It’s no surprise that more people start businesses in a recession than during any other economic period. Although it may seem illogical, entrepreneurial individuals tend to see this as an opportunity to formulate some measure of control over their lives while everything else around them seems so uncertain. The question is: how do you stay afloat once you’ve opened for business?
Re-evaluate Your Goals
“Build your business success around something that you love – something that is inherently and endlessly interesting to you.” – Martha Stewart’s Business Rule #1
Do you love what you do? If you have a hard time answering this, or answer a resounding “no”, perhaps you owe yourself the time to think about why. How you spend every day is essentially the way you live your life as a whole. Consider how you would like to look back, insha Allah, years from now: would you be content with how you spent your time?
Assess your life’s goals as well as your business goals, both of which should be harmonious with one another. Over time, your priorities may change, requiring you to edit things along the way. In the current economic crisis, it’s imperative to be flexible and do just that. Make sure your goals are clear and your business mission statement is tightly focussed and parallel to your business plan. Allow yourself to dream big while having a clear vision of where you want to go.
It’s easy to feel quite powerless when the economy is down, competition is fierce and you’re worried about how you’ll keep your business running. Accept this as a challenge and an opportunity to get creative. There’s no time like the present, especially when Allah (SWT) blesses you with good ideas.
Take time to listen to customer feedback and figure out how to keep them happy and attract many more like them. When necessary, do your homework to develop unique marketing and sales strategies that will set you apart from your competitors. Talk to experts at local libraries or business organisations. Check out www.score.org for free help from retired business executives. When faced with a business decision, don’t underestimate the power of the istikhara prayer. Once you’ve done so, take action and believe the outcome will be for the best.
Make Frugality Your Business
Business owners around the world are feeling the impact of the global economic downturn, but it doesn’t mean everyone knows how to save money when and where it’s most critical. Even if you’re not the one who writes the cheques or keeps track of financial records for your business, now is the time to put your nose in it.
Take a good look at the one thing you can control: expenses. Figure out where you can cut back in overhead, travel or postage. For example, I recently heard of a company that asks all employees to take out their own trash to save on cleaning costs. They not only preserved jobs at the company, but they got their employees happily involved. Even Oprah Winfrey asked her staff at Harpo Studios to bring re-usable coffee mugs to work when she realised how much financial and environmental waste occurred by using paper cups.
When you do need to spend money, be sure it makes sense and will help you attain your business goals. If you need paid expert advice from accountants or lawyers, it’s usually considered money well spent. Additionally, don’t skimp on cheap quality marketing, branding or advertising materials that will negatively and possibly permanently damage your company’s reputation. Even if you’re a business of one, create an environment of frugality and commit to it for the long haul. Fortunately for you, frugality is cool these days.
Attitude is Everything, So Keep a Positive One
Realise and remember that people are far more important than money. As a business owner you are most likely interacting with a variety of personalities and temperaments all day long, many of whom are just as worried as you about the shaky economy. Keep your cool when you feel challenged or frustrated – you never know how far niceness can take you.
Be selective of who you share your business ideas and plans with, not only for the protection of your intellectual property, but also for your mental state. When you choose the people you work with very carefully, you can try to eliminate any negative attitudes or behaviour you’ll have to deal with.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Consumers are bombarded with information. Unless you constantly alert them of your existence, they may be turning to your competitor for the same products or services you offer. Using the wise words of author Napoleon Hill who said, “Don’t fear the competition, embrace it”, choose tactful but persistent methods such as the use of Constant Contact to keep in touch with your customer base. Let them know you offer the most beneficial product for their hard-earned money.
Harness the power of customer feedback. Make it a priority to ask them what they want, listen to their needs and try your best to satisfy them. Without them, you don’t survive.
A big mistake many businesses make is to ignore employee experiences within a company. If you have employees, talk to them. They can give you valuable insight from the front lines of customer interaction, how your business structure is or isn’t working, and provide priceless suggestions for solutions.
Communicate with the rest of the world! Social networking is an amazing way to reach out to customers and find new ones. With such sites as Twitter or Facebook, you can start valuable dialogues about information within your niche market. Most importantly, having an online presence is critical for reaching out to a tech-savvy consumer who will also use the same communication to tell others about your business.
Network in person at local or international events such as networking luncheons or conferences where you’ll find yourself among other business owners – people with similar interests and even potential customers. Don’t be afraid to share what you know either. Being an expert at what you do is a key ingredient for any successful business operator.
Be Ready for Success
All the perseverance and ambition in the world can’t process an order for 2,000 pairs of shoes if there isn’t an organised system to handle it. Look at your business structure and be sure it is ready to receive many forms of success. Have a press kit ready with information about your company, your niche market and your customers in the event that a local newspaper wants to showcase your unique business idea.
Any business at any time is sink or swim. Insha Allah, with these helpful tips you’ll have a life jacket to keep you afloat.
Yvonne Maffei is the Founder & Editor of My Halal Kitchen, a Halal Food and Cooking Blog and Co-Founder & Editorial Director of Falaha, a business designed to provide networking events specifically to fit the lifestyle of Muslim Women.
Visit www.myhalalkitchen.com & www.falaha.com