It’s reassuring to remember that downturns are a normal part of the business cycle. And, just as there are strategies that help businesses thrive during profitable times, there are basic survival tactics that businesses can employ when the outlook is less than rosy.
Finances should be your fundamental concern when economic conditions are unsettled. When sales are slow, it’s time to preserve your cash. Look closely at how you can reduce overhead. Make certain that all your operating expenses are necessary. Even if you’ve recently made cuts, see if there are other measures you can take. Unless absolutely necessary, consider putting plans that call for capital investment on the back burner until conditions improve.
While containing costs is essential, maintaining your customer base is also crucial. So, when you’re deciding how to trim spending, make sure you don’t make cuts in areas that deliver real value to your customers. At the same time, watch your receivables. Make sure your customers’ accounts stay current.
Think Short Term
Plan purchases for the short term, keeping a minimum of cash tied up in inventory. At the same time, however, make sure you’ll be able to restock quickly. Your suppliers may be able to suggest ways you can cut costs (perhaps by using different materials or an alternative manufacturing process). See if you can negotiate better credit terms.
Plan for Contingencies
There’s a big difference between imagining that you might have to seriously scale back your business and having an action plan in place that you can quickly execute. To develop a realistic contingency plan, prepare a budget based on the impact you imagine an extended downturn would have on your business. Then outline the steps you would need to take to survive those conditions. For an added level of preparedness, draw up a second, “worst case scenario” budget and chart the cost-cutting steps you’d need to take to outlive those more dire circumstances.
Many businesses will survive challenging economic times by being informed about their financial condition and by planning ahead to succeed.