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Business decline – practical tips to plug holes in a sinking ship

If, no matter how hard you try, customers are leaving in droves, profits are falling and staff morale has hit an all time low – your business is showing distinct symptoms of one in decline.

So, what now? First of all, don’t panic! Keep calm and come up with a strategy to turn things around.

Identify what’s at the route of your problems. This could be due to one or any combination of the following:

  • Falling customer demand
  • A saturated market
  • Poor customer service
  • Cheaper, better products offered by the competition
  • More innovative products entering the market
  • Poor product quality
  • Inefficient operations
  • Unreliable delivery
  • Poor reputation or bad publicity

The list goes on…

Once you’ve worked out where the issues lie, you can make a start on sorting out the problems.

First and foremost you have to have a product or service that people want to buy. Be honest with yourself – have you really got something special?

If the answer is no, you need to make a quick decision to change direction – find another product or service, or adapt what you have to be more appealing to the market.

If there is a genuine market for your product or service, yet you’re just not making sales, then there’s something wrong with the way that your business is being run.

So look at this as a great opportunity to put things right. Here are some common issues that I’ve helped my clients address to turn their fortunes around:

Reducing staff numbers. It’s hard letting people go, but a restructure is an opportunity to re-evaluate the purpose of each role and department to see where the business is not performing or delivering an ROI. Set targets to measure against performance – it’s the most effective way of assessing where improvements can be made.

And if you need to reduce numbers, remember to motivate your remaining staff at the same time to ensure morale is not affected, and seek the advice of an HR professional if you don’t have one in the business, to ensure you comply with employment legislation.

Customer service – if you’re in a competitive market, your customers will vote with their feet if they’re not receiving high standards of customer service. Train your staff properly to ensure they’re motivated, knowledgeable and professional at all times.

Operations – Hone your operations to ensure deliveries are made on time every time, with little waiting times between orders placed and goods delivered.

Expand product portfolio – Partner with a product innovator to expand your product portfolio – the broader it is, the more resilient it is to changes in customer behaviour.

Sales strategy – Are your sales teams delivering boring power point presentations, are they selling confidently, do they know how to build relationships with their customers effectively? Do they know how to identify buying behaviours to adapt their own style? Do they have comprehensive product knowledge and are they incentivised with targets and bonuses?  Review their performance and consider further training to make them more effective.

Image – Is your company identity stuck in the past? It could be time for a re-launch of your corporate identity – to appeal to a different, more discerning market.

Marketing – What marketing channels are you using – are you still advertising in good old Yellow Pages? It’s time to embrace new online marketing opportunities – they are far more cost effective. If people can’t find you, it could be the simple reason why your sales have taken a dive.

A business in decline needs good strong management to turn it around. It needs leaders with vision and the wherewithal to inspire those in the business to devise and adopt the necessary changes.

If your business is stuck in a rut, the good news is there are still ways to make it work. Act now to avoid further decline, you can make a difference.

And if you need help planning your rescue strategy, we’re here, just call.

Coming soon – How to achieve a positive outcome when a business reaches its end

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