2020 has proved uniquely challenging for the vast majority of businesses worldwide. However, every cloud has a silver lining: there are concrete steps you can take today to minimize risk and curb potential losses. We picked the brain of Ontario-based business owner Gurnavjyot Singh and distilled his best five tips on how to make your business recession proof.
#1. Double Down on Sales
If you think you are already doing enough selling as it is, think again.
“One of my coaches, Craig Ballantyne, used to tell me that if you’re not generating a million dollars in revenue, you need to spend 80% of your time selling,” says Gurnavjyot.
“That may sound like a lot, but if you want people to buy your products, you have to put yourself out there. It’s common sense, really.”
And yet, surprisingly many entrepreneurs feel uneasy about the whole concept of sales.
“Yeah, I get it,” Gurnavjyot laughs. “Many people don’t like sales because it’s too… salesy. I used to be like that myself. You don’t want to come across as yet another snake oil salesman.”
“But here’s the thing: as long as you believe in the quality of your products and are not aggressively pushing people to buy from you, there’s nothing wrong with selling hard. In fact, if you genuinely believe that what you are offering can improve people’s lives, it is your moral obligation to help them out.”
“So, be sure to double down on your sales and let the market be the judge of whether your products are any good. If you’re selling snake oil, you will get the memo pretty soon.”
#2. Be a Chameleon
According to Gurnavjyot, adaptability is critical for the success of any business. You must be able to quickly (and intelligently) adapt to the ever-changing market and an uncertain economic climate.
“I can’t think of a better illustration of the importance of adaptability than the Netflix vs. Blockbuster saga. People say Netflix put Blockbuster out of business, but in reality, Blockbuster shot itself in the foot.”
“In the late 80s and for most of the 90s, Blockbuster was crushing the video rental scene. What many people don’t know is that in 2000, the then-fledgling Netflix contacted Blockbuster with a merger proposal. In exchange, Netflix offered to run Blockbuster’s online brand.”
“The Blockbuster people thought that was some kind of joke — and turned down the offer. Little did they know that the future of home video entertainment would be 100% online.”
Blockbuster’s fatal mistake, however, was that it failed to embrace change. The company was too slow to pick up on evolving technologies and changing consumer behaviors. Blockbuster spent an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to perfect their DVD mail rental system. By the time it was all set up, both DVDs and mail were a thing of the past.
“Be sure to make as many of your products and services as possible available online. Also, build an online-based business model: use remote meetings, video conferencing, etc. No one knows when COVID-19 will be over, and by the looks of it, it won’t be the last pandemic of its kind,” cautions Gurnavjyot.
“Just look around: even traditional brick-and-mortar businesses like big fitness gyms are looking for ways to adapt to the new situation and stay afloat with Zoom sessions and the likes.”
#3. Step Up Your Marketing
Now is not a good time to cut back on marketing.
“Other than sales, you also want to double down on marketing — both organic and paid. In lean times, business owners may be tempted to reduce their marketing budget, but that’s a mistake — especially when it comes to small businesses. When the going gets tough, good marketing can make the difference between saving your business and filing for bankruptcy.”
“Remember: consumers are restless. They are always looking to make changes in their buying decisions. The key here is to be creative and come up with effective ways to get your name out there and entice consumers to choose your product.”
#4. Invest in Yourself and Your Business
Gurnavjyot’s favorite Warren Buffet quote is, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”
“Personally, I couldn’t agree more. Social media is a perfect example. At the moment, advertising and expanding your presence on social media is still relatively affordable. However, all the big companies have already started flocking to social media. Everyone and their mother are on Instagram these days.”
Gurnavjyot believes that only means one thing: online marketing will soon become very expensive. “There’s just too much demand. However, the pandemic did slow things down somewhat,” he says.
“Which is why you want to jump on that bandwagon now and invest heavily in your social media presence. Get greedy while most other businesses are still fearful and struggling to survive COVID-19.”
#5. Build a Personal Brand
Last but not least: learn to stand out.
Build an Impeccable Reputation
“Warren Buffet famously said that it takes twenty years to build a reputation but only five minutes to ruin it,” laughs Gurnavjyot.
“Reputation equals trust and credibility. It is what makes people feel safe working with you and has them returning to your products time and again. In addition to attracting more paying customers, a good reputation will help you secure lucrative partnerships and grow your network.”
“One of the reasons Amazon is doing so well is because it has become a household name. It’s an instantly recognizable brand. While you may not become as big as Amazon, you want to position yourself as a trusted authority on the topic you specialize in.”
Create a Personal Brand
But there’s more to standing out in a competitive market than building a reputation for excellence. You also need a personal brand.
“A personal brand is what helps you stand out in a world full of noise and smoke and mirrors,” Gurnavjyot says.
He quotes Pia Silva, the brain behind Badass Your Brand. She said, “With SO MUCH content and SO MANY small businesses popping up online, a brand that connects to a person’s face is much easier to trust faster. It takes less time and effort to build a relationship with a personal brand as compared to a business brand.”
And, as it turns out, you can use your natural quirkiness to your advantage.
“I have always stood out, always been different — my looks, my name, my accent, my ethnicity, my race… and that is what helped me in the long run because I wasn’t like everyone else,” smiles Gurnavjyot.
While there are many ways to start a personal brand, he believes that the best one is to build the right foundation and figure out what makes you different first.
Then, figure out who your ideal clients are. Where do these people live? What do they eat? How do they talk? What problems have they got, and how can you help solve them?
Keep It Simple
And don’t forget to follow the K.I.S.S. rule and keep things simple.
“We live in an age where attention has become the most powerful currency. Grant Cardone, one of the world’s top marketers, likes to say that you should be able to brand yourself in five words or less. Those five words should instantly tell people who you are and what you do.”
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