There Are Always Alternatives!
Although every turnaround situation has its own ugly, smelly, and difficult issues that require their own unique and clever alternatives, there always are alternatives.
Here is a list of 10 core steps for turning around a struggling small business that is based on the book that I published titled Small Business Turnaround, by Marc Kramer:
1. Write Business, Sales/Marketing, and Operation Plans
Investors, management, the bank, and employees all need to know what the company’s future plans are. They need to see where they fit in, how they can help, and how they can share suggestions based on their expertise that will help the company succeed.
Plans chronicle the good and the bad of the past and set a future vision. Companies that write and follow well-thought-out plans are much less likely to get into trouble, but when you’re already in trouble is when you need a plan most of all!
Don’t think you have time to write a great plan? Tough! Suck it up and find time! Turning around a business takes trainloads of both time and energy. But it also takes a plan! I have yet to hear of a business succeeding without a solid business plan.
2. Meet With Key Personnel and the Board of Directors
You must get the key people in the business together to have a no-holds-barred discussion on how to fix the company. Don’t go into the meeting without a plan of your own. People lose confidence in leaders who lack a plan and vision for their business. The key in this type of meeting is to be self-assured, open-minded, and flexible.
3. Revise Plans
After listening to key executives in the business and discussing important aspects of your plan, revise the plans again before presenting them to the board of directors and employees.
4. Meet with Employees
Have a company meeting, admit that there are things wrong with the business, and discuss how management plans to fix it. Provide employees with relevant parts of the business plan and ask for their input. For an established firm, this step demonstrates that careful consideration has been given to the development of the business. You need to do this to build a real business team.
5. Meet with Customers
Rumors of your imminent demise are swirling around the business community. Key customers are becoming nervous and some are even looking for new vendors. Don’t stick your head in the sand. Inform your customers about your situation and tell them how you plan to correct it. Be reassuring, but not deceitful.
6. Meet with Vendors
Company vendors get very nervous when they hear “on the street” that one of their customers is having trouble. Sometimes word travels faster than your ability to thoughtfully alert the appropriate people. You need to develop a prepared statement outlining the problems and how you plan to deal with them. You will receive plenty of concerned telephone calls. Respond quickly and thoughtfully to all of them.
7. Contact Tax Authorities
If you can’t pay your local, county, state, and federal taxes, notify the authorities. Tax authorities will usually work with you. You’ll be on much better terms with them than if you fail to pay and have it appear as if you were trying to avoid your obligation. Regardless, know your rights regarding your status and your business taxes…
8. Contact Your Bank
If you have loans or a line of credit, call—don’t just email—your loan officers and tell them you need to meet in person. Give them the bad news followed by your plan of action. Appear confident and reassuring. It is vital that you work with your bank when times are tough.
9. Keep Only Employees Who Are Essential to the Business
Figure out which employees you can let go without damaging your business and which you are better off saving money on for now.
Nobody likes to let people go, but for the business to survive you want to keep only people who are bringing in, making, or servicing sales. Maybe you can hire some back later when times are better. Or maybe some you just cut their hours for now and hope to increase later.
But especially with employees, make your first cut deep! You want to avoid having multiple rounds of cutbacks—that becomes psychological torture, as all employees will then fear they are likely going to lose their jobs sooner or later.
10. Cut Unnecessary Costs
Make a list of all your expenses and eliminate what you don’t need. You need to buy time in order to fix your problems, and cutting expenses is a good way to buy “financial” time. You might want to create a break even analysis or even a proforma income statement to help you determine the viability of your business.