Business Owners Toolbox Blog Discussions and articles to help the small business owner solve the challenges they face as they grow their business.

May 28, 2009

I Survived the Crash of ’09!

Filed under: Thrive in tough times — Mike Van Horn @ 12:48 pm

Here’s how some of the small business owners I work with have managed to pull through the last few months:

Savings. “Over the years, every time we got a big job, I put some money away. That savings saw me through. During the first quarter, sales were terrible–and we can only cut back staff and overhead so much. Without that savings to dip into, I might not have made it.” Custom interiors

Hire sales rep. “Our new sales person has been with us a couple of months now, and she’s beginning to bring in the business. Before, selling all fell on me. She’s best at bringing new people in, then I can concentrate on doing the proposals and closing the deals.” Business insurance

Pay cuts. “At the beginning of the year, we cut everybody’s pay 20%, including mine. Everybody was okay with it. Then, a couple of months later, we cut it another 20%. We were down to 60% pay—working 3 days per week. But my best people stayed with me. And now, orders are trickling in again. With every big deposit check, I’m increasing hours.” Contract design firm

Develop new products. “Business has been very slow this spring. But ’08 was strong, so we had a cushion. My partner and I decided to take a couple of ‘retreats’ from the business and develop new materials. We never had time to get this done before.” Consulting firm

Focus on healthy part. “Our wholesale business has been way down. So we put the focus on our retail shop. We created promotions such as special products and live music on Saturdays. Retail is more profitable than wholesale (even though it has less growth potential). So, it has carried us throughout this down time. We’re actually more profitable now than we were a year ago. The rule for us is ‘go with what works.’” Specialty foods manufacturer

Diversify. “Smartest move we made was to hire a guy in 2007 to focus on commercial moves so we weren’t totally dependent on residential. Beyond that, we had steady military business, plus storage. So, diversification has saved us.” Moving and storage

Cut to the bone. “I kept cutting back on our crews until we were down to just one—but it was composed of all our best people. Even so, I was only about one payroll cycle from being broke. Now, some of those jobs that have been orbiting around for months are beginning to land. As I build up our crews again, there are certain people I’m just not bringing back.” Contractor

Reduce prices. “We cut prices 40%. This attracted a lot of people who were otherwise just not signing up. It wasn’t very profitable, but it allowed us to keep the doors open. I’ll continue this through June.” Training company

Does this list stimulate any ideas? It’s not too late for you to put some of these in place in your own business.

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