Hopeless? Take some steps to give yourself hope.

Many businesses are having a very rough time. The small business is probably feeling the most pain right now. It’s easy to lose hope and feel overwhelmed when the bills flood in and the sales dry up. It’s all on your shoulders. Scary, isn’t it?

I won’t kid you, some businesses will not survive. But, most of us will. Here are some steps to survival.

Focus. Stress distorts your view of your situation. You must focus. Remove distractions. Let those close to you know that you must focus. You must have all the time you need to concentrate and clarify your thinking. You must do this. If you cannot focus, you cannot fix things.

It’s business. You weren’t hit by a bus, the building isn’t on fire. It’s hard, but set the stress aside and look at the mess you are in as a puzzle to solve. You must make unemotional decisions.

Preserve your means of production first. If you cannot produce anything, you are indeed done. Make a list of the barest essentials to maintain your production. You can eliminate anything that does not produce income. Look hard. If a component is not producing income, dump it. You can always get it back when you recover. If you are advertising and it is not working, stop it. Do you need a cell phone? Do you need a toll free number? Do you need as much space as you have? Identify your means of production and protect them first. Top priority.

Suppliers. Suppliers are part of your means of production. Keep your relationships good with your suppliers. This is vital.

Place no bets. This is not the time to gamble. Don’t spend your last dime on advertising hoping it will bring a flood of new business. It won’t. Take no chances. You can’t afford to lose anything. ‘Sure things’ only. You can risk later. Don’t let numbers fool you. One thousand mailers is no guarantee you will get even one response.

Service. Don’t let your service suffer because you are. Your customer base, no matter how small, is your greatest asset. Preserve your base. Call customers and ask if there is anything you can do for them. Do anything you can for your customers—even if you must do things for free. Distinguish your service. Something will come from that.

Talk. Talk with other business people. Exchange ideas. You’ll feel better knowing many businesses are struggling with you. Look for mutual benefit. Work together.

Cut out anything that is not vital. Remind yourself that you can get back the little luxuries. Eliminate waste.

Don’t beg. Pleading for business will harm your chances of getting a sale. Present a solid case, offer great service, move on. Don’t press people to buy. They won’t. Pleading will put them off. No one likes pressure to buy.

Change. If it’s not working now, it won’t tomorrow. If your website isn’t pulling in traffic, change it. Do it yourself. If you don’t how, learn.

Yes, learn. Study, read, learn. Add to your skills.

Prioritize. It’s hard to call a customer or try to make a sale when you are a month behind with your car payment. Take care of the means of production, deal with business. To prioritize, you must emotionally detach. (I know, I already said that. Just work on it.) Don’t let the mechanics of your situation bog you down. It costs too much time to fret. FOCUS.

Utilize FREE. There are many means of getting your product or service exposure for free. Use them. Cross link with clients, use MySpace and Squidoo. Try Ebay (nearly free).

I wish you success.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
[email protected]