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How to Sustain a Business in Tough Times

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This has been a challenging year for a lot of people. It has not been business as usual for most of us. If you were a fly on the wall during many conversations that have taken place amongst people in business, you are likely to hear various versions of how hard things are. We thought getting through the August elections would start bringing some sort of normalcy but it still looks challenging, given we are going back to the ballot.

For entrepreneurs, it is particularly tricky. It has meant delayed spending by clients; contracts have been put on hold, delayed payments not forgetting the overall wait and see attitude, which sadly does not pay the bills. Sleepless nights for us abound as we figure out how to keep businesses afloat and people in jobs. I know the uncertainty doesn’t belong to entrepreneurs alone. Even those who work within companies fear for their jobs and careers. Whilst we have no control over external circumstances we do have control over what we choose to do about it and how we think. Here are a couple of things I have decided to do and hopefully they will help someone out there feeling the strain of the current situation.

  1. Ditch the Negative Commentary

When things are tough people want to vent and whine the most. It is understandable. When we are scared, we look for people who can relate to our fears. But there’s a point when it gets too much. It’s one thing to express concern but another to let it completely take over your life. If all you think about is how tough things are that is exactly what you are going to see. If I tell you to go count the yellow cars on the road, that is what you are going to see. You will miss out on the blue, grey and red cars on the road because you are not looking for them.

Nobody ever succeeded by talking about how bad things are. Force yourself to seek helpful conversations and information. Be intentional about blocking out negative information. Be ruthless about exiting the poverty support group. You don’t have to read every tweet or post sent out. A very seasoned entrepreneur recently told me that that they intentionally do not watch news for this very season. Unfortunately, bad news sells but you can choose not to consume it blindly. Do what you have to do to protect your mind.

  1. Be Creative

There’s probably been a different period at some point in your life when challenges did truly bring out the best in you. In the same way, use this opportunity to move out of your comfort zone. It may be time to change something around. After all, we do want to build businesses that can withstand this and many other tests that will come along the way. Remember some people realize the most opportunity when things are hard. For example, people making environmentally friendly bags are laughing all the way to the bank! What opportunities could there be for you? One of the students in our entrepreneurship class this year is a photographer.

He realized that spending by families for pictures had gone down but spending by politicians had risen. He therefore positioned his service to capitalise on that. Has a spending pattern in your industry shifted? What worked last year may not work in exactly the same way. We are made creative beings and it is time to do that. How can you change/amend/package your product or service? It may even be just the language you use to sell it that needs to change not the product. Do you need to look for new markets? Let’s also understand whether this downturn is simply because of the environment or there is something we needed to have changed in the business.

  1. Preparation Meets Opportunity

If business is slow take the time to work on those things that have always been pending because you are too busy – the things that may be boring but you know are necessary i.e. processes and structures. Creating an operations manual, collecting feedback from customers.

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