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3 Tips for Growing Your Business During Tough Times

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3 Tips for Growing Your Business During Tough Times

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: April 9, 2012 Updated: September 23, 2016

The idea of starting a business during a recession or growing a business during tough times may sound like the ultimate challenge for any entrepreneur or small business owner. Yet, time and time again, small businesses prove that with agility, planning, and the right resources, tough times aren’t just survivable – they can spur growth.

Take for example SBA’s 2011 National Small Business Person of the Year, Rick Cochran, whose Vermont-based Mobile Medical International (MMI), provides advanced medical care to underserved areas.

From humble beginnings in his basement, Cochran created a design and prototype for a mobile surgery unit and quickly expanded his market. Cochran hit a rough patch in 1999 when financing ran dry and the company nearly closed its doors. Much of Cochran’s core team – inspired by his own perseverance, optimism and faith – worked without pay. They were reimbursed later, when the company rebounded.

During his tenure in business, Cochran has benefited from the support of three SBA loans. Driven by his perseverance, today MMI’s staff has grown to 54 employees with gross revenues of more than $14 million.

Strategies for Growth in Tough Times

Independent strategies for survival and growth vary, but there are many common denominators and tactics characteristic of small business success during tough economic times. Here are a few strategies and tactics to consider:

1. Focus on Core Strengths

Diversification into new products and markets is a core growth strategy, but in tough times it usually pays to stick to what you do best and refine your business’ strengths in key product or market areas.

2. Find the Right Team

In order to grow, you’ll need the right team behind you, and you need to be lean. Finding the right talent the first time means that a smart hiring strategy should be part of your growth plan.  Some Small business owners have the knack for identifying the right employee fit. Some don’t. Understanding the talents you need to help you grow can be challenging. Consider consulting a mentor – a business acquaintance or someone from a professional and free mentoring organization like SCORE.  These folks have walked in your shoes and can help.

3. Look for Ways to Cut Costs

From buying used office furniture to moving back into the home office, savvy business owners can save money on just about everything. Here are just a few ideas:  

- Market Smarter – Cut your marketing budget and develop a smart marketing strategy. Can you refine your online marketing plan and focus on using your Facebook page to grow and nurture your specific target demographic? If your business depends on local custom, consider more community marketing activities that will put your business in front of your target customers. Sponsoring charitable events in your community or setting up a fundraiser for a good cause can generate great exposure for your business.

Use technology, such as online videos, as a sales and marketing approach to replace expensive brochures and collateral. This blog is loaded with cost-effective tips and tactics that you can apply across your marketing efforts: A “Complete” Guide to Small Business Marketing (featuring the best of’s blogs).

Smarter marketing also means having more oversight over campaigns and programs with a view to return on investment. Don’t just let campaigns run their course; get more from your dollars by adjusting your tactics, segmenting your lists, and delivering targeted messages. Rieva Lesonsky’s guest blog explains how to Give your Marketing a Checkup.

- Cut Your Business Expenses – It sounds obvious, but a review of all your outgoing expenses can point the way to quick savings. Create a list of necessary expenses and optional expenses. Pay close attention to how your employees spend your money. Use plastic – it may sound contrary to a cost-saving plan, but credit cards can give you perks such as miles and other benefits. You can put limits on cards so employees can’t overspend.

Automate Your Systems – Automating systems, such as accounting, invoicing and payroll, can save time and money.

Use Technology Wisely – Cut back on business travel and other communication expenses by using free web conferencing tools like Skype. What about cloud computing? Migrating business functions online (or to the cloud) can realize big savings. Even your tablet computer can help you cut staffing costs! These blog posts offer more tips:

- Hire a Virtual Assistant – Virtual assistants are a low-cost way of handling business administration functions, freeing up your time, reducing staffing costs, and making sure you have the back-up you need to keep your business running smoothly.

- Buy Surplus – Can you save money on office equipment and electronics buying from eBay or buying government surplus?

What’s worked for your business? Leave a comment below or on the SBA Discussion Boards.

About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


Virtual assistants are a good idea, but they're very hard to train and it's even more difficult to find a reliable one, or so I hear. I don't think you can count on hiring a single virtual assistant to ensure the survival of a company, though I guess every little bit of help does make some difference overall.
Caron, We are an appliance repair company in Spokane and know first hand how hard it is to grow a business in a tough economy. Spokane is a decent sized city, but with the down economy people have been trying to cut cost any way they can and at the same time we have seen many newbie repair guys coming into the market. We found that we needed to be more proactive with our advertising, so instead of cutting cost we started moving more of our ad budget into online ads. Its been paying off as we get enough business to keep us busy every week. So we have definitely been 'Marketing Smarter'. Its amazing what tough times can do for your business. You start to see what really matters and start spending the advertising budget 'more wisely'. - Noel
I'm beginning to love your blog Caron! It's good that you mentioned video production on this post as it is a fantastic marketing tool. According to a global digital market measurement service, a regular web user watches about 200 videos a month, which makes it to more than 6 videos a day, 33% of these users end up watching the video until the end. It is also proven that it is one of the most affordable and effective marketing methods you can use and has seen to boost conversion rates by about 50 percent
Thanks for explaining a bit more about video production, media_challenge. I've found that your details a pretty accurate. Although, I just thought I'd mention another corporate video production company, Vizkick ( ). They really have helped with increases overall business.
Appreciated! that is really about what i was consious about that great guidances on how to prevent your business identity employees know only a small part of the whole process!
I agree with the previous commenter about marketing through volunteer work. This strategy can work especially well for service-based businesses who can essentially give a free demo of their skills and expertise to organizations who may end up hiring them for other jobs in the future - or who can be a great resource of referrals. The rule of reciprocity works in interesting ways.
Marketing through volunteer work at your local non-profit organizations is one of the most effective tools in your arsenal. Everybody wins and it may just take a few hours of your time.
I really think that "Market Smarter" is so relevant. It really starts with really getting to know your customers and where they hang out. This way you can really target them at a low cost because so much is done online these days you can really increase your ROI. Great article.
Thank you so much! Very helpful information! Thanks again!
These are really interesting advices you have given though some cost just can't be cut because they are vital and it is very hard when they are too high and you have nothing to cut what will you do?


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