Surviving and Thriving – 10 ways to make it happen!
There’s no doubt that times are tough at the moment and there are fears that it will only get tougher now that summer is over, COVID-19 numbers are rising and the end of the ERTE scheme is just a few months away. However, don’t give up, it is possible to survive and thrive even in difficult times, if you work in an intelligent way and your business model is right.
We know this from personal experience, as we set up our marketing agency on the Costa del Sol at the beginning of the 2008 crisis, when the property market spectacularly crashed and companies were going bust left, right and centre. That global financial meltdown was tough and hit Spain particularly hard. It lasted for five long and difficult years, yet we managed to slowly, but steadily build our client base even in the worse times, get a good reputation and start to generate referrals. We made sufficient money throughout the crisis and set ourselves up to get the better clients when the climate improved.
Hopefully this pandemic will be over much sooner than that, but for those of you worrying about what’s ahead, we thought it would be useful if we identify 10 reasons why we did make it through, so you can also weather the current storm.
- We reduced risk
Before we started the business we did our research, identified a gap in the market and asked for help from professionals and fellow business people to make sure we were creating a business that was in demand. Then we looked at how we could do things in the most low cost way possible, so we chose networking ahead of conventional advertising, swapped skills with other professionals and tried to do what we could ourselves. We didn’t get a flashy office or spend loads of money in the first instance, we relied on building a network, helping others, doing free jobs for charities and slowly building a name for ourselves on the Costa del Sol. This lean approach kept our head above water when clients were thin on the ground.
- We capitalised on our skills
We based the business around our skills so we wouldn’t have to pay anyone straight away and we had confidence that we could compete with the other professionals out there. Luckily we have a large combined skillset, so we can do a lot, without having to invest in other people.
- We made a plan
We created a plan with clear objectives and steps we needed to take to achieve those objectives. We aimed for growth and planned on how we would deal with that growth. Key to this, was making contacts and partners that we could turn to when work came in, without paying salaries year round. We remained flexible and trialled new ideas, services and packages and kept networking and being visible, even when work was coming in.
- We built a good website
Andy and the web team have worked very hard to create an excellent website that organically ranks very highly for our key terms. We invest in PPC advertising at a very low level from time to time and constantly create new quality content to ensure that we continue to rank well. This website and our social media channels have been instrumental in getting new business, alongside word of mouth, networking and referrals. Our online presence ensures that new businesses coming to the area can find us and feel confident that we are a professional agency and someone they can trust.
- We kept reviewing and analysing what was working and what wasn’t
It’s important to keep on top of what’s happening in the market and also what’s happening in your business, to make sure you are being profitable and maximising opportunities. There were a few times when we were busy but not making enough money. When that happened, we had to review how we were working so we had more potential for profit. We had a few projects which we loved, such as group training sessions, which were really rewarding but not financially viable, so we had to drop them and use our time more wisely. As well as purely looking at the bottom line, we also identified things that really motivated us and that we enjoyed and tried to plan ways to do more of these things. Finally, we also kept up good communication with our clients to make sure they were happy with what we were doing and ask them where we could improve. Never sit back on your laurels!
- We believed we could succeed
Once we saw the financial climate start improving and knew we had a good reputation and were offering a good service, we reviewed our plan and added more ambitious objectives. We invested in a new brand, website and marketing materials which would give us a better image and attract more clients in an improving market. Plus, we kept looking for partners who could work with us and support us for when more work came in, so we could grow and adapt.
- We offered marketing in English and Spanish
Although it isn’t easy, we have always committed to be a bilingual agency, providing marketing in English and Spanish for companies on the Costa del Sol. We have had help achieving this, as well as speaking good Spanish ourselves and now count on the support of Teresa Floro for well-written Spanish copy and high quality media relations. Being a bilingual agency increases our potential client base and what we can offer our clients too.
- We didn’t get carried away when things improved
As the clients came in, we didn’t let it go to our head. We remained small and decided to create a dedicated office in our house, rather than rent premises, to remove the stress of the additional monthly outgoings. It was tempting sometimes to make a step change and start employing people and get a great new office, but we always felt it wasn’t necessary and that we could still grow and prosper without it. This is vital to feeling confident about surviving the pandemic. When clients bailed during lockdown and new business didn’t come in, we knew that we could manage for a while, and be flexible and able to deal with curve balls such as home schooling.
- We were open to new opportunities
Right from the beginning we were looking for new opportunities. When a client couldn’t afford marketing with us, but was looking for English classes, Georgina stepped in and taught the class. When people didn’t have the budget for marketing, we started offering training to help people do it for themselves, while still generating income. When opportunities came up outside our comfort zone, such as marketing Specsavers in Costa Blanca and Mallorca, we grabbed them with both hands. The key is not to be afraid of change – it is inevitable and can be great. Innovate wherever possible – trying new things can be great for promotion and motivation and can have unexpected benefits.
- We stayed motivated
Motivation is tough when you have your own business and let’s be honest, some days you just can’t be bothered. However, we have always had established working hours which we strictly follow, plus a dedicated work space to do the tasks in. We are planners and love lists, so every day we have clear tasks to achieve and tick them off the list for a sense of satisfaction. Even when it was quiet, we’d set deadlines for ourselves to keep us on track and also reward ourselves when we’ve achieved a lot. Something which we find very motivating, is to take time off to enjoy when we’re not so busy, or have a long lunch when we’ve completed a project. There needs to be a payoff after all the challenges of working for yourself!!
If we can do it, so can you! Believe in yourself, be positive, set realistic objectives and work to them in a planned and practical way and you can achieve a great deal! Best of luck and if you need advice, planning, or practical help to deal with COVID-19 please get in touch, we’d happy to share our insights and knowledge to help you hang on in there.