A Dozen Strategies for Growth and
Financial Success in a Difficult Economy
~ Featuring After-Covid-19 Tips and Resources ~
“Now is a great time to move forward with new ideas—a time to try new things you’ve never considered before, a time to create new products and services that will meet the specific needs of today’s hurting consumers and businesses. Take another look at all the skills, business experience, and “life know-how” you possess and see what you can do with it.” – Barbara
Managing a Home Business involves much more than marketing and selling a product or service. Special business strategies must be developed for growth and greater financial success in both good times and bad. The pandemic forced all of us to think differently about everything. While many large and small businesses alike were forced to close in 2020, home business owners fared much better simply because they’ve always had to be flexible in how they worked; always had to be ready to rethink their product line or the way products and services were produced and marketed.
But even if everything came to a complete stop for you during Covid, remember that being forced to put a CLOSED sign on your door or website doesn’t mean you’ve lost the ideas, skills, and know-how you developed in starting that business in the first place. If you did it once, maybe it’s worth doing again.
“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.” – John Heywood, English playwright and poet
I speak from experience here. The magazine publishing business my late husband and I started in 1971 didn’t survive the recession of 1974-75. But I got creative and figured out how to close Artisan Crafts magazine and not have to refund any subscriber money by publishing a special three-issue CraftsSpirit ‘76 Bicentennial issue. Yes, my spirit was broken when we declared this venture to be a “literary success but a financial flop” after five of the hardest-working years I’d had to that point. But that’s when I learned one of the most important lessons of my life: Failure is always a beneficial experience when it teaches you what NOT to do the next time around.
If not for that magazine experience and all that I learned about myself and my abilities in the process of starting and then shutting down my first business—plus all the people in the crafts industry that I met during that period who later helped me up the ladder of success—I would not have written my first book or be here on the web today.
I think many who suffered great financial loss or had to close their business permanently because of Covid-19 should take another look at all the skills, business experience and “life know-how” they possess and see what they can do with it.
If you are self-employed now in a homebased business, you have a kind of insurance salaried job holders will never have. I believe now is a great time to move forward with new ideas, a time to try new things you’ve never considered before, and a time to create new products and services that will meet the specific needs of today’s hurting consumers and small businesses.
To get started on a new plan for moving forward, first count your friends and family as riches worth more than gold. Talk to them about your plans and let them be an encouragement to you. Focus on finding all the positive things in your life that you can bank on emotionally until our world finds its footing again and a “new normal” finally comes into view.
Hard Times Spark One’s Natural Creativity
Certainly, people get more creative in tough times. Just consider all the creative things we saw people do as a direct result of being quarantined because of Covid-19 when they had more time than usual to just sit and think. I’m sure your mind was spinning as you sat out the national shutdown and worried about how you were going to “get through this together” with your family, friends, and the people you were working with or serving through your business. But you did get through it, and if your home business was dramatically affected, I believe the creativity it took for you to do that will get you back on track after any business setback you may have had.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean
Actually, I too had to start all over again in 2020. I’ve always hated change, but I’ve also had to deal with it throughout my life as a self-employed writer and publisher who has always done everything herself. Last year I had to make a couple of big changes in the way I’d be working on the web for the rest of my life.
It was emotionally painful to have to close the home-business-oriented website I launched in 2000 and worked so hard on for nearly 20 years, but my life, work, and writing interests had already changed so much in early 2019 that I knew I would soon need a new website that would reflect those changes. Even before Covid changed all our plans for how we had to live and work, I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever find new clients for my services after restarting my business on a new domain name that was close to but longer than the simple BarbaraBrabec.com I’d had for twenty years. But I went ahead with a positive attitude because I don’t know any other way of living.
Certainly I can’t stop doing the kind of work I’ve loved to do for most of my adult life, which is to write, publish what I write, and then try to find enough readers to make the writing worthwhile. But even if few ever read what I write, I’ll continue to write until God Himself shuts me down.
A Practical Marketing “To-Do List”
Good Advice from a Fortune Cookie: “You’ll accomplish more if you start now.”
The following marketing ideas and business strategies (adapted from my Homemade Money books) worked for me when I found myself in a difficult financial situation during the great economic recession of 2008. They offer timeless ideas on how to rebuild, expand, or diversify a homebased business. (See supplemental information in the “Suggested Reading” list below.)
#1: If lack of money is your biggest problem at the start, explore your many options for financial assistance by doing a web search for “Covid-19 relief options.” (A check in late 2021 turned up 77 million links, starting with SBA options/grants. That number increased to 162 million by November 2022. Clearly, a lot of people are in the same “after-Covid boat” today.)
#2: Think positively with a never-give-up attitude! Get serious about networking with anyone you know who understands your industry and what you’re experiencing now. Stay encouraged and motivated by enlisting the aid of those who believe in you and what you are doing—friends, family, and especially business friends and associates with similar problems.
#3: Update your website and dig out your client or customer mailing list. Let everyone know you’re restarting (or perhaps simply “repositioning”) your business and need their support. Figure out ways to let others help you grow, perhaps by working with some on a referral-commission basis. Enable them to give you word-of-mouth advertising.
#4: Size up your competition. Consider working cooperatively with competitors in the same line of business but with a market or buying audience different from yours. As you communicate with them, pay attention to how they’re marketing. Perhaps you can identify a segment of the market they aren’t reaching or one of their weak points that you can turn into a selling point for your business.
#5: Study your financial figures. Pinpoint your strongest, most profitable products and services and make a special money-saving offer on one or more of them. More sharply identify your special industry niche and customer prospects; then intensify your sales and marketing activities in this direction.
#6: Look for ways to cut costs in every area of your business to increase profits as you move forward.
#7: Remain consistent in the quality of your products and services and further develop your own special style of doing business. In the end, people do business with people, not “companies” or “businesses.”
#8: Keep looking for new ways to sell everything. The possibilities are enormous and often overlooked.
#9: Get serious about managing your business. Make things happen by first making plans, then implementing them.
#10: Consider what you learned during the shutdown. Perhaps you had a few brainstorms worth developing now, something totally different from what you offered for sale in the past, but something that utilizes your special skills, knowledge, and experience? If so, consider introducing a new service or product specifically related to the needs of your former customers or clients. Or maybe start a small related sideline business, following the example of how a successful TV show leads to a related spin-off.
Two Additional Strategies to Try
• Focus on follow-ups. Consultant Bob Bly suggests this follow-up strategy, particularly effective in hard times: “Help existing clients or customers create new sales for you. Call existing accounts with new ideas that will benefit them while requiring them to buy more of what you’re selling. They get your ideas, suggestions and solutions to problems at no charge, while you sell more of your product or service to help them implement the idea you suggested.”
• Don’t lower your prices. Whether you’re a self-employed professional who offers products and services to the business community, or a home business owner whose market is largely comprised of consumers, you have every reason to be concerned about where your next client, customer, order or contract is going to come from. If you’re currently thinking twice before you buy anything, you can bet that many of your existing and prospective customers or clients are thinking along the same lines. Many . . . but not all.
When business is sluggish, and particularly in hard economic times, many sellers lower their prices in hopes of selling more products or services. Before you do this, however, stop and consider that a lowering of prices by 20 percent will mean that you have to bring in more than a 20 percent increase in sales just to offset your loss of revenue. It’s tough to increase sales by 20 percent in a good year; in a year when people are hurting for money, it’s likely to be impossible. A better strategy, I’ve found, is to keep your prices the same, but introduce new and less expensive variations of your stand-by products and services.
For example, during one recession I learned that while fewer people purchased my books, more of them purchased my inexpensive line of special reports (created as a result of my dire need for income at the time). Surprisingly, they often spent more on several reports than they would have spent on a book, indicating that lack of dollars was not the only issue here. I learned then that people don’t stop buying in a recession, but they do become much more careful about how they spend the limited dollars they have.
Remember this: Even if you now feel financially strapped, there are millions of people who got paid throughout the shutdown and have plenty of money to spend. There will always be some buyers with money to spend. Whenever you can zero in on the special needs and interests of your customers or clients and offer them a product or service at an affordable price, they will find the money to buy it.
Finally . . . if you do not always meet your financial goals, remember that you’re doing fine if you can simply hold your position in the face of increasing competition or a lagging economy. Longevity in one’s business is an important success factor.
A Story to Quit On
Millions of people lost a significant portion of their investment portfolios during the “Black October” stock market crash and the great recession of 2008 and were still having trouble coming to terms with this loss in 2012, myself included. Many who’d lost their jobs in 2008 were still unemployed in 2012 when our economy was at risk for another full-blown recession. It appeared then that few Americans would ever be able to make up their losses.
But there are always two ways to look at something, as this little story illustrates. One day in a message to her son, Jeffrey Wakeman, my sister Mollie lightly commented on this topic saying, “We are worth less every day.” To which Jeffry quickly sent the following response:
“You are NOT worth less every day. Your material assets and financial instruments might be depressed in terms of how many other goods and services they can buy, but the value of your wisdom and your love should only increase in the face of life’s challenges.
“We are incredibly rich. And even when ‘the market’ tanks and elected representatives reveal themselves to be more consistent than excellent, even if we have to take fewer trips or drink less wine or (shudder) eat less fancy cheese, there’s still an overwhelming cornucopia of happiness and nourishment at hand.
“If we have to live in tent cities and grow our own vegetables, we’ll still find stuff to be happy about if we so choose. Books and old movies, laughter and raindrops, sunshine and silence. We’d still be better off than a lot of folks, and we’d probably be better people than we are now.
“And if we don’t have to live in tents, even better! News is for suckers. Knowledge is useful. Wisdom is power.”
Let this sweet writing be a reminder of how much you have to be thankful for this year in spite of what Covid-19 may have cost you.
Moving Forward Positively in Your Homebased Business. This historical yet timely article offers perspective from some of Barbara’s subscribers on how they were adapting to changing Covid-19 conditions in the fall of 2020 and their plans for moving forward. It features current home-business stats and business perspective with tips and article links of interest to anyone working at or from home base.
The Need for Change as You and Your Business Grow Older. One’s homebased business will always be affected by changes in your personal or family life. Add aging, changing technology, market conditions, and the economy to the picture and you quickly see there’s a lot to think about and plan for if you’re in business for the long haul.
Suggested Reading on the Web:
• 10 Ways It Pays to Work with Your Competitors
• Six Ways to Get More Word-of-Mouth Referrals
• 10 Ways to Get Word of Mouth for Your Business
• 6 Ways to Rebuild Your Small Business after COVID-19
• 5 Creative Ways Small Businesses are Succeeding during the Covid-19 Quarantine
• 3 Trend Forecasters on the Business World after Coronavirus” (expert prognosticators take a future-forward look at our potential post-COVID-19 new normal: ‘At times of crisis we see innovation flourish.’)
First published in 2013; updated in 2021.