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Dear Ken Keller,

I’ve held off writing to you because my situation is different from other owners that have written to you. My business is struggling and I am struggling. Sales are down, cash flow is very tight and I don’t see a better future right now.

I’m not giving up, but can use some help. I’ve generated a lot of perspiration but can really use some inspiration to get out of this situation. – Gregg S.

Dear Gregg:

Whenever a person gets up from being knocked down, they are a winner. The individuals who identify and face their problems then work to address them make progress. You’re two steps down the path to being in a better place.

Every business owner has been right where you are, and I venture that many more are in your situation than would admit it. That puts you in good company. You are not alone in your despair.

Owners tend to focus on what isn’t working and downplay what is, so my first advice would be for you to take inventory of what is working. While you indicate that some things aren’t going well, you should count your blessings for what you have going in your favor. There is more there than you think.

The second piece of advice I suggest is that you take time to think. You need to clear your head and do your best to rid yourself of negative emotions. Whatever failures or shortcomings you see in your business, or in yourself, consider them short-term; because they can be.

Third, you need to take stock of where you are, but more importantly, where you are going. The other day I heard a business owner state his goal to “double company revenue in five years,” which is all the things a goal (or vision) should be: specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound.

But you won’t get the clarity you need without taking time to think about your future state and to take stock of things.

You mention that sales are down and cash flow is tight. Both of these are lagging indicators in your business.

My fourth piece of advice is to take a long hard look at your sales funnel. Focus should be specifically on how you are prospecting and what you are doing (and not doing) about filling the pipeline.

This is one area where you should personally become more active. Meaning, you need to reach out to existing clients and start devoting more time to creating new clients. Very few people like doing these things but they must be done in any business seeking a turnaround. Think of it as lifting weights; the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Fifth, I suggest you seek some outside input on an ongoing basis. Your local Small Business Development Center (sbdc.gov) can provide more specific advice for you and I think you will find it both therapeutic and well worth your time.

Finally, while being an owner can be a lonely occupation, you have friends and family to lean on and to seek support from. Reach out to your connections if you need help. People will help you if you ask them to support you.

Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.

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