Nonetheless, as a small business owner you can take steps to prepare for improving conditions and ensure your business recovers quickly.
"Small business owners are essential players in the economy's overall recovery," says Raj Seshadri, head of small business banking at Citibank. "Fortunately, there is a lot that they can do to help their own businesses recover sooner, and to be poised to take advantage of emerging opportunities as the economy improves."
Seshadri offers five tips for small business owners looking to take recovery into their own hands:
- Keep track of all funds that come into or go out of your business on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. "It's surprising how much value business owners find when they focus on their expenditures and revenues," Seshadri says. Tracking expenses, sales, inventory and revenue is vital to good cash flow management and helps you grow your business. Knowing how much your business spends and how much it brings in each month gives you a true picture of just how well the company is performing.
- Make the most of marketing, from advertising and public relations to special promotions, discounts and social media. When the economy suffers, it's more important than ever to continue marketing efforts, experts say. And marketing isn't always about spending money. Consider connecting with referrals using low-cost channels and experimenting in new areas - have your tried YouTube? Have you tried Social Networking? If you cut back on marketing but your competitors do not, you leave a void they can easily step into. Continuing marketing efforts through a downturn can help ensure your business is front-of-mind when the economy improves and customers start spending more money.
- Find a great financial advisor. Many small business owners turn to their accountants or their peers for advice. Some consult professionals, or network at their local chamber of commerce. Others rely on their small business banker. "Every community has advisors for small businesses," says Seshadri. "It's important to find an experienced, qualified advisor you can trust."
- Find a great bank that will work with you. Business banking is about building relationships. A small business owner with a long-standing relationship with a bank can take full advantage of its products and services as well as bring a proven track record to help the bank make credit decisions.
- Stand out with customer service. It's a complaint you hear from all quarters these days - no one seems to care about customer service anymore. Caring about customers and treating them with respect can help ensure they keep coming back to your business. Teach employees how to provide excellent customer service, and make sure you lead by example. In addition to courteous, prompt service, consider showing customers your appreciation through special promotions and loyalty rewards programs.
"Small business owners don't have to wait for the recovery to arrive; they can create their own recovery by taking the right steps toward improving their business operations," Seshadri says.
To learn more about how banking products and services can help improve your small business, visit www.citibank.com.