As I said to a friend of mine the other day, "everyone in small business has been there at one time or another".

If you think that as a small business owner that only you are going through tough times, employees leaving, cash flow issues, stress and sleepless nights - you are fooling yourself.

While you may be going through these things, so too are millions of other small businesses around the globe.

Many of whom go through tough times over and over again, until one day, they either make a change to their businesses or learn the valuable lessons needed to be learnt to get to the next level.

As I have mentioned many times in my marketing blog for small business, I have been through some very tough, soul destroying business disasters that quite possibly could have broken me and my bank, but I have picked myself up from the floor, scanned the issues and set about making changes to my business and often my state of mind to survive.

Now, my business is maturing and there seems to be less issues that arise and more focus on growth and expansion - but its been a long road to get to this position, let me assure you. The lessons I have learned along the way, now are ones that I share in this marketing blog and with my friends and peers who are going through difficult times in their businesses.

This week alone, I have been talking to three separate business owners, who are all having staffing and cash flow issues. These issues are creating sleepless nights and are confidence destroying making the small business owners re-think what they are doing and whether they should be in the business that they are in.

At 27 years old, a property development company spent almost $200k in advertising with my company, and after I had paid the media company for the media spend, they didn't pay their bill. In fact, they also decided to close the company and put the assets in another company name. Crafty little suckers!!! It happens time and time again and property developers wonder why they get a bad name.

So, in the early stages of my business, I had to find almost $200k that I would never see any return on. I was devastated! How could I have been so stupid to let this happen? Why didn't I do better checks on these people? Why did I not have processes in place to safeguard my business against ass**** like this? Could I survive this disaster?

After a few days of tears (hey, I was only 27 and I was incredibly green to the world of dishonest and dishonourable people) and a good look at my business and its processes, I made a decision that would change my career forever. I made the decision that I would never let anyone else do this to me again. More than that, I would never let someone get the better of me and allow them to make me think that I was not good enough to be an entrepreneur.

It takes something really monumental to make an entrepreneur sit back and look at their businesses from a new perspective and this was one of the many 'lessons I learned' as a young entrepreneur that wanted to build a sustainable marketing business.

Some tips that may be useful next time you are in a situation that causes you to re-think your strategy and your own abilities that I have have safeguarded in my top drawer include:

1.  First steps first - have a strategy: Ok the world is falling down around you and you are curled up in a ball hoping to high hell that you don't get hit in the head and die - but if you sit there curled up, you are allowing for the worse to occur. Stand up tall, straighten your shirt, fix your tie and take a good hard look at your small business and think SOLUTIONS, SOLUTIONS, SOLUTIONS. Then put together an action plan on how you can make this happen.
2. Cut unnecessary spending: Yep, that new stationary order needs a second glance, as does that person you have hired to come in and water your plants. You don't need to drive your car to work and pay for parking when public transport will do. Buying lunch is a thing of the past and big salaries, just have to go. Renegotiating your rent, refinancing your business, and building a leaner and cleaner business is paramount to taking stock of where your expenditure is going and how much ROI you are receiving for the money you invest in your people, products/services and facilities.
3.  Know your financials: If you are a creative like me, you may find yourself putting financials down the bottom of the list. Think again. Every single business owner needs to be able to read their own balance sheet, profit and loss statement and know how much money they have in the bank on any given day. Debtors and Creditors need to be on your desk twice a day and reviewed with a fine tooth comb.
4.  Get a mentor: When your pants are down, its hard to wonder why anyone would want to mentor you. Afterall, you are a loser, right? Not at all! If you are a half decent person, with a little bit of personality and a lot of determination, people that are older, smarter and more experienced than you will want to provide you with advice. They have often been there and done that and feel flattered by the fact that you have gone to them for advice. If you have a mentor, make sure that they know how much you appreciate their help and advice. A thank you is sometimes all that someone needs to feel valued.
5.  Know when to make a change: Changing 12 months after the fact may be too late. Know that when things are crumbling around you, that you need to take action fast. That means cutting costs, chopping off people's heads and re-inventing your business and processes.
6.  Continue to innovate: It's hard to see the forest from the trees, but if you don't continue to innovate, no matter what changes you make, they may never have enough impact to make a difference. Innovation is key to success and every small business entrepreneur should always remember this.
7.  Interview your staff: When times are tough, every single person needs to be on the same team. There is no business without the people behind it. Be open and honest with your employees about your business and interview them for their jobs again. This way you will know who is 'on your team' and who is not. It is also an easy way to identify who needs to 'pack their bags' and who needs to step up to the podium.
8.  Be positive: After you have cried over spilled milk, you need to clean it up and put it in your mind as a distant memory. Be positive and empower the people around you to believe in your businesses vision and use the 'lessons you have learned' to create a more lively and invigorated team spirit that extends to your clients, prospects, suppliers and key stakeholders.

Written from Atlanta, Georgia by Marketing Eye.

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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert with more than 20 years experience. Having founded and built two successful marketing companies internationally, she is well recognized as a industry thought leader and innovator. Mellissah started her career working with technology and professional services firms, primarily in marketing, public relations and investor relations, positioning a number of successful companies to list on the various Stock Exchanges around the world. She is a writer, technology developer and entrepreneur who shares her thoughts and experiences through blogs and written articles published in various media outlets. Brag sheet: #2 marketer to follow on Twitter (2003), Top 150 Marketers to Follow (2015), Top 10 innovative marketers (2014), 60K+ followers on Twitter with 97% authentic.

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