Loosing a big (either in size or profile) can feel devastating for your small business; it can send you into panic mode. When this kind of client pulls back their project (and with it, resources) citing “economic uncertainty” or other such term, at first glance, it might spell bad news. Does it really have to be this way? Rather than giving up hope or rushing to court a replacement client to fill the void, this sort of uncertain situation can often serve as the perfect opportunity to reevaluate and streamline your business, allowing you to refocus on the things that tend to fall through the cracks when you’re feeling flush.
First, identify the sort of clients that are the best match for your company, the type you ideally want to do business with. While big clients are tempting, sporting their significant and reliable profits, they are not always the best match for many businesses. Why?
- Big clients take big effort and if their expectations are not met, big clients can spell big losses. Be honest about your company’s abilities and financial situation before committing to serve a large client.
- Big clients expect big favors. Often, large clients will expect that you put their business ahead of other projects in your company. Be aware and wary of how much of your resources will really be devoted to serve a big client’s needs.
- Big clients like to throw their weight around. Sometimes they will request significant discounts or uncommon concessions, often subtly (or overtly) threatening to take their business elsewhere if you don’t comply. They know they mean big profits and aren’t afraid to use it to their advantage.
If you are reeling from a major client loss, consider how to intelligently rebuild for the long term:
- Note the trends in your market. Which companies in your sector are doing well or poorly, and why? Think about which of these trends will be most applicable to your clients.
- Pay attention to your communications with your existing clients. What sort of attributes do they mention positively? Price? Quality? Speed? Shift your company’s priorities to meet your client’s expectations: simplify your product, change your pricing structure, or ramp up your quality.
- If you’ve lost business because of a challenging economy’s down, realize there will be lots of very talented people out of work. It might seem counter-intuitive, but consider hiring. A fresh perspective can do wonders for a company that’s struggling and stuck in a rut. (Conversely, it can also be time to let go of employees that aren’t pulling their weight).
- Use your reclaimed time and resources to explore areas for change or development that might have been put on hold.
- Reevaluate your client base and client loyalty; are you getting as many word-of-mouth referrals as you should?
Most importantly, realize that a stagnant company will never truly be successful and will be less profitable, with or without a big client. Markets and client expectations are constantly evolving, and with them, your business must adapt and change to keep current and vital for those you serve. Identify what sort of clients will are your best match and distribute your services appropriately. Stay abreast of trends, communicate with your clients to identify their needs and expectations and most importantly, don’t panic. When bad things happen just take the opportunity to reassess and move forward with a more solid plan than before. Looking for some more ideas? Check out this inspiring article about one small business owner who bounced back, stronger than ever, after losing his major client.