After 15 years of running small business, Noelle-Elaine Media, Inc. (www.noelle-elaine.com), partners and best friends Kirsten Poe Hill and Renée E. Warren learned a lot about surviving on a shoe-string budget. In their book You Buy the Peanut Butter, I’ll Get the Bread: The Absolutely True Adventures of Best Friends in Business (Plume), the authors detail the mayhem and madness of running a business while trying to maintain sanity, live their lives and stay afloat.
During a recession, everyone can stand to take a page from the women who, when the going got tough, got into “save their business mode.” Below, find their ideas for how you can too:
- Make theHard Calls:Just because you’re a small business does not mean you can’t get smaller and more efficient.Is every employee serving their purpose?Is every account worth the manpower hours spent?Sometimes you have to “get small” to realize the big picture.
- Don’t Be an Over User: Do you really need 20 phone lines, two television sets with cable, etc.? Sometimes when you know there is no new money to get, you need to think about how you can cut expenses – from phone lines (does everyone need a direct line or cell phone), to cable (downgrading to basic service) to reusing garbage bags or bringing in the grocery bags from home.
- Everything Old is New Again: Start an office recycling program. It will help the environment but also your pocketbook. Recycle plastic bags for the trash cans and/or bring in grocery bags. Also, think about what you have in your office than can serve dual purposes: old client letter head can become paper for notes; baskets from one event can be décor for another.
- On Second Thought: Re-evaluate your expenses. Businesses fail when they overextend themselves. Do you have too much office space? Do you need an office or will going virtual serve you better? What will work for you? It’s nice to have the “fancy digs” but if you can’t afford it, go without.
- Let’s Make a Deal: Are you a negotiator? You need to be one when times are tough and even when they are not. Always try to get the best price for the products and services that you require. Can your landlord come down on rent? Can you renegotiate a loan or reduce the amount owed on a bill? You would be surprised, even large stores will negotiate in this environment. NEVER pay full price if you don’t have to – but be fair and be honest.
- Give to Get: Sometimes you have something that may be of value to someone else when money IS an issue. Be open to bartering your services to cover basic needs.
- Go Back to Basics: Don’t forget the simple things you can do to save – use a ceiling fan instead of the AC; unplug your equipment at the end a day; buy bulk supplies once a month instead of going to the more expensive corner store, don’t extend petty cash once it runs out; do not advance for clients – you’ll end up with the bill!
- Make Your List and Check it Twice: Check all bills and double check. Sometimes you are overcharged or double charged. In these tough financial times, you need to review bills and bank accounts weekly, if not daily!
- The Truth Shall Set You Free: This is recession and we are all going through it. This is not something that is your fault, so there is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed by it – we are all in the same boat. This is not the time to hide the situation from your employees. Be honest with them; tell them that the company is going through hard times as a result of a recession but that you are determined to succeed. Let them know it will mean change and sacrifice and encourage them to contribute their ideas for how company can operate more efficiently. They will appreciate being a part of the process and for having a “head’s up” on the situation.
- Hustle & Flow: Now that you’ve made these changes, it’s time to hustle!!! Call everyone you know for business; think about how you can restructure your services to attract new business. Be flexible in your fees, it may lead to new business. Take this time to remarket yourself, update your materials, re-position yourself in the market place – what else do you have to do?! Take advantage of this unique opportunity to change the way you do things.