Every business experiences highs and lows. Through my years as an entrepreneur, I revelled in the successes and faced down some big challenges. I've developed some strategies to handle the rainy days, but experience and skill can't always protect you from hitting a low quarter. The impact on your business (and your ego) is hard, especially when your family and your team are counting on you to pull through. But what characterizes a business that survives and succeeds is the owner's ability to learn from the past and make necessary adjustments. Business growth strategies such as performing a cash-flow analysis, focusing on data-driven decision making, rebranding your company and initiating business partnerships are just a few ideas that my colleagues and I have implemented.
1. Perform a cash-flow analysis.
In my opinion, performing a cash-flow analysis should be part of every owners' business growth plan. Doing so allows you to gauge how much money is coming in, going out and when.
My friend and colleague Tomiwa Ojuri is the managing partner for the accounting firm SoluQuest Financial Services. He describes cash-flow analysis “as the study of a business's cash inflows and outflows during a given period."
"The analysis typically begins with a starting balance and generates an ending balance after accounting for all cash receipts and disbursements during that period," Ojuri continues.
Keeping a close eye on the books is useful when the business is doing well, but it is crucial when trying to manage funds during a slow quarter.
2. Look for ways to cut expenses.
Experiencing a low quarter can have a drastic impact on your bank account.
At this stage, every penny counts. After performing a cash-flow analysis, you should have an in-depth understanding of your financial standing. Focusing in on what's working and what's not can give you an idea of where to put your energy, and your remaining funds.
If your cash-flow analysis indicates a deficit or forecasts one ahead, it may be time to cut expenses and reexamine recent spending in order to manage costs more efficiently. Building a budget along with your growth strategy is a good first step. It can help you prioritize needs and cut out unnecessary spending to keep your business afloat through a low quarter.
And cutting doesn't necessarily mean that everything non-essential has to go. There may be projects or tasks that you'd like to get to in the future. Set a goal and keep them in mind. When the timing is right and cash flow is stable, you can strategically take on more.
When you're having trouble hitting your goals, marketing and sales can determine whether or not your business survives.
Another way to keep expenses low is to share them. Look into business partnerships and the possibility of working on projects together while also lowering your output. Doing so not only can help you maintain during a low quarter, but may also lead to new revenue streams in the future.
3. Reevaluate your strategy.
Take the time to ask yourself and your team: Are there things we could be doing differently? Get specific.
For example, before rebranding my female-focused agency Tote + Pears, we were a general consulting agency. But, after thinking through my team's expertise and researching the market, we decided to go niche.
I wanted to address the needs of women and their families in a groundbreaking way. So we reevaluated our messaging and turned to data-driven decision making to find a new position in the market. Then we incorporated our new vision and market research into a rebranding strategy. We changed our previously muted tone to bold, inviting primary colors with images of women at the forefront. Our services and capabilities now match our distinctly intersectional point of view. And we have successfully positioned ourselves in a way that stands out and resonates.
Rebranding a company takes time and money, but the investment may yield an entirely new revenue stream. If you've done your homework, changing your strategy may be the approach you need to bounce back from a low quarter.
4. Focus on sales.
In today's market, there is no shortage of good, innovative ideas. In order to bring them to life—and to sustain them—a growth strategy that focuses on sales is key. When you're having trouble hitting your goals, marketing and sales can determine whether or not your business survives.
Charles E. Gaudet II is the CEO of Predictable Profits, a small-business growth consulting firm that helps business owners scale and become more profitable. He emphasizes that during a low quarter, making strategic decisions is what keeps your business afloat.
“The entire focus must be on sales," Gaudet says. "The team must assess what worked and what didn't by answering the following questions at least a dozen times each—the more the better: Why did we make sales last quarter? Why didn't we make sales last quarter?
“Note, there are reasons and there are results," he adds. "The best answers will be supported by data, not assumptions."
Experiencing a low quarter can make it feel like your business is drowning. But there are actions you can take now to keep you afloat. Performing a cash-flow analysis and creating a growth strategy can help you get a grip. If you pool your resources and examine what works, you can implement lasting solutions that will prepare and sustain your business for the future.
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