increased staff costs and constantly rising expenses of products and services, it’s no wonder you’re struggling. Fortunately, there are some concrete steps you can take right away to stop the bleeding and get back on the road to profits instead of losses.
While it’s tempting to think that the solution lies mostly in making more money, you might be able to trim a significant amount from your losses by being more frugal. Examine all of your recurring costs, including what you pay for insurance and utilities. While cheaper isn’t always better, you might find places where you can reduce premium levels to basic ones or otherwise excise costly luxuries.
Another money hog can be your advertising budget. Look carefully at which of your ad campaigns actually brought sales and which did not. Only continue to fund marketing plans that are truly effective.
As difficult as it may be, you may need to re-examine your labor costs. That may mean paying your employees less, or only keeping on workers who are at the lower end of your salary structure. Be ready, willing and able to work extra hours yourself without expecting to be paid. Enlisting your family is even an option. If these important people realize just how high the stakes are, they will probably be more than willing to pitch in.
Act As if Every Sale Is Your Most Important
If you are falling into frustration and despair as your profits decrease, you might find it next to impossible to get excited about the products or services you sell. The problem is that a bad attitude leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, force yourself to be enthusiastic no matter how you feel inside. Your upbeat attitude will be contagious to both customers and staff, leading to a more vibrant workplace and happier people. If a certain member of your team is a dynamo on the sales floor, be sure to send your best customers to that person.
On the other hand, there is no room for slacker employees with poor attitudes. At a time like this when your survival hangs in the balance, you have no other realistic option than to fire people who cannot help you turn things around. If a lead comes your way, take the time to follow up on it personally. Devote a block of time each day for making follow-up calls and sending emails to prospective customers. Carefully record when you last spoke with a potential customer, setting a concrete date for your next call.
Enhance Your Efficiency
Time is money; therefore, the more streamlined your business procedures and practices are, the more dollars will stay in your pocket. To that end, your job is to make all aspects of your company as free-flowing and easy as possible. That includes everything from your credit card processing protocols to the way you track your staff’s time, schedule their hours and pay them. Streamlined inventory management is also a must.
The good news is that today’s modern point-of-sale systems enable you to easily automate many of these tasks, helping you to stock only what you sell and replenish your wares before they run out. Finally, take a look at your customer checkout setup to be sure that your buyers’ experience at the register is as fast, secure and seamless as possible. After all, it is satisfied customers who come back again and again and who spread the word about your store.
Encourage People to Pay on Time
Chasing customers for late payments is one of the most frustrating and time-consuming parts of a business owner’s life. While you will never be totally free from this unpleasant task, there are some things you can do to entice tardy payers to fork over what they owe.
For one thing, you can offer a small but appreciable discount for paying within a set period of time. Furthermore, if you would prefer that someone pays within 60 days after purchase, ask them to give you the money in 45 days. That way, they can still be late without causing you a great deal of fiscal pain. Finally, make paying you as fast and easy as possible by being willing to take credit card information over the phone or letting your customer conduct the transaction online.
Get and Keep the Right Employees
Competent and loyal employees are worth their weight in gold. They consistently promote your brand and provide excellent customer service, often also mentoring other employees as the years go by. Hiring and keeping people like this in your organization should be one of your main priorities. That means you should spend as much time as you need to find quality workers. Once you have hired them, carefully and thoroughly train them in all of your processes and protocols. The tone you set with them during these crucial first few months is generally reflected in the way they will work throughout their tenure with you.
Never Underestimate the Value of Your Customers
The profits you make or the lack thereof are directly connected to the people who either are or are not buying what you are selling: your customers. Of course, people only want to spend money on items and services that are of high quality and that they either need or want, but those are not the only pieces of the equation. What you may have lost sight of is that your customers are, above all else, people. They respond to the personal touch, and they are more likely to give their dollars to a person or a business that makes them feel special.
To that end, it is your responsibility and that of your staff to take the time to establish a real connection with the people who walk into your store or who click on your website. If you have an upgraded point-of-sale system, you can easily compile a database of customer information, including their birthdays and even the products they prefer. A specialized message from you may serve to cement a long-term, positive relationship between you and your best customers.
Turning things around for your business won’t happen in a day, and no one is saying it will be easy. However, you have many tools at your disposal to change your prospects. Take the first step today.