Sunday, February 5, 2012

It's Not the Economy, It's You - How To Get Unstuck

It's easy to blame the economy when things are going tough.  However, the fact is that there are still people who survive and thrive no matter what the economic circumstances are.  How do they do it?  They revisit, rework, and retool their strategy to fit the changes happening around them.

If you're feeling like you're in a slump, it's because you're resisting changes you need to make, or you're unable to identify where you have opportunities for change.  

If you're resisting change, than you have already identified what change is needed- but now you need to have an honest conversation with yourself (or your business mentor) about why you aren't motivated to make the changes you know will help your business.  However, if you're simply at a loss for ideas to make changes, here are several ways to change and rework your business:
  • Service Offerings
  • Product Offerings
  • Overhead Costs
  • Workflow Systems
  • Marketing Plan
  • Budgeting
Do any of the items above stand out as something you've been neglecting or know needs improvement?  If so, than you know where you need to focus your energy already.  Below I've provided some basic ideas about how to create change in these areas.  This is in no way an exhaustive or complete list of possibilities, but merely a sample of things I've seen work in various businesses that I've worked with.  As you read these, see which one(s) stand out to you as something you need to do and write them down in a list.  I'll share what to do with your list after you've read through them:

SERVICE OFFERINGS
  • Change business hours to provide added convenience to clients
  • Offer smaller introductory services to allow more people to develop a relationship with your company 
  • Pair down services to focus business strategies, or expand services to reach new markets

PRODUCT OFFERINGS
  • Simplify your product line to make client decisions easier and to streamline production time
  • Expand your product line to offer more customizable, unique, or affordable products for clients
  • Eliminate outdated products and introduce innovative products

OVERHEAD COSTS
  • Eliminate unused or underutilized assets and services with recurring costs
  • Let go of unproductive employees to make room for highly skilled and motivated ones
  • Invest in assets or property that will produce ongoing income

WORKFLOW SYSTEMS
  • Find automated solutions for common repetitive tasks
  • Outsource production or administrative work that is easily reproduced by others
  • Streamline workflow process and production schedules to be more efficient

MARKETING PLAN
  • Create an annual marketing schedule for promotions, social media communication, and newsletter updates
  • Analyze return from previous marketing efforts and eliminate those which do not produce income or measurable results
  • Identify strategic relationships with other brands for partnership marketing opportunities

BUDGETING
  • Analyze spending habits to get a clear picture of where money is going and when- use this information to create a month to month budget for spending
  • Create an annual budget for marketing, equipment, supplies, overhead, labor, etc. to find opportunities to cut back spending or to eliminate unnecessary upgrades
  • Work with an accountant or bookkeeper to help you gain control of the numbers and to keep you financially organized

It would be impossible to do all of these at once, so once you've established a list of the things you feel your business needs, prioritize it from most needed to least needed changes.  The key is to pick just ONE thing you want to focus on changing at a time.  Make that change before moving on to the next.  By making one change at a time, you can give each change your full attention.  Once you've completed a change that benefits your clients, spread the news to reinvigorate your brand and demonstrate growth.  Growth and change attracts positive attention and forward momentum, both of which are great for attracting new business!

Once you know what you're going to start working on first, get additional ideas from PhotoLovecat.com by clicking on a category keyword listed on the right of this blog, or try the search box at the top left of the blog for more posts and ideas.

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business.  She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems.  Follow her on Twitter or Facebook to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

8 comments:

  1. Great article, and it's one that I think a lot of us could stand to hear. It's so easy to blame the economy and the consumer, but we've got to be ever-changing to succeed. Thanks!

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    1. Couldn't agree more. ''Think and Grow Rich'' by Napoleon Hill was written during the Great Depression. The concept of thinking outside the box is just as relevant today.

      I've recently started my own blog to help beginner digital photographers. http://digitalphotography101.blogspot.co.nz

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  2. Thanks for the summary. While some points are quite obvious, others started me thinking. In fact, it´s also not so much about changing myself, but also about changes in my surrounding. Things which worked two years ago won´t necessarily work this year. I learned this last year and am pretty excited about the next season...

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  3. Thanks so much for sharing your feedback with us! Good luck with the changes you want to make in the year ahead!

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  4. come to ky and say its not the economy...

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    1. I know how you feel. My family is from Michigan and several of my family members lost their jobs. They could have given up and spent time waiting for things to get better, but they didn't. They dug in and made changes that helped them refocus on what was most important to them. They may not have everything "the way it used to be," but they are making it work and they aren't giving up. Times change, and it's the people who hold onto the past and stick to the old ways of doing things that end up suffering the most. Those who move onward and make changes, see benefits much more quickly than those who wait for it to happen to them.

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    2. I think it's somewhat hard to say it's all or nothing.

      The economy has absolutely effected bookings and the whole timeline in general. Of course in different areas things are different. I live in Ohio where we were one of the very fist counties to go into depression (YAY!) and we're still far behind the country in any sort of recovery. I used to see about a 12-24 month lead on wedding bookings and now I'm looking at around 6-9 months. The brides either book the top package or bottom, rarely in the middle and there are many more tire kickers than before.

      Are there things one can do to help stay afloat? Absolutely!! However I think it's somewhat hard to make a blanket statement that it's not the economy and it's business practices.

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    3. I definitely agree that it's never black and white. The title is of course to hook a reader and make them respond or read more- but I never claim that the economy has no impact whatsoever. I've definitely felt the consumer shift in spending- but, rather than throwing up my arms because what I've always done isn't working anymore- I decided to make some changes and consider sources of work that I hadn't considered before. I picked up smaller contracts during the week- still doing what I love and working with people I enjoy, but in a different way. The point of the title was that a lot of people get stuck on the idea that it will get better when the economy gets better- rather than just making some changes that could make it better on a personal level right now. It's a cycle- there are booms and busts- and in a boom you can't do anything wrong. In a bust- you have to rework and reevaluate what is actually necessary or good for you and your business, and then make some changes before you can move forward again.

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