Take a look through these tips to help your small business survive (and retain a sense of humour where possible).
Tip number one is to not panic. Panic doesn’t help anything and is more likely to harm your business than the virus itself.
Now, more than ever, it’s critical to communicate with your customers about what protective measures you’re putting in place and how they will be protected when they visit your business.
Let them know you are taking the situation seriously and
care about their welfare. Make the
communication about the customer though, not just about you. I saw one post where the business owner was telling
people they didn’t want to get infected, so customers needed to ensure they didn’t
have the virus before visiting. Yes, a valid
point but the way it was worded would have put me off visiting even if I knew I
Take a tip from this gym who are retaining a sense of humour
(love the last paragraph)
Look at your cash flow NOW
Cash is king. Do not
wait until you run out.
Take a good hard look at your cash flow. How much do you have on hand and how long
will it realistically last for? Can you make
it last for six months or longer? If
not, what can you do about it? How you
cut costs or increase income. It’s time
to get creative and think outside the box. More on this in a moment.
When was the last time you took a good hard look at where
your money is going? Are there any areas
that you can cut costs? Do you have online or magazine subscriptions that you
don’t really use? Cancel or pause them. Are you paying too much for your insurance?
Are you spending money on Facebook ads that have never got you a return on investment? Stop them!
Talk to suppliers and see if you can work together to find a
way to ease the burden for you both.
Reduce what you pay yourself. Yes, it’s time to tighten your
Look at your household budget also as to where you can make
savings. Is now the time to switch
energy supplier and get a better deal?
Again, how many subscriptions do you have. Do you really need Amazon Prime, Audible, Sky
and Netflix? How about dropping one or
more for a few months.
How often do you eat out or grab takeaways? If income is reduced, it’s time to start cooking fresh again (if you can get your hands on pasta and rice that is!). Look on the positive of how much healthier you will be.
Get creative with your marketing and services.
Now is the time to look at doing things differently. A few quick ideas are listed below:
Travel and tourism
The travel, tourism and hospitality businesses are being hit
hard. So are those businesses that run
workshops and conferences.
Where your business simply cannot deliver what you normally
do, create vouchers for the future and promote the hell out of these.
This one is going to take some effort, but if you have
clients who have had to cancel travel plans, how about offering a ‘holiday box’. Create holiday boxes for different countries.
For France, you could include French wine, cheese, croissants and a recipe card
for Coq au Vin or a voucher to a local French restaurant (providing they are
still open!) Yes, this will take planning
and may not be right for you or your business but it’s trying to come up with
creative ideas for extra income.
Or how about a Live the Spanish Life card. Jot down what clients have to do each day for a week in a typical Spanish day. Include dressing up for mid-morning coffee and a light bite to eat, afternoon Siesta, sightseeing (suggest a video set in Spain), go for a stroll and eating tapas.
If you run workshops, think about running smaller groups and
explaining that you will be keeping participants two metres apart.
If workshops etc cannot run, either because you need to
cancel or the participant does not want to attend anymore, offer a credit note
for a future date rather than a refund which will hit your bottom line.
Can you run the workshop via group video conferencing? Send everyone the materials they will need or
ask them to get their own.
If you are in the food industry, can you do deliveries or offer take-aways. A pub/restaurant local to me has already set up a takeaway and delivery service. They are staying calm and thinking ahead!
Coaches and counsellors
If you are a coach or counsellor, continue sessions where
possible via video conferencing.
Record do at home routines and send to members. Do a group online session – could be fun!
Create gift cards and vouchers. Sell your massage oils and products.
Offer gift cards for later use – this can apply to practically
Is there anything you can start to sell online? Products are easy but even with services, how
about doing some video tutorials and selling? Your loyal customers may be happy
to purchase these from you to help support you.
If your clients are virus-free, assure them you are too and promote that cleanliness is even more important now.
Increase your marketing efforts
If more people are going to be at home, more people may have
time to go online. Up your online
Ask customers to support you. There are still plenty of people who aren’t panicking and whilst they can, are going about their daily lives as normal. I saw a post for a pub that explained that they were starting to struggle. They explained what precautions they were taking and asked for people to support them. I visited them yesterday!
The day to day practicalities
If you employ staff, can they work remotely? Test out a system now rather than wait. Set up a remote work policy that covers when you expect your team to be online or available, how to communicate (via email, video call etc), and what each team member is responsible for.
Have an emergency plan
If you get the virus you need to be prepared.
Keep your database up to date of everyone you meet through
your business. You will need to let them
know if you become infected.
Let customers know what has happened, how long you will be closed for and when you will re-open. Assure them you will open only when you have had the all-clear and a deep clean has taken place
In a worst-case scenario, if your business goes on lockdown, use the time wisely. Do a full business review. What has been working and what hasn’t. What could you do differently?
I had a client call me who was in complete meltdown as her
business is suffering terribly already. Once we got through the tears and panic, we came
up with some ideas for the future that she would have never thought about
otherwise. As she said ‘she was suicidal
when she called me but finished up laughing and excited for the future.
You are not alone in this.
There will be people far worse off than you are. You WILL get through this, however painful
the process. Just keep things in perspective and if all else fails, remember
the Buddhist chart to worrying:
This week has seen the very sad news of Thomas Cook going into administration.
And let me tell you if a long-standing firm of 178 years in business can collapse, then we should all sit up and take notice.
Because if it can happen to a household name paying directors huge sums of money, it can happen to ‘amateurs’ like you and me.
In my humble opinion, there are two key reasons for the collapse of Thomas Cook. And they can both easily happen to you.
They didn’t manage the money
The first and most easily identifiable reason is they simply didn’t manage the money. End of! A business is only successful if it is profitable, and Thomas Cook wasn’t.
Yes, that is a hugely simplistic statement to make but I see all too many small businesses go under for the same reason.
They forget to review their outgoings and make changes or cuts where needed such as Thomas Cook keeping over 500 high street outlets when other travel companies moved solely online. They make investments that haven’t been researched thoroughly enough and which don’t give a return on investment. Thomas Cook merged with a company that had only ever once made a profit itself.
This causes the business to sink deeper and deeper into debt and take riskier gambles to try and recoup their losses. It’s a road to disaster.
Cashflow isn’t planned such as with Thomas Cook taking booking payments in the first part of the year but then having huge costs going out in the latter part of the year when income was low.
And owners keep paying themselves even when the business is in financial trouble. Thomas Cook continued to pay dividends right up to last November even though they had been in serious trouble for some time. If the profits aren’t there, stop paying yourself until they are!
They didn’t keep up with the changing needs of customers
The holiday choices of Thomas Cook customers have changed, but they didn’t identify this and react quickly enough.
As already mentioned, Thomas Cook kept 500 outlets on the high street with high rental and staffing costs where most people started to book online. The holiday choices of their customers changed. Rather than the traditional beach holiday, customers started to book more city breaks. Thomas Cook failed to react to this and other travel agents picked up the city break business.
And of course, the B-word had an impact. Brexit! With the uncertainty of the British population not knowing what was going to happen economically, many decided to stay put in the UK to take their holiday. Thomas Cook didn’t take advantage of that.
Harsh lessons here and it is terribly sad that such a long-standing company is no more.
But whatever the size of your company, the basics are the same for all.
Constantly track the finances. The essentials are to track money coming in and money going out. You need to look at ways to make more money and save more money if things are tight. Don’t stick your head in the sand.
Keep up to date with the changing needs of your customers. Trends come and go. Changes happen to your industry. Economic pressures change consumer spending. You need to keep on top of this.
P.S. If you want help to track your finances and to keep up with the changing needs of customers, come join the members club. Don’t get left behind.
As you may already realise by now, I am a stickler for
And I believe it’s the little things that make the big
As Maya Angelou famously quoted:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Think about how you leave people feeling in your business. Are there any small changes that could make a big difference in how you make prospects and clients feel?
service isn’t rocket science. It
really is the little things such as a smile, a handwritten note, or a follow up
to see how they are.
We tend to spend time focusing on wooing our prospects to
turn them into clients and a big failing is stopping this once they have purchased. These people can become our best marketers if
we continue to show we care about them.
Send a thank you card, email to see if they are happy with their purchase or send a client only special offer for a future purchase.
And here are a few examples that I have come across just
Good customer service
Received a package on a low-cost item where they had included a small bag of sweets – nice touch.
Had an online chat to discuss a problem. After the chat, I received a lovely email with the direct contact details for the person I had been chatting to so I could go to them directly if any further problems (no having to repeat the problem again which is so frustrating).
An order was messed up and after trying to find out what happened, the customer services chap gave me false information to try and fob me off (very bad customer service). I emailed a complaint and with no further fuss I had the product delivered along with a full refund to apologise (they have now kept me as a customer)
After a long tiring drive to stay at a hotel, upon arrival the lady at the desk said she had heard there were long delays on the motorway. She said she thought we would be tired so had gone to our room to draw the curtains and turn on the lamps so we could have a lie-down and a rest. A small but hugely appreciated touch.
Bad customer service
I paid next day delivery for an item which didn’t arrive. I contacted the company to find out what had happened. There was no apology but just a barrage of excuses that drivers get tired and sometimes deliver to the wrong address, can’t find properties in rural locations etc. Yes, they said they would investigate where the item was but no refund on delivery cost and didn’t seem to care. They have lost a long-standing customer.
At the same hotel mentioned above, upon coming downstairs in the morning, my husband and I both said good morning to the new lady on the desk, but she couldn’t be bothered to lift her head and smile. She only just muttered ‘morning’ whilst continuing to look at her mobile! This made us feel rather unwelcome.
I emailed to book an appointment with a health and beauty therapist, gave her the dates I was available, and she simply said: “no, can’t do those” in her reply. No other dates suggested, no saying ‘unfortunately I’m booked up’ or ‘I’m so sorry I can’t fit you in’. The message was so short and snappy I won’t be going to her again.
I purchased a product on an ongoing subscription. It was something new and I was a little nervous about trying it as the retailer knew. After my first purchase, the only time I heard from the retailer was to let me know my next month’s payment was due. There was nothing wrong with the product, but I didn’t feel valued as a customer, or that they cared if I was getting on with the product of not, but that they were only interested in getting money out of me. Their direct competitor has been in contact more than them and so I am now in the process of switching.
Does any of this resonate with you either as a seller or a
If you receive either good or bad customer service, take note of it. If you receive bad customer service, are you guilty of this also? Be honest with yourself. If you receive good customer service, do you do this with your business or could you incorporate it in some way?
I’d love to hear any stories of your own that you may have so let me know in the comments below.
Are you showing up in your business the way you would show up for a ‘real’ job working for someone else?
What I mean is… are you completing your money-making and key tasks daily? Even when you’re tired and don’t feel like it.
When we work for someone else, we always show up. We drag ourselves to work even when we don’t feel like it. We might be feeling de-motivated or stayed out too late the night before, but we still show up.
But so many times we give ourselves excuses in our businesses and the work that matters never actually gets done.
“I’m tired today. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
“The sun is shining. I’m off to the beach for the day.”
“There’s a sale on in my favourite shop. I think I’ll skip work and go to that.”
Yes, we work for ourselves to give ourselves the flexibility
that a 9 – 5 job doesn’t allow. Yes, there
are times when you should take a day out and do some self-care or indulge
But, if you truly want a successful business for the long term, you must stop the half-hearted excuses and step up to create that future you so badly want.
Think of yourself as an employee of your business. Would your boss allow you the number of
excuses you are coming up with on a regular basis such as showing up late, leaving
early or procrastinating over key activities?
If you are not working to the same conditions that you would
for someone else in your business, you are giving excuses!
This is the difference between having a business or a hobby.
I see a lot of people with hobbies. And it’s because they aren’t focused on doing the work that matters.
Write yourself a contract of employment. Set out your responsibilities and set your working hours. Factor in how many days off you will have. Set yourself targets and what reward you will have for achieving these.
It’s your business on your terms. But treat it as a business and not a hobby if you truly want a different life than you have now.
I’m asking this question, purely from the fact that if you’re not fully confident in your pricing structure and what you’re charging, this will come through when you are talking to potential clients.
And this is whether you feel that your prices are too high,
or whether you actually feel they’re too low.
Two examples of this.
Example one – no confidence in pricing structure
Just this week. I found a potential business coach for me,
booked a call and the conversation was going quite well. But then it ultimately came down to pricing.
I suspect that she had looked at my website and my online profile and put me in a category of earning six or seven figures, which, quite frankly I don’t. And so she quoted me $25,000, per month.
Yeah, you read that right, $25,000.
After nearly falling off my chair and reaching for gin and
tonic to take a good hard slug I informed her that this was completely and
utterly out of my price bracket. She instantly discounted. And so, I thought
I’ll see how far I can push her.
Within, literally one minute, two minutes maximum, she had
bought that price down to $500 per month.
Now, what did I think? “Wow, this is fantastic. I can now afford her I’m going to sign up with her.”
No! In fact, the
I instantly thought if she is discounting by $24,500 in less
than two minutes, she’s a fraud. She’s making this up. She’s not confident in
her pricing. She has no idea what she’s doing. And she’s certainly not someone
that I want to work with.
Example 2 – 100% confidence
On the other hand, many moons ago when I was moving from
employment to self-employment, I called a business coach who I really wanted to
work with. And yet, yet again, she was out of my price range. I asked her what
she could do for a lower finger, and she would not budge.
She knew her worth, she completely stuck by her pricing, she
said to me, this is what it is. if you want to work with me. That’s what you’ve
got to pay. She wasn’t quite that blunt, but that was the message that crystal
clearly came across. What did I do? I found the money, and I went with her.
Do you see the difference? If people really believe in you,
they will find the money and they will work with you if you’ve got something
they really want. But you must believe in yourself. Instantly going into
discount mode screams desperation, it screams you don’t believe in yourself; it
screams you don’t really know what you’re doing.
Set your prices, believe in them. And as I mentioned, if
your pricing is too low it’s going to come across because you’ll falter when
talking, you’ll feel a bit icky inside.
You’ll think, bloody hell, I’m going to be doing all this work and I’m
not really going to be charging my worth. It’s not a good feeling and it will
come across in your voice.
Go sort your pricing structure out. Be 100% confident that you’re earning what you’re worth, but you’re also not pulling the wool over people’s eyes and just simply trying to rip them off.
The thing we all hate happens. We get a customer complaint. It is inevitable that we will all get an unhappy customer at times but it is how we deal with them that matters.
We have two choices. We can either go on the defensive and potentially make matters worse, or we can use the opportunity to learn and improve our business for the future.
Problems are pregnant with possibilities
Generally, unless there is a fundamental fault with the
product or service you are providing (and which you need to acknowledge and fix
immediately), complaints arise from a misunderstanding between parties.
It may something as simple as an order arriving on a date
that the customer believes is late but you believe is on time. This will
lead to you needing to set out your delivery policy in a more clear way.
It may be you supply a product such as a handbag and a customer complaint is the bag is not as large as shown in the picture. This leads to more details needed with your images. Put the bag against something for scale in pictures or quote measurements.
But whatever the complaint, most can be resolved if dealt
with in the right manner.
I met a client recently who had received a complaint and her reaction was to say ‘how dare he?’ and tell me how she was going to phone him and tell him in no uncertain terms how unhappy she was with him. I can just about guarantee 100% with this attitude that this customer will never do business with my client again and will more than likely tell friends and family never to deal with her again either.
I sat her down and asked her to put herself in the
customer’s shoes. Something had happened that caused him to be unhappy
and less than satisfied. Finding out what this was and how to avoid the
situation again in the future was imperative. She needed to look upon
this complaint as an opportunity to improve her business so that she did not
find herself in the same situation again in the future and to help her improve
customer satisfaction to retain other clients.
And again, very recently, I had someone who lost their key client. Why? Because he dared to complain about the standard of work and she took umbrage at this and had an argument with him over it. She is now left struggling to replace the income he took elsewhere.
How to deal with a customer complaint
The first thing to do is to stay calm and try not to take
the complaint personally. The complainant is usually dissatisfied with
the product or service and not you personally. Try to distance yourself
and your feelings and put things into perspective. Taking things
personally will only lead to an emotional response that is likely to make
Acknowledge the complaint
You then need to acknowledge the customer complaint and apologise for how the complainant is feeling. This is not accepting responsibility but is showing empathy for how the other person feels and letting them know you wish to help.
Get the complaint in writing
Wherever possible, ask for the complaint in writing. Or if the person is complaining to you verbally, let them know you are going to write everything down so you can ensure you have all the facts and do not forget anything. This can help as when someone starts to write, they can realise how unreasonable they may be or how they may have overreacted somewhat. Also, if they are in front of you and angry, they will see that you cannot write as fast as they speak and so will have to slow down, which in return will give them more time to breathe and calm down.
Take time to review
You do not need to give a solution immediately if you do not
want to. You can let them know that you are going to review the
complaint, look into what has happened and will get them back to them with a
response in a specified timescale.
This both gives the complainant the satisfaction that you
have listened and something is being done and also gives you the time to
consider what has happened and what you will do to resolve the situation.
Decide upon a solution or response
Now you need to get on and look into the situation and
decide what you are going to do. This will depend entirely upon your
business and what the complaint relates to. It could be a refund, a
product replacement or simply an apology and assurance it won’t happen again if
If however, you find the complaint to be unfounded, be
careful with your response. Be clear that you have investigated the
matter, fully understand their frustration but then explain why you feel there
is not a complaint to answer.
Respond to the complainant
Do make sure you feedback to the customer within the timescale given or be prepared for the complaint to be escalated upon.
Always stay calm, speak slowly if talking to the customer,
and assure them you are taking the complaint seriously as you value their
Even if you cannot come to an amicable solution, they will
hopefully appreciate that you have taken the time and trouble to listen and try
to do something for them.
Document every customer complaint
Now document everything. Just in case this complaint
does not get resolved and is taken further, or resurrects its ugly head in the
future, make sure you have all conversations and facts documented with dates
The exception to the rule
There is always the exception to the rule of course and you may have the misfortune to come across someone who complains just for the fun of it. This person is just out to cause trouble and the best thing to do is to apologise for the way they are feeling and state that you are not a good fit for each other and therefore it will be best to not deal with each other again. Do not let these people bully you or get you to cave in to unreasonable demands.
Just remember, the customer will not so much remember what
you said, but more how you made them feel. Do your best to leave them
feeling you took the time to take them seriously and valued their custom.
You may not do business with them again, but it may a good case of damage
limitation as if they know you genuinely cared, they are less likely to bad
mouth you to future prospects.
Hopefully, by using this method, any customer complaint you have will be dealt with amicably and gain you a reputation for excellent customer care.
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