The year 2020 had dealt a devastating blow to many small businesses. We started the year with accelerating growth forecasts, only to find ourselves in a downward spiral created by a pandemic no one could have anticipated.
Looking ahead to the coming year we can assume that at some point a vaccine will be found to be effective and business will return to normal. The question is what will “normal” look like, and how will you prepare for it?
NOW is the time to revisit your business plan. Begin by answering the following questions:
- Is your product or service still in demand or in decline. If the latter, you need to reinvent your business model. Talk with your customers. What are their needs and do you have the ability to accommodate those needs?
- Who are your target customers and will they be increasing or decreasing their spending? Do you depend on a few large accounts and if so, do they squeeze your profit margins? Better to have 50 customers who generate $5,000 each than 5 who generate $50,000.
- Of the products or services you provide which generate the most profit? Consider creating profit centers for each, tracking both income and expenses. Unless one compliments the other, concentrate your marketing efforts on the ones that generate the highest margins.
- Do your clients or patrons pay on time? There is no such thing as a valued client if they beat you down on price and delay payment. You should have an understanding with the customer regarding payment terms. Whenever possible request payment at point of sale. In the alternative, keep a list of aged receivables and be aware of any accounts over 30 days past due.
- Do you have a bank line of credit in place? No matter how well you plan, there will undoubtedly be circumstances beyond your control that can adversely affect you or your customer.
Now is not the time to cut back on marketing initiatives. More and more people and businesses are gravitating to online shopping. If you do not have an online presence get one. Your website, Youtube, Linkedin and Instagram accounts should be more than informational. Your focus should be how to attract new business with Social Media.
A good place to take advantage of Google traffic is to register your business at https://www.google.com/intl/en_my/business/. List your company so that you appear on search engine result pages. If you want to appear on page one, consider paying someone to help with SEO, search engine optimization. You can also focus on Bing and Yelp listings for free.
If you are on a budget you should think about joining a trade organization. This allows you to connect with others and work together to develop and do joint marketing.
Finally, do not hesitate to ask for help. The volunteer counselors at SCORE stand ready to offer advice and guidance. Counseling is confidential and provided free of charge to all US citizens and legal aliens.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with SCORE Naples. Business counseling on this and other business matters is available, without charge, from the Naples Chapter of SCORE. Call (239) 430-0081 or visit https://naples.score.org/mentors .The SCORE business office is located at 900 Goodlette Road North, in the Fifth Third branch bank building. Office hours are 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.