How to deal with uncertainty in your business


There seems to be one dominant theme running through our world at the moment: uncertainty.

In fact, things feel so uncertain, some of the time it’s not even clear what we feel most uncertain about… Rising living costs, the environment, changes in the ways we do business and live, changes in the market place…

I have a bit of a mother hen approach to the businesses I work with. I’d love to gather everyone up under a broad wing, and cluck to tell you everything will be OK. Since even my bingo wings are not that well-developed, here’s an alternative plan: a list of ways to deal with uncertainty in your business.

I’ve suffered from a fair amount of anxiety and uncertainty in my own life and career. I started my business at exactly the same time as the 1990 recession began. I didn’t have a financial safety cushion. And yet I survived. That recession was followed by the enormous sadness and uncertainty of Foot and Mouth Disease, the 2008 recession, the impact of various terrorist attacks, wars that affected inbound tourism, Covid and plenty of other economic uncertainty.

Here’s what I’ve learned through my own experience. Everyone is different and we all have our own ways of dealing with difficulties. I find that taking some kind of action helps me feel more in control. Purposeful action can help to remove uncertainty.

1. Face the facts:

If you’ve been avoiding looking at your accounts or thinking about your income and expenditure, I understand. But the anxiety of not knowing how bad things are can be worse. It gets in the way of making anything better. You don't need to tackle everything at once: perhaps consider your income and expenditure in separate sessions.

When looking at expenditure, there’s nearly always something to cut (at least the first time you look at it...) I’ve noticed that the multiple ways we pay for things now have made it harder to keep track: online, offline with contactless, by direct debit, by standing order, by ApplePay, by PayPal and other online payment systems. When you do take a look at all the outgoings, you’ll probably find something you’ve been ignoring. It might only be a £10 monthly subscription for something but that’s £120 a year, and it could easily be two years since you actually used it. Or is that just me? I’m no financial expert so I often turn to articles by Martin Lewis as he explains things so clearly. 

2. Are you making as much money as you could?

The vast majority of us are in business to make money. Yet, when I do a facebook poll or ask businesses about money situations, it’s odd how few either want to talk about their prices, or think how to increase their revenue.We really do need to talk about money, and find realistic ways of making more money.  I’ll come back to this in future blogs and marketing workshops.

Remember, making money is sometimes as much about not doing something as it is about doing it. An example might be deciding to close for the Winter months to save fuel costs.

It’s easy to think that making money is dependent on getting more visitors, regardless of the price. It’s tempting to discount to make your business seem more attractive. But this isn’t a marketing tactic unless you’ve tried everything else. Discounts focus the mind on the price, and that might not be the sticking point.

3. I strongly recommend three marketing actions right now.

All three will help you feel less uncertain and improve your business, for now and in the future:

a) Simplify

b) Plug the leaks

c) Clarify

Before I explain these, let’s take a moment to think how our visitors are feeling. It’s not hard to imagine because many of us feel the same: uncertain and overwhelmed.

When you’re in that mindset, everything is a big effort. Even the enjoyable things can seem complicated. So we need to make it easier. Price may be a factor, but there are other actions you can take before discounting.

Simplify: take a look at the home page of your website, your social media bio, or how you describe your business. Is it instantly obvious what you do and offer, why you’re good at what you do? How can you make it easier for someone to want to visit?

Plug the leaks: 95% of the businesses I work with have a leaky bucket. Much of their marketing is good, but there’s always at least one or two actions they haven’t taken. These simple actions get in the way of making it easier to feel confident that a business will deliver, or making it easier to book or visit. It could be something like a broken link on a website, hard-to-find contact details, or just not thinking through the steps visitors go through before deciding to visit. I’ll come back to how you can plug the leaks in a future blog and workshop. In the meantime, take some time to look at your business as a visitor sees it, and review each aspect of your marketing with a critical eye.

Clarify: this is related to the other two points. When people feel overwhelmed or uncertain, they need information and inspiration to be more obvious that usual. As our marketing evolves, we tend to add information and get further away from the basics. I’ve certainly done this – for a while I wrote long lists of all the services I offer, instead of simply saying “I help businesses be more profitable and easier to run”.

Take a look at your marketing: are the basics obvious? For example, where is your business? Don’t just give the name of your village – most people won’t recognise it. Say what you’re near and give some context. Who is your business most suitable for? What do you do to make people feel good?

4. Mindset and feeling happier

I’ve gradually recognised that I’m better at running my business when my head is clear and I feel a little more in control of my own destiny. Some of the ways I do that relate directly to my business, others are more about mindset. I’ve tried the Headspace app but prefer other low tech, simpler solutions. It sounds glib to suggest that a walk helps me feel less anxious but it’s true. I have some of my best ideas for work while walking, and it definitely puts things in perspective.

Over the last year a very simple activity has really made me feel better: every day I notice and photograph (a quick snap, no skill) something outside that makes me smile or that I think is beautiful. In the Summer it’s easy: a sweeping vista or beautiful view. In Autumn the colours and seed heads really appeal. Spring is full of hope so every photo is about new life and green buds.

Winter is harder but that’s also when I find this simple activity most worthwhile. It’s amazing how a few drops of rain hanging off a leaf or a frost-covered spider’s web can be so beautiful. It’s also an uplifting reminder that life goes on, everything has its place and time, and beauty is all around us when we look. Even a few moments of forgetting the other ‘real world’ can help. I love doing this each day, as well as looking at the collection of photos - lots of simply beauty urging me on. 


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