6 things to do in difficult times

In this article, advice on 6 simple things to think about as you steer your wet leisure business through these difficult times.

When the going gets tough…

We were all promised that 2012 would be a difficult year and the first quarter has seen it live up to expectations for many of us in the wet leisure industry.

Hosepipe bans and drought orders don’t affect us all equally, but the financial and economic climate cuts across all sectors of the industry.

It’s understandable to see these things as a ‘force of nature’ and as something that is outside our control and in some ways, that’s absolutely true.

But our businesses are under our control and there are things that can be done.

Businesses are constantly changing whether we want then to or not. New products come along, new trends come along and new competitors arrive on the market.

A good business will constantly evolve to reflect changes in the market, and if it doesn’t, then problems can arise. In the last month or so, even Tesco has fallen foul of not keeping up with a changing world.

So there are things that we all could be doing, possibly should be doing, not only to survive but ideally to thrive in this year and the future.

You could call this ‘strategic planning’ or you could call it ‘common sense’

Here are 6 simple questions to ask yourself. The answers you come up with will be unique to your own business because all businesses are different, but in one or two of those answers could lie the key to a stronger, brighter future.

1. What is going to happen?

Most of us spend all day asking ourselves that question and in the main, it applies to the immediate future.

Solving today’s problems regarding customer queries, staff issues and practical problems doesn’t leave much time for anticipating a wider view of the future.

But the future is where we are going to have to do business.

To see the future, you have to look up from the present. Put aside an hour or two every week to look for game-changing information at the periphery of the industry.

Look at what is going on in other countries and look at what is happening in other industries that might share similarities to your own. What are the new trends across the leisure, lifestyle and health markets?

Spread your network outside of the industry. For instance, you could engage with people who are working with rain harvesting or renewable energy.

You aren’t trying to be a fortune-teller, but if you have a feel of how the future might be, that can help you steer a path towards it.

2. Do I really believe that?

Conventional wisdom is simply believing in the same things as everyone else.

Business habits and traditions are as often bad as they are good.

There are quite often things about our businesses that we don’t challenge or question because we know them to be true. But what if they aren’t or the world has changed and so they are no longer true?

Question everything. Look at things from a different perspective. Say, ‘what if…’ a lot.

3. What does it all mean?

Try to interpret what you learn and what you see around you in the business sphere.

Look for patterns and then draw conclusions.

Look at your books and see if there are any patterns there. They say that for most businesses, 80% of the revenue will come from 20% of the customers.

Are there product lines that are really not worth carrying and are there some types of customer that it’s not worth your while attracting?

It’s easy to see any sale as a good sale and any customer as a good customer, but if you have a limited amount of resource then perhaps you should focus all your efforts on the business that turns the best profit, and let some of the rest go.

4. What are we going to do about it?

Make a decision and do it.

In a recession or economic downturn or indeed any difficult times, the worst thing you can do is ‘nothing’.

Of course you try to make a good decision, the right decision, but it is better to decide on a course of action and follow it through than just to let outside influences steer your business.

5. Are we all together on this?

It is important that your staff and the people who work with you know how you see the future of the business, what your plans are and how they are expected to help.

Your sales team and service engineers know the market. They know how your customers are feeling, what they are interested in and what new products or services are most likely to appeal to them.

The people in your office will have a feel for cash flow and how orders are coming in.

If you ask them for their ideas and their input, not only will they give you valuable insights but they will feel more involved and give greater support to the decisions that you take.

A strong team is one of the best assets you can have in tough times.

6. What can we learn from all this?

Businesses that survive a recession, maybe even grow during one, learn lessons that are seldom taught during more prosperous times.

It could be said that we should all be running leaner, more agile businesses; be smarter at marketing and more responsive to changes in the market no matter what the economic climate, but the reality is that it is easy to become comfortable with ‘the way things have always been’ and it takes challenges to make us improve and evolve.

These six simple questions could make you see your business more clearly and the more clearly, we see a situation, the more clearly we can see our way as to what to do about it.

Change isn’t always comfortable, but we live in a world that is changing all the time and that pace of change is increasing.

We either take control of the changes or are controlled by a changing world.

We hope that the ideas in this article are useful for you.