Friday, 12 April 2013

That Four in the Morning Conversation


That Four in the Morning Conversation



Anyone who has run their own business has had that ”four in the morning… couldn’t sleep so I got up to write some stuff down” moment.

It’s a scary time of the day. “Tick tock” goes the clock. “Brrrr” goes the fridge. Nothing there apart from you and your thoughts. “Whhhhrrrr” goes your brain!

The conversation is actually fairly brief and goes something like this:

“Sales have collapsed… we’re not getting as many enquiries or new customers as we were… it doesn’t help that competitors are under-cutting us on price… and yet costs seem to be rising for us... and profit is crashing and our cash-flow is getting seriously bad. What am I going to do? What are we going to do? Where next? Surely there’s some magic trick and, if I could find it, then everything would be OK… but we’ve tried everything… we couldn’t try any harder and yet it is not coming together.”

Familiar? It should be because roughly 60% of business owners are going through these exact panic attacks.

In the naïve belief that running a business can be a DIY affair, business people focus way too much on working in the business, making/doing/delivering/selling. They lose sight of the purpose, they lose direction and become busy fools. They stop working on the business; they forget to step back and look at the bigger picture.

You need to take the business apart and re-assemble it and do it now. Let’s deal with your doom and gloom scenario very quickly:
“Sales have collapsed”

Focus on key desirable customers; ignore the restMake sure that you are selling ‘benefits’;  tell people what they will get as a result of using your product/service.

“We’re not getting as many enquiries or new customers as we were”
·         Talk to all all your existing and past customers – ask for referrals
·         Go out and ‘ask for the business’
·         Make sure there is a ’call to action’ in everything you do
·         Focus your efforts and communications on your ideal customer type; ignore the rest

“It doesn’t help that competitors are under-cutting us on price”
·         Avoid a price war at all costs
·         Concentrate on what your customers want from you and not on what the others are doing

“Costs seem to be rising for us”
·         Ask for discounts from all key suppliers
·        Sack your bad or under-performing suppliers

“Profit is crashing”
·         Do not offer stupid discounts
·         If you can, increase prices
·         If you can, decrease direct costs
·         ‘fix’ or sack the underperforming staff
·         ‘fix’ or sack the underperforming customers
·         ‘fix’ or sack the underperforming suppliers 

“Cash-flow is getting seriously bad”
·         Collect money outstanding 10 days faster
·         Pay your bills slower

“What am I going to do?”
·         Take outside advice; DIY is almost certainly not an option
·         Decide if the business is viable in the short run and in the long run
·         If you haven’t got the heart or enthusiasm to make it work then get out now

“What are we going to do?”
·         Create a succinct plan with clear action points and timescales
·         Take massive action
·         Do it
·         Do it now

“Where next?”
Create the clear plan so you know where you are going

“Surely there’s some magic trick and, if I could find it, then everything would be OK… but we’ve tried everything… we couldn’t try any harder and yet it is not coming together.”

Hasn’t anyone told you about Santa and the Tooth Fairy? They are not real. Hope is not a method. But massive action of the right type is! 



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