3 Tips to Help Your Small Business Bounce Back After a Rough Year

Owning your own small business is one of the most rewarding endeavors you can take on, but no one ever said it would be easy.
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Consult a professional and create a comeback plan for your small business. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Almost everyone experiences ups and downs in their business: one year you may be rolling in the dough and the next struggling to make ends meet. Whether you’re launching a startup or have been running a successful business for years, it’s often inevitable that at some point, you’ll have a bad year on the books.

But when a tough year does come along, hope is not lost. Follow these strategies to help you bounce back after a difficult season.

Thoroughly review marketing and operations

Rodger Roeser, business advisor and CEO of The Eisen Agency, advised business owners who’ve had a rough year to step back and perform a communications audit. This kind of audit reviews the prior year’s marketing activities and business operations and is ideally performed by an objective, third-party source who is familiar with your industry.

“This professional will be able to provide objective insight as to what you may be doing wrong — which could include anything from poorly designed or poorly written [collateral], poorly performing websites, bad use of marketing tactics, unrealistic budgets, poor integration and a host of other maladies,” he said.

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Step back and review your business’s marketing and communications practices to find out what is working — and what isn’t. (Photo: photobyphotoboy/Shutterstock)

While a typical communications audit can cost around $5,000, the investment can be worth it. Not only will an audit reveal areas where your business may be weak, it can also help refine your goals and strategy, saving you both time and money in the future.

As you perform your review, take a detailed look at the nuts and bolts of your business’ processes — specifically around customer wants and needs. Roeser suggested conducting focus groups, performing surveys or even hosting informal roundtables with current clients (yes, even the difficult ones). Go over all customer reviews and feedback — both positive and negative — and see what can be done to better meet their needs.

“If [consumers] are taking the time to share their feelings, there’s likely a good reason,” he said. “If your restaurant, for example, is turning fewer and fewer tables, it probably isn’t your marketing… [It’s] your food, your service or your atmosphere… Running more ads or changing your marketing isn’t going to fix bad food, lousy service or an ugly, dated place.”

Increase visibility

Roeser also advised business owners to be intentional about increasing their visibility in the local community.

“Try something new. Get out and network with a purpose. Volunteer and offer to provide pro bono services. Do a neighborhood cleanup or any manner of making yourself and your brand visible to the business community (and the community at large),” he said. “Your reputation is your key to long-term business success, and these types of activities can go a long way — often costing no more than just your time and energy.”

Consult with an expert and develop a plan

While managing a business — particularly one that has experienced a rough period — can be extremely stressful, remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Consulting with an expert can relieve you of the feeling that you need to know everything and do everything yourself.

Roeser noted, “There are tremendously talented professionals out there whose sole job is to objectively counsel small businesses on being more successful.”

Even with the expertise of a consultant, remember that your business won’t turn around overnight. Bringing your business back from a slow year takes time, dedication and effort.

You can let the challenges and failures you’ve faced overcome you, or you can learn from it by proactively monitoring your business, making a solid comeback plan and stepping into the next year ready to take on the world.

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