Friday, 12 September 2014

Keeping your business going when things go wrong

September – harvest time! Here in Rutland, most of the fields are now stubble, dotted with bales of straw. The village gardens are full of fruit and vegetables – it’s impossible to go for a stroll without being given a marrow, a bag of apples, some raspberries or tomatoes by a neighbour eager to offload their extra produce. Our own apple trees are doing well, and I will be busy making lots of apple compote, jelly, crumbles and so on over the coming weeks!

Keeping your business going when things go wrong

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a blog post. This year has been a fairly turbulent one, and for the past few months I’ve been dealing with quite a lot on the domestic front. This has, of course, had a knock-on effect on what I’ve been doing professionally. So in this post I want to take a look at what we can do to keep our businesses going smoothly when “life happens”.
  • Know there is a right and a wrong time for growth: Recently, my self-employment guru Corrina Gordon-Barnes wrote that businesses go through phases of growth and phases in which we need to focus on maintenance. When big changes or crises occur – which they inevitably do – it is key to remember that your business does not have to be constantly expanding. This is not the time to be doing lots of marketing or to be redeveloping our website; instead, it may be more useful and sustainable to just focus on looking after the clients we have.
  • Remember your colleagues: If we are unable to take on new clients, this is the time to refer enquiries to trusted colleagues – they will be glad of the favour and may well return it when they find themselves with more work than they can handle. Seen this way, referring clients on can be seen not as losing business but as a longer-term investment!
  • Take a break from social media: Depending on what feels nourishing or not, this may also be a time to take a break from social media. I for one find it easy to get overwhelmed by Twitter and Facebook and have hardly used them at all for the last few months. It’s always possible to return to social media when you feel you have more time to spend profitably using them. (However, others find staying connected via social media a great help in times of crisis.)
  • Trust your clients to understand: If you’ve got a reasonably good working relationship with your clients, you will be able to let them know you are dealing with a challenging situation and explain your availability or ability to respond to enquiries may be limited for a while. We often feel a need to present a perfect fa├žade to our clients and fear losing their respect (and custom) if we admit to sometimes having problems – as if professionalism equated to invulnerability. But my experience has actually been that opening up to clients creates a stronger relationship and does not mean they are any less likely to use my services in future.
  • Automate: Times of crisis are when having automated systems really pays off. I’m no specialist where automation is concerned, but anything like an efficient software that deals with invoicing, bookkeeping and even sends automated reminders for you (like FreeAgent, for example) can help free up time and allow you to concentrate on more essential things. I was full of admiration for the way that Leonie Dawson  not only kept her business going but managed to grow it during nine months in which she was incapacitated through hyperemesis gravidarum – through having really robust automated systems and some reliable assistants. 
What are your tips for keeping your business going in times of crisis? How do you ensure your professional life remains on an even keel when everything else is going topsy-turvy? I’d love to hear your suggestions!