What should you do when a business drought is fast approaching?
I grew up in Cape Town, arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
It nestles against Table Mountain and is embraced on either side by the tall peaks of Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. It is surrounded by oceans and is home to a rich diversity of people who are warm and welcoming and extremely proud of their city.
International travellers fall in love with the land, the music and the residents. Even in the terrible days of Apartheid, the city was loved, with the chasm between rich and poor still evident. Despite this, Cape Town has relied on its charm for as long as I can remember, and visitors return again and again.
In the long, dry summers of my 40 years in Cape Town, I swam in the mountain pools, bounced in the waves, cooled off under a sprinkler and camped in ravines chiselled by icy waters of the steep mountain rivers. I hiked to breath-taking views past deep dams of water that supplied the city. In the winter the rain bucketed down, offering an abundant supply of water for the more than 4 million residents and the hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Today, it is a very different story. Day Zero, the day when Cape Town runs out of water, is fast approaching. The water restrictions are now severe, with a strict and small allocation of water use per person per day. If the rains don’t come in the next three months, the city will be plunged into the worst water crisis any modern-day city has ever experienced. In effect, it will have no water.
How could this have happened? How can a thriving city run out of water?
Here’s the thing; it wasn’t suddenly. For years Cape Town should have been preparing for this moment, and many people knew it was coming. Like the climate change deniers, there were water crisis deniers. Just Google ‘Cape Town Water Crisis’ and you will find stories of mismanagement, of ‘I told you so’, of blame games. You will find every excuse in the book and a terrible lack of taking responsibility.
For me, this story is a powerful analogy for Small Business owners. Business droughts can happen.
It is far too easy to start each year with great hope for your business only to be let down by things not running to plan. Like a city that has had abundant water but the knowledge that it can’t last forever, so we as business owners can become too comfortable, relying on a stream of referrals and a good name, but no having a strategy for the lean days. The lean days do happen. Sometimes they sneak up on us, sometimes they arrive unexpectedly when a curve ball impacts our businesses. I see this all too often with my business coaching clients, and even in my own business. But there is good news…
There is no doubt that a little forethought, a longer-term view and better decisions and actions can help to avert the drought.
Here are fifteen questions to ask yourself in your Management Meeting with Self every week so that you can avoid the business drought. This list isn’t exhaustive, and you would do well to add your own questions to this list:
- Do I know who we serve? Do I know who we don’t serve?
- Can those who want our services find us easily?
- How well are we strengthening relationships with those who have used our services before?
- What can we do to let people know the benefits of our services?
- How do we communicate what will happen if people don’t use our services?
- Who can we partner with to create a better funnel?
- Who can we refer work to when it isn’t our niche?
- Are we charging what our service is worth to our clients?
- How can we add value to create a complete and remarkable solution (to quote the Dent program)?
- Am I adequately covered for eventualities; illness, staff losses, other risk factors?
- Do I have adequate legal documentation and memoranda of understanding where needed?
- Am I on top of the numbers and business trends I need to understand?
- Have I optimised cash flow?
- Have we created wins for the community of customers, for staff and for management?
- Have I listened to my Mentor Within, my own wisdom that is there to guide me?
When a business drought is approaching, be strategic. Do what it takes to keep your business alive, and plan for the longer term so that you never hit Day Zero in your business like Day Zero in Cape Town.
Let’s hope the rains fall before that fateful day arrives.