By Lisbeth Calandrino
I recently received a call from a dear friend and business associate. He sounded down, so I asked him what was wrong. He said his printing business is non-existent and he’s not sure what he should be doing. Unemployment is helping, but he feels like he should be making decisions. (By the way, he is a “solopreneur” with no other employees.)
I’m sure my friend is not alone in this challenging retail environment. Some small business owners are looking for a lifeline; others need help coming up with a survival plan. Still others need to know if the current course of action they are taking will yield the best results. Sound familiar?
Following are some ways to grab the so-called “low-hanging” fruit as you rebuild:
Call your customers and ask what they’re doing. You might be able to give them some ideas. I received a call from a group I teach classes for, and she was telling me her webinars weren’t getting much traffic. I told her she needed someone with real excitement to keep people awake, and she agreed. “How about you?” she asked. “I’m not good at it.” Now, there’s something I hadn’t planned on.
Just do it. My mom told me if I sat too long the grass would grow under my feet. It reminds me of a quote from President Roosevelt, who said the worst thing you can do is nothing. “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing; the next-best thing is the wrong thing; and the worst thing you can do is nothing. There’s no magical plan, there’s not even a plan. Just take care of your money, renegotiate your lease, get out of your lease or move, if it helps.
Think outside the box. Sometimes it helps to read about other industries to find out what they are doing. Most everyone is hurting in some way—what solutions are the big guys coming up with? Can you take their solution and use it for yourself? Perhaps they are looking into developing a shop-at-home business? What does their marketing strategy look like?
Refresh your store. With fewer people shopping multiple stores, perhaps it’s a good time to take advantage of the slower traffic by sprucing up your store. Maybe it’s time to clean up, paint or tackle some of those store renovation projects that you’ve been putting off. If the building is a mess, consider moving or lowering your lease. It’s likely there will be better places at less money. My friend is in the liquidation business and keeps a large storage unit. He was thinking he would ditch the unit until the owner said he had a larger one for less money. Sold!
Look for new opportunities. Call businesses like yours and see if you can partner with them or brainstorm new ideas. Do some training with your employees so they can feel more optimistic. Look at fresh products and designs for your store to get them excited to be in business. Need some motivation? Check out my Spotify podcast and listen to my interviews with upbeat businesspeople and their ideas.
In these trying times, you should be looking for ways to be more creative. Maybe it’s a good time to revisit your goals and tackle some of those projects you were hesitant to take on in the past. I’m using my time to write more, work on my website and take classes. I’ve even thought about doing my own QVC program from my living room!
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to dream and think big. It could yield big rewards.