Each week at Biashara 360, we host Learning Wednesday which is a live webinar where experts come to teach strategies women can use to thrive in life, work, or business.

Our theme for this month is Secrets of Self-Employment and we’ve had both learning and interviews with women in business, myself included.

As I reviewed the questions people asked as they registered for the webinar, I noticed the following common themes.

  • How to overcome the fear of failure.
  • How to overcome failure.
  • Starting a business.
  • How to choose the best business to start.
  • How to run a side hustle while in full-time employment.
  • Where to get starting capital.
  • How to keep going when the economy is poor (especially when sales are going down and you feel like giving up).
  • How to avoid or manage burnout.
  • Work-life balance (especially managing being a wife and mother while growing your business).
  • How to set up systems and processes to ensure the business can run without you.

The majority of our webinar attendees come from our WhatsApp community so I decided to give additional tips and resources there each week.

The first resource was a voice note that looked at what I believe is the most critical of the challenges that people mentioned during registration which is…

How to keep your small business going when the economy is poor

I picked this first because that is something that is really biting, and it’s impacting people’s livelihoods directly. It’s also in line with the Biashara Clinic I’m hosting in September.

My assumption is that most of the people in this situation have their business as their main source of income. You may not have the luxury of a job. And even if you have a spouse or partner who pays all the bills, still you would not want to have a business that is not giving you good money.

Another reason why I think this is critical is because sales are the lifeline of a business. Without sales, you actually don’t have a business…and if this continues for long without sales, then what you will have is not a business. It will be a very expensive hobby!

So how can you keep going when:

  • The economy is tanking.
  • You’re losing customers.
  • Bills must be paid.
  • You need an income.
  • And things are just not adding up in your business.

That’s a very tough space to be and I’ve been there many times in my business life!

The reality of business is that running a small business isn’t easy, even during the best of times.

Any business owner will tell you that the business arena is challenging. Running a business is challenging. And running a small business is even more challenging.

As a business owner, you must manage a thousand pieces that are all moving.

  • You must ensure that you stay on top of your cash flow.
  • Then there’s overseeing employee performance if you have employees.
  • Of course, we cannot forget sales.
  • You definitely must keep marketing if you expect to make any sales now and in the future.
  • And there are so many other factors!

Many owners, especially solopreneurs or those who have very small teams struggle to manage all the different elements of their business. And sadly, the business struggles as a result.

It doesn’t get easy during challenging times

Sometimes, there comes a situation when circumstances get tough, and running a business becomes an even greater challenge.

Right now, we’re still reeling from the health and economic impact of the pandemic. Then there’s the war between Russia and Ukraine which has messed up supply chains and so many other things. And then there are global and local economic and political challenges in many countries, Kenya included.

The truth is that many businesses have survived similar and even worse circumstances. Some of these businesses have even thrived. And yours can survive and thrive too.

For example, in 2020, some of my clients lost all their business the day the first lockdown was announced. Imagine having customers in the morning and not a single customer by the time you go to sleep.

It was a tough start, but they pivoted, survived, and have thrived as a result of the measures they put in place then. I too had to pivot fast and 2020 was my best year ever despite the challenges that came with the pandemic.

What I’m saying is that your business can make it through hard times. Of course, this may not be the case if your business situation is beyond ICU. However, if you’re just having a hard time, still working on your business, and you haven’t messed up, there is hope, but you know that if you don’t change now, very soon you will be in very dire circumstances.

That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy to turn things around. You will need to get creative, make tough decisions, and you will have to take decisive action NOW.

In the book How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins says:

“The signature of the truly great versus the merely successful is not the absence of difficulty, but the ability to come back from setbacks, even cataclysmic catastrophes, stronger than before. Great nations can decline and recover. Great companies can fall and recover. Great social institutions can fall and recover. And great individuals can fall and recover. As long as you never get entirely knocked out of the game, there remains always hope.”

That echoes what I said earlier. As long as your business is not beyond the ICU, you can recover, and you can thrive.

Having said that, how do you manage the situation?

Here are 5 strategies that can help you push through and survive during tough times. Any of these strategies will help you. A combination of them all will supercharge your rate of turnaround.

1.    Manage Your Mindset

Your mindset can make or break you. So it’s important to avoid negativity in any form especially when times are tough.

This includes not allowing yourself to spiral into negative thoughts because that only leads to pessimism. When you’re in such a state, you will have a hard time working a way out and even miss out on opportunities.

Find a way to adopt a more positive and solution-oriented mindset. Acquire a growth mindset.

One tactic you can use is to read stories or biographies of people who overcame tough times to grow their businesses.

Also, keep reminding yourself of why you got into business in the first place. Things may be tough, but the Vision that you had when you started the business can help rekindle the fire inside you.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up

2.    Clarify the Problem

You cannot create a solution if you don’t know what the exact problem is. While the economy may be tough, different people and different businesses are impacted in different ways, all at the same time.

Take some time to think about how you got to where you currently are:

  • What is it that happened that you didn’t anticipate?
  • What are the things that went wrong?
  • Are there signs you may have missed?

Don’t just evaluate yourself in your head. Be very candid and objective. Talk to your team if you have one. Your team probably has more experience with your customers than you do.

Additionally, ask for feedback and insights from other people in your circle, people whom you trust to be open and truthful with you.

The best people to help you know what the problem is are the people you work for – your customers. So talk to them too and request them for both negative and positive feedback. You’ll be surprised at how happy people are to finally get a chance to be heard. And that activity alone may keep them coming back and lead to referrals.

Also, talk to other business owners so that you have an idea of what you could be missing from a business perspective.

It’s also important to do some research beyond your circles, so do some online searches. It’s also a good idea to attend industry meetings and networking events. Not only will you learn at such events, but you may also meet people who will give you ideas, become customers, or send business your way.

All these activities don’t have to take a lot of time because…remember you are on a time crunch and need to move forward fast. So, avoid the temptation to spend a lot of time in this step.

Clarifying the problem is a painful but necessary exercise. However, you must identify the cause of the problem before you can determine the proper solution. The sooner you identify the problems, the better it is for you, your business, and everyone who relies on your business.

3.    Focus on Your Customers

What is at the heart of any business? It’s customers!

As I said earlier, customers are the lifeline of a business. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business.

When deciding what actions to take to strengthen your business, always keep your customers at the forefront of your planning.

If you make changes that end up hurting your customers, you’re ultimately hurting yourself and your business. You’ll lose the people who are at the very center of your business.

It’s very easy to make this mistake because in times of crisis, your focus is on making money and you’ll be thinking, “I need to make money”. This can make you forget who it is that you’re supposed to be serving.

During times of crisis, it is especially important to keep the focus on the customers. People will remember the actions you take at such times. If you seek to serve your customers, even at the expense of profit, you will build up a huge amount of goodwill.

For example, during the coronavirus crisis, there are many companies that sacrificed financial gain for the sake of their customers. Some did this for longer than a year.

You must find a good balance. Find a way to keep your customers happy without sacrificing your bottom line or working yourself to the bone.

Those are the first 3 steps…very tough things to do. But if you do them well, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank when things start turning around.

Step 4 is a bit more detailed and that is…

4.    Conduct a SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

A SWOT analysis provides you with a framework for analyzing your business. It helps you identify what is working and what is not working. Additionally, it will help you spot potential growth opportunities, and to prepare for external threats. You also need it when you’re ready to grow or scale your business.

This analysis is key to your success in business in good and tough times. But when times are tough, it’s your SWOT that will save you.

If you want to succeed as a business owner, you must be willing to honestly evaluate how things are going. You cannot bury your head in the sand, ignore problems, and just hope that things will get better. You must take a long and hard look at your business and then make changes based on what needs to be changed.

Sometimes it’s not easy to do a SWOT on your own because you’re immersed in your story. Most business owners also treat their businesses as if the business is an extension of them. So they’re not ready to have the business criticized because that feels like a personal attack!

I normally recommend that you work with an expert to help you with a SWOT analysis, more so because there is a lot of preparation that goes into it. You could:

Do whatever it takes to conduct your SWOT analysis as soon as possible so that you have a clear understanding of where your business is right now.

Related Article: Why You Need a SWOT Analysis Before Startup

5.    Create Objectives and a Plan

Once you’ve done your SWOT analysis, take what you’ve learned and act on it. First, determine the objectives you’ll pursue and then create a plan for achieving those objectives. This will give you the clarity you need to move forward.

  • Start by looking at the results for your strengths. These will give an indication of what you’re doing well and what’s working for you and your business.
  • Then evaluate your weaknesses. These show the gaps and areas where you are slacking off or lagging. You must plug these gaps!
  • Next, identify the opportunities you want to take advantage of. Some opportunities are low-hanging fruits that you can use immediately. Others require time before they yield fruits.
  • Finish with the threats. Since these are external to your business, there is nothing you can do about them. However, you can mitigate their impact or use the emerging opportunities to navigate away from some threats.

Remember, you’re creating both objectives and a plan for how you’ll meet those objectives. For example, it won’t be enough to say, “I want to increase my profits.” You also need to determine the specific steps you’ll take to make this happen.

Take Action Today!

Remember that no change or growth will happen if you don’t act on your plan. As the popular saying goes, someone with a half-baked plan that they implement will have better results than someone with a great and detailed plan that they don’t implement.

The situation for your business may have looked bleak, and maybe you felt like giving up. If you take these 5 actions consistently, you will have a different story to tell this time next year. It won’t be easy, but the results of all your hard work will be more than worth it when you see your business start to flourish.

Finally, the 5 steps I’ve shared here are part of 11 strategies that I work through with service-based businesswomen in the Kickstart Your Business coaching program.

This is a 1-1 program where I work with you to complete the 5 steps I’ve shared here and:

  • Find ways to reduce costs without negatively impacting what you offer.
  • Come up with a plan to manage your cash flow better (and implement this plan as we work together…so there is no hiding).
  • Identify and use low-cost and free marketing methods that are suitable for your business and industry.
  • Review and revamp or upgrade your programs or services to meet the changing needs of your target market.
  • Create and start implementing a 3-year plan that you can recalibrate easily when circumstances change on the ground.

Book a Discovery Call to find out more about this program and how it can help you save money, survive tough times, and even thrive.


Need help with your business?

When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you get your business back on track as you grow and scale your business.

1. Attend a Biashara Clinic

Every month, I host a class where I teach a strategy you can use to improve your business. We also have a follow-up Q&A call where participants can ask questions related to their own situation. Click here to find out more.

2. Finish Strong Challenge

This is a 12-week mastermind for female solopreneurs and businesswomen with small teams of less than 5 employees. It’s also a great place if you have a full-time job and want to start a part-time business.

You work on your #1 goal for the business during the Challenge with support and accountability from me and other members of your group. I host 3 challenges each year and you can attend one or more.

Join the Finish Strong Challenge and make breakthroughs in your business goals this year without losing out on time for what you love (family, friends, hobbies, etc).

3. Sign Up for 1-1 Coaching

This is ideal for you if you work full-time in your business, your business is at least 3 years old, and you have 5 or more employees.

Book a complimentary Discovery Call to find out more about my 1-1 coaching and how it can help you supercharge your success while maintaining healthy work-life boundaries.


(Image credit: Unsplash)

Caroline Gikonyo
Caroline Gikonyo

Caroline Gikonyo is a Life and Business Coach at Biashara 360. She's an avid blogger and also oversees our content creation. This ensures that we give our readers quality and well researched information and tips.

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