Small Enterprise

Ways to stay afloat during tough times

A stressed woman working at her office desk. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH
A stressed woman working at her office desk. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH 

The business climate is bad this year. The cost of essential commodities has been steadily increasing. Accessing bank financing is harder due to interest rate capping, most sectors are in decline and so is consumer spending.

The August polls add salt to an open wound. Buying patterns have changed. Most projects and big purchases have been postponed until after the polls and individuals have stopped buying nice-to-have things.

Cutbacks like these can easily be the last straw to struggling business. Usually, during hard times customers become much more selective and demanding as they look for alternatives and better deals. Competition increases as suppliers try to get a piece of little business remaining.

Some competitors will use different methods to woo customers including undercutting, promotions, focused marketing and offering better or additional services.

When under such fires and dire need to survive, remain focused and try to keep your sales at a profitable level. It is unwise to sell at a loss to survive today for tomorrow is coming and things will change if you hang on.

There is nothing in business as bad as making losses. It eats into your capital and reduces your fighting capabilities. Three things are key to navigating the tough times.

First, develop a positive attitude and belief. This is the unseen secret weapon that is rarely taught in business school. If you think you have reached the worst point, be optimistic because things can only get better.

Don’t be part of doom-and-gloom conversations on how bad things have become. Instead, focus on your market and be determined to make your situation better. Even when things are bad people will still buy and it’s better you spend your energy on reaching such people.

Second, take care of your customers, they are your biggest asset and allies in all your battles. Your customers are the primary source of your income. Get closer to them and find out what they need and how they need it.

Do the best to retain your customer loyalty and contact even though they are not buying much. They have the power to lift you from your quagmire.

Third, widen your net by doing more prospecting. Reach out to as many people as possible who can benefit from buying and using your products but they are not.

Like customers, stay in touch and do not take them for granted even if they don’t get converted. Appreciate them for being loyal to their suppliers but keep reminding them that you are an option.

The day they get disappointed by their suppliers or the bug of change bites them, they will consider the option.

Finally, sharpen your sales and marketing skills by investing in training your own as well team’s — they have a multiplier effect on the results.

Mr Kiunga is a business trainer and author of ‘The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market.