Theresa just lost her biggest client, one who generates 80 percent of her company’s total revenue. She’s been in the branding business for six years. In response, she can hide in her office and wait for the phone to ring or she can take swift action.
Some of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs during difficult times are maintaining an upbeat attitude and being action-oriented even when the chips are down. That feeling of a business going in reverse is not fun. What should Theresa do? What would you do if you were in her shoes? Certainly not despair because plants even grow in sidewalk cracks.
Here are 11 tips that ought to help Theresa -- or you -- if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
1. Call the client. It can’t hurt to check in one more time to make sure there isn’t something you missed, such as asking the right questions, offering extra value on proposals already in the pipeline, renegotiating existing proposals to increase their value or offering to serve as a consultant one-on-one and on an as-needed-basis. You want to leave the door wide open for when they are ready to come back or refer or recommend you to someone else. And don’t forget to ask for a testimonial for the work you have done well over the years (or recommendation on LinkedIn) if you haven’t already! Post it on your website or blog.
2. Contact existing and prospective clients to see where things stand or how you can be of further service. Call those you are comfortable calling. Email those who prefer that method of communication. And socialize online with the rest (Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, et al.). Offer something new or different that they didn’t know they wanted and that can’t be refused. After all, you want to grab more sales. Take more market share. Grow.
3. Increase your marketing efforts. We keep saying this over and over again here at OPEN, but let me repeat in case you don’t get it: launch a blog, get on Facebook, YouTube, My Space, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Most of these platforms are free to set up. The goal is to make it very easy for people to find you on the Internet, and this is the most economical and easiest way to do it. Hiding out in your office makes it very difficult for people to find you!
4. Join a peer group. Generally in a peer group, the people are equal in power but bring different perspective and expertise to the table. For example, my solace is the Women Presidents’ Organization, a peer advisory group that comprises women presidents who have guided their businesses to generate at least $2 million in annual sales (or $1 million for a service-based business). We help each other grow our businesses. The investment more than pays for itself by the war chest of resources, information and knowledge shared each month. (Disclosure: I serve as the facilitator Chair for the Chicago market). But there are other peer groups that may serve you better. Do a Google or Bing search on “peer-to-peer” or “peer groups” to see what comes up in your local area. And don’t forget about SBA’s SCORE, which offers free online and face-to-face business counseling, mentoring, and training. It is a great resource for helping you start and grow a business.
5. Set up an Advisory Board (AB). It costs little or nothing to get started (revisit Advisory Boards: 7 Great Reasons to Have One). ABs work brilliantly when the board establishes a specific purpose and members are asked to contribute ideas or industry information on an objective and consistent basis. It is also best that members meet each other regularly to share best practices, swap industry standards, network and put forward recommendations. A company that is working in global website hosting, for example, may develop an AB made up of highly specialized programmers and designers. Start with who you know (big names help) and trust and then focus on what you want to know. Encourage diverse perspectives and skills that complement your own.
6. Buy a brightly colored punching bag. When the going gets tough you are going to need it to let off steam (hand-to-hand combat works wonders for releasing anxiety) so I wholeheartedly suggest you invest in a punching bag and protective gloves (so you don’t hurt yourself!) to take a few swings when all else fails. Gives you time to think and get hardy at the same time. If you can’t find a smart, colorful bag, outsource it and start a business!
7. Host a conference call with your key customers, prospects or raging fans. Start with FreeConference (maximum size is 150 callers). Give your base one hour a week of your valuable time on the house! Start small with 25 people, see how it goes and grow it from there. Sure beats a podcast where you do all the talking (educating) and participants just listen. A conference call engages your constituency base, keeps you alert, allows YOU to listen and address questions as they arise and helps you stay at the pulse of what matters. Always end the call with, “Thank you for joining us and how can I help you going forward?"
8. Seek out happy times with people who enable you to be your happiest. Maybe it’s your yoga instructor, massage therapist, best friend, partner, spouse, parent, pet, executive coach, psychologist, sister, brother, local bartender — whoever it is that makes you bust out laughing more often than not — reach out to them constantly! Feeling good is a powerful motivator to doing good. Laughter is the best remedy for just about all ailments.
9. Emulate those you admire the most for their great leadership skills. There are people who keep going even under the most direful circumstances. Why? How do they do it? Tap into that power (take them to lunch!) to keep your spirits up and your energy high.
10. Hang a picture in your office that reminds you of what is really important in your life (your family, pet, Harley, whatever). This ensures you maintain focus, clarity and a sense of purpose as you move forward. I have several nicely framed family photos sitting atop a file cabinet in bird’s eye view of where I work. They remind me each day of the wonderfulness in my life.
11. Put up a sign that forces you to laugh and take action whenever you feel you are at your wits end! Behind my office door, discreetly tucked underneath a jacket, reads: “Don’t let the !@*%!-ard’s get you down!” I look at that whenever my chips are down and I need a dose of “get going medicine.”
Cowering in fear waiting for the phone to ring is not the solution to a problem. It is the problem. Brush up on the tips above and you just might find the solution you are seeking.