Surviving business ownership: What to do when the going gets tough

co-founder best friend

The Commons co-founders Cliff Ho (left) and Tom Ye (right).

Any business owner will tell you it’s not always smooth sailing, and if they do, they’re probably lying — or they have some superpower that we all need to get hold of.

From day one, the ebb and flow of business is inevitable. Some days you’ll be flying, and other days it may feel like it is easier to just walk away. But aside from sheer determination alone, there are plenty of ways to make it work, even if success feels out of reach.

Take action

No matter what it is that isn’t working, never stop for long. Identify what the root of your problem is and work to find a solution. Whether this is a cashflow issue, or the loss of a major client, there is always a way to get back on top.

However, one thing that is important is to avoid making hasty decisions. Consider every option and the risk attached. Consult others if need be, and then put the wheels in motion for your solution.

Revisit your marketing plan

When cashflow is irregular or slow, it can be easy to assume the first expense to hit the chopping block should be marketing. However, this function can, in fact, be the most beneficial to a business in trying times.

As Bill Gates once famously said: “If I only had two dollars left, I would spend one dollar on PR.” Investing in your business, whether this is spending time seeking earned media opportunities internally or via an external agency, is an incredibly important priority.

Once the business is back on its feet is when it is time to consider paid opportunities, whether this is advertising or sponsorships, influencer activity and the like. Until then, PR is your friend!

Find a mentor

In the same way, we all need a best friend, having a mentor during the tough times can be invaluable from both a business and personal perspective.

Make sure that a potential mentor is someone you respect and trust, sometimes this can be a person that has experienced a similar lull in their own business.

Seek out their guidance and make sure to take on board what they are saying, rather than nodding and forgetting their advice five minutes later.

Intelligent cost-cutting

Like any other business decision, it is vital to avoid being rash when it comes to cost-cutting activity. Take the time to evaluate precisely what must be cut and what can remain. You need to avoid doing long-term damage for short-term gain.

Tesla is a perfect example of this. Times are tough and the solution? Asking their employees to volunteer to help deliver 30,000 cars before the end of the quarter. While this may work at Tesla to an extent, how many of us can afford to work for free? Particularly those with a young family to provide for.

Look after yourself

Before anything else, the most important person to take care of is yourself. Remaining mentally and physically remaining healthy is imperative.

According to research by Everymind in 2017, almost 37% of small-business owners in NSW alone reported high or very high levels of psychological distress.

While in recent years, PwC and Beyond Blue found mental health conditions were costing businesses approximately $11 billion per year.

Keeping these alarming statistics in mind, work on your wellbeing. Do what you love to do — whether this is hitting the gym, reading or catching up with friends — to relax, keep your headspace clear and stay focused when you do need to tackle any business-related tasks.

NOW READ: Setting your business apart: The Commons co-founder Cliff Ho on how to stand out in a crowded market

NOW READ: Is your co-founder your best friend? Here’s how to ensure your business and friendship flourish


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