Dear Aunty B,
I still have memories of the last economic downturn, and am a small business owner with a white knuckle grip as I hang on to stick out the bumpy ride.
If I learnt anything of the last downturn it is that it is all about timing, and having the tenacity and resilience to weather the storm. Having said that however, I would be keen to know when there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
As my business (Curves fitness franchise) is viewed by many as a completely discretionary spend, but I have faith in the product and the value proposition. But the business is haemorrhaging members and I am struggling to keep myself and my staff positive.
Please tell me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and the tunnel is not very long. I feel beaten to a pulp with “doom and gloom” bad news stories.
Hope you can elucidate.
Of course there is light at the end of the tunnel. You have been through it once. And you are absolutely right. It is about having the tenacity and resilience to ride it out.
How long is the tunnel? There are conflicting reports about that. But Diana, it is likely to be long.
So now is the time to take a deep breath and make a vow. You and your staff are going to stay positive. This is a time to prove your skills: that you have ht it takes. There will be new opportunities that will emerge from this downturn that you have not factored in.
Some of your competitors won’t have your grit and determination. They will get taken out of the market and allow you to pick up their market share or make cheap acquisitions.
You will look at technology to automate some functions. You will cut your costs back even further so you are lean and in top shape. You will develop a deep loyalty in your team as the fringe players fall away and your best employees rise to the challenge.
You will innovate – maybe even change your industry. You will emerge from this with more market share and a far better business.
Diana, you also have something else in your favour – you have been through it before. The skills and knowledge gleaned from that provides a very strong competitive edge. You are well armed. So go for it!
You do need to change your business to suit the downturn. Take your marketing. Fitness is not a discretionary spend; it is an essential spend that has positive impact on mood and long term health and saves costs – that should be your messaging from now on.
Now focus on how you can get as many people in your door to suit their lower budgets (while delivering you a profit).
Can you focus on targeting companies in your local area and giving them group concessions on lunch time visits? Can you change your hours? Shorter classes for a cheaper price. How about a mum’s special: 20 minute tummy and bum sessions with child-care and a coffee thrown in for $xx. Make it available when the gym is slow – maybe midmorning. Can you offer people discounts to sign on for two years… that sort of thing.
My advice to you is take your staff on a retreat and brainstorm. What do they think clients want?
Throw away the rule book and come up with some creative solutions.
Lastly, it is important to read the doom and gloom stories, otherwise you have your head buried in the sand.
But read them with a different attitude. You are looking for tips and clues to stay ahead. They become your secret weapon in these hard times because you have your finger on the pulse of what is happening. Many companies (despite our best efforts) are looking at their empty order books and quiet phones and wondering what the hell is happening.
Good luck, and chin up!
Your Aunty B.