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How to survive tough times in business

Running a small business can be a bit of a roller-coaster. Just when you think everything is going smoothly, an unexpected shock can hit your business and all of a sudden, your business is experiencing a very tough time.

So how do you turn your business around when times are bad, and all seems lost? Business owner, Anthony Main shares what he learned when his business was on the brink.

Back in 2016, my app development company was on the brink of closure. Despite the best efforts of all the members of my team, it seemed that there was no way to keep the business alive, let alone make it profitable.

Of the eight staff that I had started the year with, only two remained – one of which was myself. Just when failure seemed inevitable, though, a prospective client signed up to work with us, and the business was rescued.

Since then, my agency has thrived. The two members of staff have been joined by eighteen others, and annual revenue is close to reaching the millions.

My dance with destiny has taught me many valuable lessons, seven of which I will share here with you. I hope that through my insights, you too can learn from my mistakes and avoid making them yourself.

1. Keep on marketing

Even if you can offer the best product on the market, customers and clients will never know about it if you cannot tell them about it.

Marketing was vital for us in the early days, but as a result of overconfidence and no small amount of complacency, our presence on Google dwindled along with our visibility. This hit us hard, and it has been an uphill battle ever since to reclaim our position of prominence.

Generating strong leads is crucial for survival, and marketing is the greatest tool in your arsenal for achieving this.

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Even when you have reached the dizzy heights of being featured on the first page of search results, there is still a lot of work that must be done to simply maintain your position.

2. Don’t lose sight of the competition

We lost sight of the competition and were almost submerged by other agencies clamouring for the low-hanging fruit that we used to simply reach for and take.

Even in emerging markets, as ours was, there will be competition in some form or another. It is absolutely vital that you keep your eyes peeled for any rising presences in your sphere, as they might just grow so swiftly that they overtake you.

Don’t become overconfident; it is naïve to believe that your market share is safe if you cannot remain ahead of the curve. As time goes by, it will require more and more effort to acquire clients as they will have a plethora of businesses to choose from.

The more you know about your opposition, the better equipped you will become to compete with them.

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If possible, it’s worth secret shopping your competitors so that you can understand their processes and offerings to their clients. How does their process compare to your own? Are they doing something that you are not, or are they doing something that you are doing, only better?

Be humble and accept that your way might not always be the best way, and adapt. Likewise, look out for their mistakes, and strive not to make them yourself.

3. Keep the price right

While you are keeping sight of the competition, take care to examine their prices. It is important to know where your market stands in terms of the monetary value of a product.

Clients will be keen to know how much it will cost them to work with you and if you are not mindful of competitor offerings, you may well lose key prospects.

Having said that, it is important to know your value – clients will pay more for a higher quality product if that is what you can offer.

4. Own your niche

Become an expert in your field, and market yourself as such.

When our business started, we had one foot on the platform and the other on the train – we offered both mobile applications and eCommerce, with clients fitting neatly in one offering or the other, but not both.

The business divided, so that each respective division could thrive as an agency in its own right. We were no longer a Jack of all trades, but were instead regarded as industry specialists.

5. Record and analyse your data

Don’t underestimate the value of tracking data within your business, as it can provide valuable insights that you will not find anywhere else.

Creating a data dashboard that is routinely updated will reveal trends and forecasts that can help you to take advantage of opportunities or brace you for tough times.

By becoming familiar with the information that you are recording, you can make informed decisions and rely on data-driven evidence, rather than wishful thinking.

6. Brace for impact

Even the most stable of industries can take a dive without warning from time to time. If you can expect the unexpected, then you will not go far wrong.

Keeping a solid reserve of cash tucked away can help to resist tough times – it’s best to aim for three months break-even, and increase this wherever possible.

Having cash reserves can also be a benefit in times where the industry is stable and business is flourishing. It’s always best having a safety blanket when engaging in high risk, high reward opportunities.

7. Watch the economy

Economic changes can have huge impacts on any business, and it’s important to keep up-to-date with the latest news.

The decision by the UK to leave the EU is one such major event that had an impact on our business, but given there were only two outcomes, we should have prepared for both. Don’t turn a blind eye, as a little nous can go a long way.

It’s always important to look for signs that your business could be failing, as many go through this. Don’t do what we did and keep one eye too securely on one thing. Make sure to take a step back every now and again to look at the bigger picture.

You can only control so many aspects, for example your own confidence in your product, so always be prepared for, and embrace, those parts that you have no control over.

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Anthony Main, Managing Director of The Distance, an app development company delivering intuitive mobile solutions for clients on both iOS and Android.