Overcoming Daily Struggles, Finding Long-term Success

As a small business owner, it may seem like you face a new challenge every day. Whether it’s a difficult employee, unforeseen economic changes, or a supplier falling through, there is rarely a dull moment when running a small business. This reality can be an exhausting one, and at times you may find yourself feeling discouraged about the whole endeavor.
But these challenging moments often have a silver lining. Try to see them as opportunities to improve your business and yourself as a manager. We believe that answers to the tough questions cannot be found by burying your head in the sand and waiting for things to work themselves out. Borrow the title from Rick Page’s book, “Hope is Not a Strategy” and let the obstacles motivate you to be proactive in all aspects of your business. We want to touch on a few strategies that are crucial to maintaining and successfully growing your business through all types of difficulties.

Whenever people ask us for advice on small business management, we almost always bring up numbers. The daily struggles of business owenship are usually improved through more careful financial planning. Maintaining a precise picture of your costs and margins keeps your company stable through all sorts of economic and market conditions. A solid budget helps you operate efficiently on a daily basis while also projecting company performance years down the road.
You might be asking yourself about a specific headache you’re currently dealing with: “what does my budget have to do with a difficult employee?” Think of your budget as the company’s road map: it helps you understand where you’re going and how you will get there. As the owner, it’s your job to communicate that long-term vision to everyone you work with. A problem employee can often be helped by reminding them of that bigger picture, showing them the value of their role in your company and how the work they’re doing furthers progress and growth. Alternatively, revisiting the big picture might show you both that this person is not a good fit, and it may be time for them to look for their next opportunity.

When companies are struggling and looking to save money, one of the first cuts is often marketing. What people fail to see is that marketing is an investment in future sales and market share. If you continually face challenges related to customer location and retention, spend some time improving your marketing strategies. Look at your market and determine the best way for potential customers to find you. Yellow pages, websites, brochures, newspaper ads, flyers, social networking…the list goes on and on.
It is important to also remember the marketing you already do, perhaps indirectly. The shirts your employees wear, the appearance of your office or shop, the condition of the sweeper trucks you operate, and the quality of your service are all forms of marketing. Evaluating your direct and indirect marketing is a chance to take a step back and consider the impressions you create in the minds of employees, customers, and potential customers. Improving that impression will make everything about your business better.

We can’t emphasize this enough. No matter the challenges you face, they can almost always be improved through better communication. This is especially true with customer relations. As frequently as possible and practical, make contact with your customers. Frequent personal contact will help you see potential problems before they become big enough to damage the customer relationship.
Something similar can be said with employee communication. If you want to feel more proactive, and less like you’re always putting out fires, check in with your employees regularly. Give them a chance to express any concerns they have about their own work or the company as a whole. Talk to your mangers about challenges they face in their departments, and see what can be done to better support them. Keeping lines of communication open ensures that everyone in the company is on the same page, and it will help you face ongoing challenges as a team.
Keeping your focus on these simple but effective strategies will make daily operations run more smoothly. And they’ll help you, the owner, see past those short-term headaches and remember why you entered the business in the first place.

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