The economy may not be improving too much anytime soon, and so the brain of the business owner is on overload trying to figure out the next right moves. These are tough times. Staying alive with one’s head above water is the goal.
But what to do? There are no simple answers, no quick fixes and not necessarily one right thing, but perhaps many smaller right things to do. The following is a list of ideas to consider your solid surface shop’s situation. You might want to discuss these ideas with your accountant or employees to see what other ideas they can come up with to make a difference in your business. Sometimes it’s not one idea or even anything new, but rather small changes that will improve your business and get it on a better track.
A is for Accounting. Bookkeeping is what you do every day — entering financial information into your software program. Accounting concerns the reports generated after bookkeeping is done. To me, the most important report is the general ledger (GL). It should tell you where your money is going, where it is coming from, and where you can save money, etc. If the GL is not specific enough, your chart of accounts needs to be adjusted in order to get the information you need. Ask your accountant for help. If you don’t have an accountant, get a good one. Can’t find one? Ask your distributor’s accountant to recommend one.
B is for Basics. Find a quiet place. Maybe go for a ride in the country. Relax. Think about the reasons you started your business and your goals back then. Make a list of the things that worked best and what didn’t, what you like best and what you might like to change. Then evaluate your findings. Sometimes going back to basics is as important, or more important than coming up with new ideas. Also, think about your greatest assets — your clients and ask yourself, “What can I do to get my clients to buy more product?” Do they need training, better information about availability and pricing, a better turnaround time? Do they understand that upselling improves their bottom line as well as yours?
B is also for Business. Most people start a business with thoughts of what they want to do and how they will do it, and they understand that they will learn as they go. After all, you are smart and have good judgment. But I came to realize that what you don’t know upfront will cost you dearly later on. Education in any areas of business is a good thing.
C is for Customers. The most important commodity any business has is its customers. If your customers are wholesale, you might consider new ways, or better ways, to work together for your mutual benefits. Call them personally to see how things are going and how you might partner with them for future success. You might come up with a “special package deal” on coved backsplashes; let’s say, maybe a quicker turnaround time (only with advance booking), or some other benefit you can think of. If you have a CNC, you could offer a special on an inlay in a counter or splash. Discuss upgrades. After all, this is where the profits are hiding. If your customers are retail, get out the old contracts, review them, and call each client and ask how they are, how they like their countertop and find out if they need any additional work. Ask about their children. Second- and third-generation customers are not only a terrific possibility, but also a segment that is developed by others every day.
D is for Downsizing. Downsizing isn’t always an easy thing to do, but maybe now is the time, or when your lease is up. Figure out how your business can become leaner and smaller, and still maintain the profit margins you are accustomed to, or would like to become accustomed to.
E is for Employees. Employees are your other most valuable asset. Find ways to make them more valuable to you — cross-training, attitude improvement, getting them to buy into the fact that your business supports them and you, and make sure they know that they are important. Ask for their ideas, and pay attention to their answers. They might know more than you think.
F is for Family. If you’re worried and stressed, probably everybody in the family knows it. Plan family events that are fun and inexpensive (or free). Everyone needs time to relax a little. And don’t forget to solicit your family’s help — there’s no tellin’ where a good idea will come from. Also, if things are particularly rough, cutting costs at home might be helpful.