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How to Survive in Tough Times


Small business is the engine that makes the U.S. economy go, and right now the engine is sputtering along in desperate need of a tune-up.

Because the 23 million small businesses account for more than 50 percent of U.S. sales, this slowdown is rippling strongly through the entire economy. A recent survey from Pepperdine University found that nearly half of smaller small business owners have tapped personal assets in the last six months.

This kind of retrenchment cannot continue for long periods of time without significant job loss and even a double dip recession.

However, the bright side of this situation is that small business owners often dig deep and find new efficiencies that help their operations run more smoothly and profitably once the storm clouds lift.

A well-known executive coach trained in organizational psychology, PhD Michael "Dr. Woody" Woodward, outlines some other steps small businesses can take during tough times:

  • Focus. Small business owners have to wear many hats: salesman, boss, marketer, human resources, the list goes on. The challenge is knowing when to wear what hat. It's easy to lose focus when being pulled in too many directions.
  • Adapt. Many small business owners are so focused on day-to-day operations that they fail to see what lies ahead. Good entrepreneurs are always looking around the corner; they need to keep one eye on the present and one eye on the future.
  • Live Your Brand. Too often a business' brand is an afterthought. A strong brand can make the difference between success and failure.
  • Hustle. There's a great book by small business expert Tory Johnson called Spark & Hustle that emphasizes the basics of getting out there and making things happen. When it comes to hustling, she points out that small business owners should always be troubleshooting.

In good times, small business owners often neglect underlying inefficiencies. In bad times, those vital adjustments can make the difference once the economy improves and competition heats up.