Dear Professor Bruce: My small business is way off in this recessionary economy. Do you have any advice?
Answer: When times are tough and business is down, it’s hard to remember that good times will come again. Complaining may give you some momentary relief, but it doesn’t bring customers through the door. A positive mental attitude is absolutely the most important aspect to recovering from anything. The determination to succeed can work miracles no matter what the climate or situation.
Bolster that positive mental attitude with positive speech. You can’t stay focused on motivating yourself or your employees if you sabotage yourself, your company or industry with negative comments. If you need to reduce your anxiety by communicating your misery or speaking your fears, put them on paper. When you’ve gotten your troubles off your chest, tear that paper up and move on. When you see them on paper, you’ll probably realize that your anxiety was out of proportion to your real situation anyway.
“Out of sight, out of mind.” Staying connected is critical. As the economy recovers, you want your clients, former clients, strategic partners and business associates to remember you first when services and products are needed. Slow times are great times to do the projects you usually put on the back burner.
Send an email to a couple of hundred industry associates with an industry tip or humorous cartoon.
Write an article or newsletter. You don’t have to be a literary genius. You just have to keep your name in front of all the people who will be in a position to purchase product or service (or recommend you to the people who do) when business picks up.
Once a week, pick up the phone and call five industry colleagues from whom you haven’t heard recently. Just because business is slow for you doesn’t mean it’s slow for them. They may have some collateral business that could help you.
When you speak to an industry colleague and they indicate they have no business for you, do NOT say, “If you hear of anything, would you keep me in mind?” Everyone will say “yes” to be polite. Polite means good manners, which are important, but it does not mean more business. Instead, try this, “While we’re talking, I would really appreciate you’re taking a quick look though your database and giving me the names of two or three people who might be interested.” Ask for permission to use their name when you make the next call.
Bruce Freeman, The Small Business Professor, is president of ProLine Communications, a marketing and public relations firm in Livingston, N.J. and author of “Birthing the Elephant” (Ten Speed Press). E-mail questions to Bruce@SmallBusinessProf.com.