Perhaps the wisest piece of business advice I've ever heard is this: 'You can't save your way out of a recession or cash-flow crunch. You have to sell your way out of it.' Many of us react instinctively or inappropriately to financial pressure or cooling market conditions. We move into contraction mode. That's different from sensible economic thinking mode.
Contraction mode is typically fear-driven and features back-to-the-wall type worrying 24x7. In that stressed and anxious state, your system produces a whole lot of Cortisol. Which may be great for damping down inflammation in your battered joints, but it has a disastrous effect on the brain. It shortens your short-term memory, will cause a loss of detail on some memory networks and will generally reduce your ability to be creative and find alternatives and solutions.
The first line of defence in a shrinking economy is to ensure that your wits are in tip-top condition. By that I mean that you're in a physically, emotionally and intellectually resourceful state. This is the time to pay particular attention to your work-rest ratio. Chronic sleep deprivation will seriously diminish your chances of creative thinking and hatching new concepts. Make sure that you're getting some protein with every meal. Too many simple carbs not only make you fat, but they slow you down mentally. Look at your routines and immediately see what you can do to switch them for more energising and stimulating ones.
Read something different. Consciously set out to meet some new people. Do what we in the Professional Speakers Association do. Get 5-8 likeminded people together in what is called a MasterMind Group. The intention being that you'll share problems, insights, or opportunities and you'll feel a whole lot less lonely in your battle to keep the wolf from the door.
Make a list of the things you currently do or offer. Then look at service or product 'extensions'. Example, you might presently offer your services to a particular market segment. Could you expand that? Could you tap into a brand new or more diverse market? Can you identify something in your service offering which people will still need to continue buying or using even when their own cash-flow is tight? Can you do some of what you do, differently? Re-package your offering? Give it a twist to create a value-add over and above what others offer with similar products or services?
Make a list of things you really enjoy doing. Both as work and play. Then ask yourself which of those you might possibly be able to convert into a revenue-generating process. Doing something that you really enjoy or feel passionate about brings its own wonderful energy supply. It stimulates the brain, reinvigorates and creates a whole new momentum.
Can you do something in collaboration with others? Even if they're theoretically, or in actuality, your 'competition'? Today that process of combining or pooling resources to offer a service or product to a client (which you can't offer on your own) is known as 'co-opetition'. i.e. co-operating with the competition. I and some associates have done several such things over the years. Yes, it takes a bit more emotional intelligence and patience than doing it solo – but it can also open up a whole new market sector or opportunity for you.
Maybe use such a tough financial period to offer your existing client base a special price, or a preferentially-structured retainer on your services? What you're looking for is revenue continuity. The great thing about retainers is that they stabilise the cash-flow. The peaks and the valleys are more easily weathered when the base costs of running your business are covered by retainers. You can afford to give clients preferred rates on those retainers. They're helping to reduce your stress levels and ensuring the continuity and sustainability of your business. Indeed, the clients become what we all talk about – business partners – even if they don't know it.
The bottom line? When the going gets tough, the tough get creative and resourceful. Spread your tentacles, de-stress, play, exercise, eat'n drink right and embrace the 'threat' as an opportunity and challenge to re-invent yourself and your offering. That puts a whole new spin on the angst!