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Recession Proof Your Business – 10 Steps For Success!
Two years before this recession, our business took a turn for the worst and we almost closed our doors for good. My wife and I own a small custom window trim and bedding business with 5 employees and work exclusively for interior decorators and designers. Since we opened our doors in 1999, we haven’t had time to breathe! We were always signed up for 6 to 8 weeks and without warning the orders stopped!!! No faxes, no phone calls and no explanations! We visited all of our accounts to see if we were not servicing there needs or if they were sending work elsewhere, but that was not the case at all.
They were in the same boat we were in! We had to lay off all our employees and slowly spent our savings. We were forced to take out loans just to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. After 6 very long months, the orders started coming in as if someone had flipped a switch! Our employees are back at work and it’s business as usual, except now we’re in a financial hole and can’t afford another hit! We received a big wake-up call and the news that if we don’t have a good backup plan, we will lose everything we’ve worked for, our home, our job, everything! A very scary thought… So my wife and I implemented a backup plan in case business showed signs of slowing down again. If we didn’t have this plan, we would have closed our doors… We turned the business around in the recession! Here are 10 steps you should take to protect your business from the recession.
Step 1) Create a brochure that explains what you do and the services you provide and target your customers! Deliver by hand to local areas and talk to your potential customers. This is no different than how politicians get votes! I don’t care if you only sell $10 pizza! Track your sales and chat with your customers! Picture brochures are a visual description and should be sent to all customers who have used your services in the past as well as potential customers.
Step 2) Keep track of who orders from you and be sure to note down their names, phone numbers and addresses. Why do most businesses fail today? It’s very simple! Because they never monitored the service or monitored who the customers were! If you think because they ordered from you once they will order again. wrong Thousands of small businesses open and close unnecessarily every year simply because they didn’t follow up with their customers or listen to what they had to say about a product or service. If you don’t get feedback from your customers, you can’t correct potential problems. The worst mistake you can make is to think you’ve satisfied your customer because they didn’t reach out to you or call you with a problem. Most people never will! And you will never hear them again. Regular customers are your best customers!
Step 3) Advertise your product or service. This is a double-edged sword! You may not be able to afford it, but if you sit around and do nothing, you won’t succeed! You have to be smart when choosing where to place your ad. Monthly small supplements in your local newspaper under “Call for Service” or small weekly papers are a good start, but stay away from radio until your cash flow increases. Radio is called “passive advertising” and it is effective, but if you can only afford one method, choose print and always include a picture!. Time your advertising and make sure you give customers a reason by offering a sale or discount.
Step 4) Apply for house shows in your area. Home shows are generally held in the spring and fall and are a very useful tool for connecting with potential buyers. This is where a professionally produced brochure on quality paper with a few pictures and a well-written description will make all the difference! Prepare a schedule and offer a free consultation, free product, free estimate, etc. You must get names and phone numbers!
Step 5) Listen to customer needs! My wife and I rented a booth at The Great North East Home Show in Albany, NY. Several potential customers have contacted us with inquiries about cellular shades and wooden shades. Since we manufactured fabric draperies and roman shades, they naturally assumed that we also sold cellular and wooden blinds. The fact is that we are not! But we set up house meetings and the very next day opened an account with Kirsch and had them send demo books to show our potential customers. We sold 20 cellular blinds, 4 wooden and 3 metal mini blinds, 3 roller blinds and 2 vertical blinds. We had no idea how popular these items were! The point I’m trying to make is don’t be so quick to turn down a sale because you can’t be bothered to find the product! There were a lot of competitors at this home fair, but we were the only ones who offered a free in-home consultation and free installation!
Step 6) Have a website! I have 3 websites and the total cost per month is $30.00! Creating your own website is easy! Be sure to include your website in all ads.
Step 7) Diversify your business! The only reason we are still in business today and making it through the recession! Drastic times require drastic measures! We changed our company from a wholesale company that only worked for interior designers to a full retail business! Now instead of just manufacturing window decorations and bedding products we now sell everything related to window fashion like decorative wooden posts and fittings, cellular shades, wooden shades, vertical shades, mini shades and wooden shutters. We have also added several lines of fabric companies and display hundreds of fabric books for our customers to choose from as well as a complete line of decorative decorative fabrics. We installed a partition wall to separate our workroom from the showroom, but customers can still look inside and see the factory.
Step 8) Offer a service or product for free! Now I know what you’re thinking, how can I make money by giving it away! Well, you won’t make any money if it sits on the shelf or no one walks through your door! We offer a free in-home consultation and it’s on all our ads and on our website. 80% of the time we sell! We deliver most offers via email. This has been a powerful tool for us! Often the fabrics or style the customer has chosen are too expensive and a deal breaker. Having the customer’s email address allows us to select alternative fabrics or styles that are less expensive and email them pictures and new prices with a budget without wasting our time or the customer’s time. No one will tell you how much you are willing to spend until the price is too high! Your job is to find ways to cut corners and still make a profit while keeping customers happy, which is no easy task, but some money is better than nothing!
Step 9) Mind your own business! Find out everything you can about your competitor. Who uses them, what products and services they provide, what they charge, prices, sales, everything! Now find out what they don’t offer or areas where you can beat certain prices or service and go for it!
Step 10) Times have changed, has your job changed with the times? Banks are not lending money, card companies are lowering credit limits, companies are laying off workers, and the news reminds us every day how bad things are! As a business owner you need to change with the times or close your doors… We had to turn 360 degrees to survive. We have researched products that our competition does not offer, or are better priced, offer free services and work twice as hard! The good news is that people still have money and most of the country is working! But everyone there is tightening their belts and wants the best deals for the money there. Rethink! To change! Don’t downsize, diversify!
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