By: Raj Tulshan, founder of Loanmantra.com
Despite a recent pandemic, record-high inflation, and several years of economic uncertainty, entrepreneurship continues to thrive, with more than 31 million entrepreneurs in the U.S. In fact, Americans’ confidence in small businesses has reached record highs, even exceeding confidence in the military, the medical system, public schools, and the U.S. Supreme Court. But is your business recession-proof?
Since World War II, the U.S. has experienced 12 recessions, averaging one every six years. Recessions are more common than most people realize, and most people will encounter several over the course of their careers. Therefore, it’s crucial for business owners to prepare to survive the next (inevitable) recession.
A recession is defined as a significant decline in economic activity – including gross domestic product (GDP), income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales – and can last anywhere from two and 18 months. While recessions are common, they can be incredibly stressful for business owners, who will very likely experience some business disruptions. The key to surviving the disruption is to plan, differentiate your business from the competition, cut spending, and create additional revenue streams.
In addition, here are ten tips to survive – and thrive – during a recession.
1. A downturn doesn’t mean doom and gloom for every business. Nearly 75% of public companies with $50 million or more in annual sales had declining revenue growth during the last four economic downturns, but 14% actually accelerated revenue growth and increased profitability. The different outcomes depended largely on the type of products or services the companies sold and how well (or poorly) they met customers’ needs. Remember that even during economic downturns, customers still buy essentials (e.g., food, utilities, household items, etc.) and need certain services (e.g., healthcare, car repairs, etc.). “Recession-proof” your business, providing what people will continuously need, to maintain sales.
2. Plan for a recession. Ebbs and flows are a normal part of the business cycle, so plan accordingly. Focus on maintaining revenue, preserving cash flow, and generating demand. For instance, running out of cash is a major concern for business owners, so assess your cash balances, expenses, and incoming cash flow. Work within your budget. Track your key performance indicators and adjust if you aren’t meeting target metrics. Pay down debt. Reduce financial waste.
3. Prepare for the unexpected. You’ve likely heard the advice to establish an emergency fund to cover personal expenses, and this is a wise move for businesses, as well. Create an emergency fund that can cover up to six months of essential costs, including payroll, inventory, rent, and utilities. Proactively collect outstanding receivables. Talk to a financial advisor about whether you should consider revolving loans, alternative financing, small business loans, and/or other options.
4. Operate efficiently. Reducing operating expenses can be a challenging task, especially as you must continue providing extraordinary products and services. Whatever expenses you cut should be invisible to customers. Determine where you can make small tweaks that can add up to big reductions, such as leveraging early pay discounts from suppliers, automating manual tasks, and renegotiating supplier contracts.
5. Multiply revenue opportunities. This strategy will require some creative thinking. Brainstorm ways to capture new revenue without making any major investments. For instance, expand your brick-and-mortar retail store’s reach by selling goods online. Adjust your business model. For example, a bakery could start offering take-home kits for birthday parties. Or a bar could sell merchandise and specialized beer onsite and online, in addition to selling drinks and food.
6. Modify offerings. Adjust what you’re selling to make it more attractive to customers and prospects during tough economic times. Think of how restaurants changed their business models during the COVID pandemic to sell to people when they couldn’t dine onsite. To adjust to the changing climate, restaurants started offering more delivery, takeout, and curbside pickup options. And, as more people worked from home, clothing retailers adjusted, offering more loungewear instead of formal suits. During a recession, pivot accordingly. In addition to altering your business model, consider changing your pricing structure and offering more incentives to entice people to buy, even if they have less disposable income during a recession.
7. Strengthen relationships. Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. Create and maintain strong customer relationships. Understand their changing needs and give them what they want. Offer the “value add” that they can’t get from your competitors, whether that’s free shipping, personal shopping, or a willingness to place special orders on their behalf. At the same time don’t forget your valued vendors, partners and associates. When times get tough those relationships could save the business. Or you could help save someone else’s business. Whether it’s extra time on a delivery due to supply chain issues or just a pep talk, remembering those relationships is essential.
8. Stretch your tech. Most businesses purchase technology to be more efficient and productive but haven’t taken the time to maximize the full benefits of the system or appoint an expert that can fully leverage its benefits. Before you are investing in new systems, stretch your current tech. Tech tools can also help you change distribution methods, such as pivoting from in-person tutoring, which limits you to a specific geographic radius, to online tutoring, which expands your reach.
9. Continue marketing. You may consider cutting marketing to save a few bucks but resist that urge. To maintain revenue, you’ll need to stay in front of your key audiences with social media efforts, online ads, positive news stories, compelling blogs, etc. Launch (or continue) loyalty campaigns to recapture past customers and increase touchpoints with your current customer base. Target your messages to align with customer pain points in an uncomfortable economic climate. Spotlight loyalty programs. Incentivize customers and prospects with discounts, BOGO, and other deals. Maintaining visibility via marketing can help you increase market share, particularly if your competitors pause their efforts.
10. Insulate Finances. Consult financial experts, like those at Loanmantra.com, to develop a plan to become recession-proof. They’ll help you determine how to cut costs, adjust your business model, and secure any necessary loans. If you need a loan to boost your company’s financial health, they’ll help you calculate how much of a loan you’ll need (and qualify for). Financial experts can advise you on all aspects of the loan, including the application process and what types of information you’ll be required to provide.
Raj Tulshan is the founder and managing member of Loanmantra.com, a one-stop FinTech business portal that democratizes the loan process by providing corporate sized services and access to entrepreneurs, small and medium sized businesses. Connect with Raj and Team Loan Mantra at 1.855. 700.BLUE (2583) or email@example.com.