How to strengthen business in a down market

How to strengthen business in a down market

Jamie Davison, Carbon Group

The effect of a downturn in the market has strong implications for businesses of all sizes. No matter how successful your business seems to be, a gloomy market can have negative effects in terms of revenue and the chances of growth.

A loss of sales, clients ending your services and asset value diminishing are just a few examples that business owners may have experienced first-hand. But an economic downturn isn’t always bad.

Opportunities exist all around us, we just have to open our eyes to them. Of course, certain prospects that are readily available in a booming market are nonexistent. Instead, business owners should direct their focus elsewhere.

Here are just some of the ways you can turn a dying market into one full of opportunities for success.

Reduced rents in the property market

Over the last couple of years, there has been a dramatic fall in the value of real estate in most major capital cities. Bad news if you have investment property, but fantastic news if you’re a business owner.

Planning on growing your business over the next few years? Then now is the perfect time to take advantage of low rental rates. We are seeing rent reductions of between 20 and 40 per cent, and the added bonus of longer rent-free periods. Put your negotiation skills to the test and approach rental agencies with an offer; property is much better having a rental income at a low rate rather than being left vacant.

While your business is experiencing a quiet period, you’ll have some free time that can be spent moving premises. Often large businesses end up downsizing office space in an economic downturn, leaving behind up-market fit-outs valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars that you can pick up for next to nothing, if not free.

Outsource technical tasks to an expert

Often businesses try to save costs by piling the work onto one person in the office. An example would be a business allocating high-end accounts payable functions to their internal PA. Finding a PA who can do this high-level bookkeeping is difficult, as the two roles require very different skill sets.

Instead, it would be more effective to engage a bookkeeping firm to lodge the BAS and oversee the bill runs, allowing the PA to focus their time on their PA duties.

It also eliminates the potential for mistakes to be made on the bookkeeping side of things, which can end up costing your business thousands in the long run, not to mention the huge headache.

Clear out legacy expenses

It’s obvious that in an economic downturn, as a business owner, you need to cut costs. The key is knowing where to make these cuts. It would be a bad business decision to make cuts in areas such as marketing or staff amenities and training, as these help to safeguard your business for the future. A quieter time is the perfect opportunity to build on these foundations that are needed to build your business empire in years to come.

Instead, look at your spending habits during an economic boom: those legacy costs where you didn’t care about the occasional $1,000 here and there, or the monthly subscription of $60 (over $700 a year).

There are probably plenty of things in your business that are similar to a gym membership, in that you never actually use them but are still paying for them and can now do without.

Use cloud-based technology to improve internal systems

The increased availability of cloud-based applications means that no longer are these systems only available to multimillion-dollar companies.

Small businesses can now take advantage of online software without forking out the massive expense. You’ll be able to save time and effort by streamlining an extensive range of tasks, including job management, inventory management, invoicing and debtor tracking, which can all assist in maintaining positive cash flow.

Saving on human hours will help to save on labour costs. In addition, you’ll eliminate the risk of falling behind your competitors who have adopted these systems and therefore 'leaned out' their overheads, allowing them to be more price competitive for the same offering.

Pay suppliers early in exchange for discounts

In this market, cash is king. What that means is if you offer to pay your invoices early, often your suppliers will offer a slight discount. This could be as high as 5 per cent on certain items, which again is straight profit. For businesses that have large costs of goods, this kind of strategy can be very lucrative.

Collect money up front or on time

A well-organised collection process is key to avoid being left with large debts or even bad debts, as some companies fail to survive this economic climate. When clients need work done, they are happy to pay for it. The longer you wait after this period, the less likely they are to pay and the more likely it is to take you time to collect it.

Money in the bank puts you in a stronger position for the rest of your business and means you can make more of the decisions above on the front foot instead of the back foot. There are plenty of online accounting software programs that have a debt collection feature, so you don’t have to spend time chasing payment.

So now that you can see that an economic downturn isn’t all doom and gloom, focus on the positives and look for the opportunities around you. There’s plenty out there that can strengthen your business for future success.

How to strengthen business in a down market
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