TIPS FOR SURVIVING & THRIVING
In a Difficult Economy or Recession
by Joelle Steele
Everyone is well aware of what is happening in the world economy, and we've all experienced financial hardships in some way or another. They're inevitable. You, your business, and your family can and will survive these crises. The following are some tips for what you can do to take action to improve and solve your personal and business financial problems.
BE POSITIVE and PROACTIVE
Be Grateful. Always remember what is really important in life: your good health, your spouse, your children, your family, your friends, your faith. Nothing, no amount of money, can ever replace these. Start and end every day being grateful for what you do have.
Take Action. Troubleshoot your life and your business. Look for practical and viable solutions to all your current problems. Remember to think before you act. Time is going to pass very quickly and the economy will eventually recover. You just have to find ways to hang on in the meantime.
Think Positive. Fear, panic, and misinformation are the enemies of problem-solving. Turn off news "commentary" stations like CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews and others like them. Sensationalism and the fear it breeds are their stock and trade. Watch major network news "reporting" or read the morning paper instead (online, if you like).
Want v. Need. Learn to distinguish a "want" from a "need." A "need" is anything you must have in order to make something else happen, in particular, anything for your basic survival as a human being. A "want" is anything you would like to have that may enhance your life in some way but that is not essential to your survival as a human being. Some of your basic needs are: food, shelter, clothing, health services, a spiritual belief, family, and friends. Everything else is pretty much a want.
Value of a Dollar. Think about the intrinsic value of what you buy. What is it really worth in and of itself? What is it really worth to you, i.e., how badly do you need it? Many items are overpriced to recover the costs of expensive advertising. Buy things on sale or don't buy them at all. It pays to shop around and/or to buy used.
Make a List. Buy what you need before you buy anything else. Always shop from a list. When buying groceries, avoid processed foods and junk foods. You're just paying more for the packaging. Buy fresh foods instead and you'll also be healthier as a result.
Buy on Sale. But don't get sucked into buying something you don't need just because it's on sale. Walk on. Whenever possible, buy items you need on sale or discounted in bulk, and buy store brands which are usually less expensive to begin with.
Just Say No. When the salesperson tries to sell you something you don't need, say "no thanks." When your kids ask for anything unnecessary or outside your budget, say "no." You gotta be tough to be a smart shopper, and your kids will benefit from your good common sense.
Use Credit Wisely. You might be surprised to know that if you are even thinking of putting it on a credit card, you probably can't afford it. And nobody can really afford to use credit cards. Now is the time to be paying off bills. Save credit cards for unexpected emergencies.
Have Fun on a Budget. Get the family and friends together and barbecue, then watch a video. Play board games or take up a hobby or two. Go for a walk or run. Play softball or soccer in the park. Learn something new each day. Read a book for business or pleasure — and check it out of the library. I go to the library once a month just to read magazines because I don't want to buy them. I also read them online, sometimes for a minimal cost subscription, but most often free.
REDUCE BUSINESS EXPENSES
Cut Waste. Look for both little and big ways to reduce your expenses. For example, don't buy tons of scratch pads when you can easily take all your used 8-1/2 x 11 paper and cut it up into four pieces, stack them on your desk, and write on the backs of them. Don't waste money on the latest computer or cell phone if you don't really need them. When you do, shop around.
Buy the Best for Less. Don't cut corners on big stuff. When it comes to things like insurance, never cancel it entirely and do not cut back on coverage. Shop for the best coverage you can afford. You don't want to create one problem on top of another should you, a family member, or one of your employees get in an accident or become seriously ill.
Streamline Your Business. For example, if you have a service route, be sure your routes are structured for the least amount of unbillable travel time and the least amount of mileage. Do a thorough quality control inspection while you're at it. You'll get the data for re-routing and will also see how your service crew is doing.
Invest in Training. The best-qualified employees and companies are going to survive anything; the others will inevitably fall by the wayside. Education is always a good investment.
Scale Down. Decide if it's time to move your business into your home. This isn't an option for everyone, especially if you have a lot of employees and vehicles and your neighborhood would object to the extra traffic and activity. But, for some, it's a great way to reduce one of your biggest expenses. If home isn't an option, look for a less expensive office space to rent.
MARKETING FOR TODAY'S CONSUMERS
In a recessive economy, you must find ways to make your business stand out. Here are some current marketing trends and how to take advantage of them.
Client Benefits. Consumers want benefits in the products and services you provide. They want to know why they should buy them and why they should buy them from you. Tell them when you talk to them and also put it in your ads, brochures, and Web pages.
Web Shopping. Consumers are shopping on the Web more than ever. You need to be there too. Create a Web site. It doesn't have to be expensive — fancy graphics do not make people buy, but information does.
Personalized Service. Consumers want personalized service. Make your company more personalized by answering the phone, showing up at installations, doing quality control checks on your routes, making sales calls, responding to your E-mails every day, and generally staying in touch with your clientele. Write ad copy in the active voice and use "I" and "we" and "you." Build client relationships for longevity.
Good Deals. Consumers want the very best deal. Explain exactly what they are getting for their money. Offer extras and incentives (e.g., decide by Friday and we'll knock off 5%; we'll trim that ornamental plum tree at N/C; we'll save the plants and re-use them in the new landscape; we can do the work in affordable phases; etc.).
Going Green. Consumers want green products. Lucky you, you're already in the green industry! But everyone can be greener by using more natural materials and less toxic chemicals. Advertise your eco-friendly products and services everywhere.
Problem Solving. Consumers want you to solve their problems. Take an active interest in them. Do whatever you can to find creative and alternative solutions to their most pressing problems. Let them know that you won't give up until you find a solution that works for them.
Online Community. Consumers are spending more time in online communities. If you don't have a page on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, or a similar site, create that presence for yourself and link it to your Web site. Add a blog or forum to your Web site while you're at it.
Fast Response. Consumers want very fast responses. If you don't respond within minutes — an hour at most — you run the risk of losing business to someone who does. Have a human answer your phone and your E-mail as it arrives. If you must use an autoresponder E-mail, use it to give out your cell phone number and encourage them to call you — and answer those calls immediately or return them ASAP.
Don't give up. Take control of your life and your businesses and make them the best that you can while we're all waiting for the world to change.
This article last updated: 02/21/2016.