Many businesses are doing it tough right now, particularly in the Newcastle CBD.
This is what I call a kind of monsoon season.
I too have experienced some challenges of late. After losing my husband and business partner to cancer, I developed breast cancer.
Trying to run a small business while undergoing testing and treatment was challenging to say the least. As well as trying to work on the business, I, like many other small business owners, spend time working in the business.
But you don’t go into business because it is an easy path to fame and fortune!
Most businesses have plenty of ups and downs, often due to factors beyond their control.
Here are five things that helped me to stay afloat and to bounce back.
I am very fortunate to have a passionate, dedicated team of staff, including a couple of senior, loyal staff who went above and beyond to support me and the business.
The years I spent developing good relationships with my staff and training them in different aspects of the business paid off.
As I have always tried to do my bit to support them over the years, this meant that it was reciprocated in spades when I needed support too.
Succession planning and training
Some staff are great workers, some are managers, and some are leaders.
I have always tried to have one eye on succession planning and people development. This paid off when I needed it most.
Several staff stepped up to help run the business when I couldn’t be there. The danger for business leaders and small business owners is assuming you will always be there.
And, even if your staff are willing to step up, if you haven’t investing in equipping them prior, then you are being unfair on them and they can’t step up as quickly and easily as you need them to.
Particularly when you are a hands-on business owner you get used to doing things the way you want to do them. There were times when staff made decisions or did things differently to how I would have done them.
It was important for me to back them in those instances, knowing those decisions were made using the best evidence and the right intention at the time.
Make the tough decisions
When you are distracted it is easy to let important things slide.
I made sure I spent the lesser amount of time I had to be in the business on the things that mattered most.
I still had to put my big girl pants on and make the tough decisions that needed to be made. That included ensuring there was always a focus on performance management.
Spend money to make money
Good financial management and cost control is vital in business whatever the size.
When times are tough, there is a temptation to cut back on everything. This can sometimes be a false economy as business is a longer-term game.
You must spend money to make money sometimes. I think I initially, to my detriment, pulled back on marketing.
One thing I continued was a project to install solar panels and solar driven extraction fans. While this is an expensive investment it will pay for itself within three years, perhaps earlier the way power prices are going.
Being a clean and green dry cleaner is a passion of mine and the project will also deliver benefits in terms of staff comfort and amenity. Given their tremendous support to go above and beyond when the crunch came, this project was an important one to see to fruition.
My advice to fellow business owners is to hang in there. Get some expert help if you need it. Make the time to try different things.
Most importantly, be resilient. You can bounce back.
Jennie Lyons is the owner of Pride Dry Cleaning and Laundry and a former Director of the Hunter Business Chamber.
Jennie is passionate about the environment and has transformed her business into an eco-friendly one, vastly reducing chemical, water and energy use as well as recycling all scrunchable plastics. Pride was the first Hunter business to sign up to the Hunter-based Plastic Police recycling program.
She prides herself on delivering innovative customer service too and was the first dry cleaner to install a red box for 24/7 drop off, pick up and payments. She also provides pick-up and delivery to local business offices