It's funny, my astrologer friends were all predicting financial headaches and plummeting markets. The stockbroker said, "But all the indicators show the country is solid. It's only perception. It's a good time to buy."
Somewhere in the middle is the truth. With a past history of crazy-loan making, a national debt that is sky-rocketing out of orbit, and an increasing distrust by people against the government, things aren't great. But it's all mediated by your own particular niche. Detroit auto workers still aren't looking at anything hopeful. But in our Seattle area, many industries aren't being greatly affected. I'd hate to be a realtor in Kansas.
My advice for small businesses weathering the storm is:
1) Watch your credit. Banks and mortgage lenders have been coming in and reworking your lending limits, sometimes without much loud warning. As entrepreneurs, our life blood is our ability to finance hard times. Don't get caught needing more money in an economy with retreating loan options. Now is not the time to jeapardize your credit-worthiness being inattentive to prompt payments on credit cards and mortgages.
2) Cut back on expenses. We're a nation that hates to save and a culture that likes life cushy. Do we really know how to eat peanut butter and jelly instead of Starbucks pumpkin loaf slices? It's time to practice what grandmothers and grandfathers did to survive. Slim back all the ways you can. Save your pleasures and perks for the things that really matter. The massage. The new printer.
3) Ask yourself: Can I market to people who are financially distressed and freaked out? Maybe now is not the time to focus on abundance and prosperity thinking. Yeah, yeah, I know the new-agers believe that financial bounty is all about the "energy you are radiating out." But sometimes it is very important to be pragmatic. Not every aspect of life expands and thrives. There are limits and restrictions. Now is a time to face and address the practical usage of our limited resources. Can your business help others ask the hard questions: Where can I cut? What needs to go? What can I do with less? If so, now is a time to rear yourself around and offer clients a tougher perspective and advice. We can survive with less. How will your clients do that?
4) Don't get over invested in these tough times. The markets have always gone up if you look at a long enough historical timeline. This is a phase of the economy. Enjoy the simpler things right now. If your work requires you to be "splashy" and exude "success", redefine and rebrand splash and success with more homespun and down-to-earth touches. Hand-written notes, compliments, and talks set to a magnificent backdrop (ie view of the water) are all low-cost options for impressing clients while also giving that "I'm totally kicking it" vibe. Networking and building business doesn't mean you always take the person out to lunch and pay.
5) Get closer. Studies report that humans do much better in tough times when they have someone to share with. If you are suffering from the fear of a failing business or your reality is temporary diminishing returns, cuddles and jokes are an excellent remedy. This would be the time to attend the sweeter, softer Biznik events where you can process, share feelings, and get genuine heart support from people who can understand your pain. Being an entrepreneur is a wild ride. If you are in an economically vulnerable position, or just a nervous-nelly, then kinder/gentler networking events where people are real and share honestly is right for you. The down-turning economy opens up our defenses. It's a time to let some comfort in, and stop tying so much importance to having your work be great. Share.
6) Talk to an older person who survived (depending on your age) a) the depression, b) that crazy oil embargo, lines-at-the-gas-station 70s, c) that black-day in the late 80s when the market fell so far so fast, or d) the end of the internet boom. It helps to have mentors who've been there, done that.
And finally 7) Don't cave. Sometimes we have a tendency to give up. Now is a time to get more clear, use the fear or the market forces to refine your goals, get your marketing budget tight, stop wasteful red-hearing efforts. Get back to the basics. Put your head down and get those billables completed. Have you noticed, often the most effective people are the ones with big bills to pay? Noone can be lazier than a trust-fund baby with a hobby job. When there is a will, there is a way. You can do fine if you have the knife-edge reality of financial hard times (or just the perception of it). Just don't freak out. It's a good time to mediatate, and return to item number 5 and 6 above.