By Alvah Parker, Score NE Mass Counselor

There is lots of talk of recession these days. Here are 10 actions you can take to bolster your chances for your business to survive and thrive through rough times. The best time to start is right now!

1. Check Financials Regularly

When customers are under financial strain bills don't get paid, contracts get cancelled, and engagements are terminated. Checking your own financial documents (cash flow, accounts receivable, accounts payable, etc.) is imperative. Make adjustments to your business plan and daily action plan to compensate for lost or late payments.

2. Spend Smarter

Now is not a good time to buy big ticket items unless you know they will pay for themselves in a very short time frame. Put off purchases except essentials until market conditions improve. Even in good times it is important to cost justify your large expenses. What is the payback? How long does it take?

3. Write and Follow a Marketing Plan

When business is slow your time must be spent in marketing your business. Having a solid marketing plan will keep you focused on the steps you need to take. Marketing does not need to be costly but it does need to be done consistently.

4. Network -

Now is the time to solidify your network. Talk to old customers, referrers, suppliers and other business owners. Networking works both ways. See how you can help them and then see if there are ways they can help you.

5. Focus on Retaining and Servicing Current Customers -

How else can you help the clients you have? Listen to them. Find out their needs during a business slow down. See how you can offer your service in a way that helps them weather the slow down. 

6. Hold on to Good Employees

It is hard to find good employees so if you have them resist the temptation to cut your staff. If someone isn't performing however you can not afford to keep them on. Now is the time to get tough.

7. Don't Complain

Complaining about the economy is not productive and lowers morale. As the leader of your business it is up to you to motivate your staff by describing your vision of your business. You must show excitement about it so that they "catch" your enthusiasm.

8. Renegotiate contracts if possible

Vendors are often willing to renegotiate contracts when customers are having trouble paying bills. Ask vendors for better payment terms for those services under contract. If some of your services are not under contract, either negotiate one with lower payments or ask for a reduction in your monthly fees.

9. Bill Regularly

Have a regular schedule for sending your bills and stick to it. Delays in billing will mean your customers will pay you later. This can have a cascading effect so that you have to delay paying your bills. Late payments of your bills could mean extra fees for you and might even mean your salary and your staffs' salaries are jeopardized.

10. Take Good Care of Yourself -

Worry and stress are not healthy for you or your business. Do whatever is necessary to keep yourself feeling confident, rested and relaxed. Getting support from others is often helpful. Your SCORE Counselors can help your business to stay strong even during an economic slowdown.