Are you limited to survival, or can you thrive in the face of adversity?
Sunwapta Solutions Inc. has been in business for over 15 years. Suffice it to say, we’ve been through a few economic cycles during that time ranging from the dotcom bust, 9/11, the 2008 world banking crisis, and now the current slump in oil prices.
Of course, your business might run into problems for reasons other than the overall economy or trends.
Losing a big client, a key team member, or a strategic move that didn’t quite work out can also put a big dent in your growth plans. Sometimes, growing too fast during good times can cause you to outgrow your cash flow.
Ultimately, being an entrepreneur means taking some calculated risks in the hope for better than average returns later.
So what can you do when external factors or a misstep causes you to stumble?
Over our last 15 years, we’ve faced a lot of problems. I like to think we’ve also accumulated some wisdom as well.
Whether you are contracting, trying to survive, or growing, here are three lessons you can apply right now.
Get Back To The Basics
How do you create value, and who will appreciate that value and pay for it?
Especially in tough times, you need to increase the amount of value you provide to your clients. This does not always mean lowering your prices or giving away the farm. Since part of the value consideration is perceived value, you can add value in many ways. Quality and consistency are two. You can also create strong, value-add relationships with your customers.
Two other factors in your value proposition are whether people believe you are the best choice and will they get the results you are promising. If the risk is too great compared to the perceived value, a prospect will not buy.
Understanding your market and knowing who to focus your efforts on attracting is critical. Not only must they appreciate your entire value proposition, they must also be able to pay.
When things were slowing down for us, I fell back to a quote from “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann:
Debra Davenport: “What if you need a lot of money fast?”
Pindar: “Then find a way to add a lot of value fast.”
Getting more customers is the number one problem most businesses say they have.
Training and coaching do not always work well, because many clients need help with the implementation due to lack of time or in-house skills. To create more value fast, we’ve expanded our offerings to include both longer-term support and done-for-you options around marketing and sales.
We are going to be doing the same things for our other core solutions along with diversifying out of the local market.
Define Your Core
Every small to mid-sized business tends to have about 7-10 core functions or areas of impact that define the success of the business. Marketing, sales, operations, and finance are some common ones.
Understanding your business model and defining those functions is critical for ensuring success during periods of sudden contractions or high growth.
It is essential to make time to work on each of the core functions on a regular basis. This includes understanding your processes and systems, incremental improvements, and looking for opportunities for innovation.
Developing your people and maintaining your core values and culture should also be part of your core.
Each of those core functions must also tie into your overall business strategy to ensure it all works together.
Get An Outside Perspective
Business owners and the people in the business are often too close to the problems to see solutions. Sometimes, we are not even aware we have problems.
The Internet has made it possible to research and learn just about any topic. Distractions like this are dangerous for an already overloaded entrepreneur. We try to wear too many hats.
We started working with external coaches several years ago. The outside perspective, insights, and accountability have made a world of difference. I don’t ever want to go it alone again.
But, it only works if you are willing to do your part and implement the changes.
Group coaching, masterminds, and mentors are also other great options.
Over my 15 years in business and in consultation with other consultants, coaches, and trainers, one of the biggest pieces of advice I have is to focus on the basics and core at all times.
Article originally published in the October 2015 issue of the Oilfield Pulse.