Inevitably, business cycles go up and down. When a serious economic downturn does occur, even the highest performers experience doubts and difficulties. Those who work on commission or own small businesses, for example, real estate and insurance agents, financial services providers, and other entrepreneurs, are especially vulnerable. Bleak times notwithstanding, however, some independent professionals survive and thrive. They stay the steady course by keeping the negativity down and the productivity up. They enhance the processes they employ rather than ruminating about the profits they miss.

Just how do you keep yourself up when business is down, and what do you do to optimize your situation?

A systematic approach and a set of strategies can help you battle the blues and buttress your business. Building an action plan based on pragmatism and realism allows you to feel more in control of the factors you can impact. When you maintain a positive attitude coupled with a focus on productivity, you can tap into your reserves of psychic energy and creativity to make the most of your work time.

What to Do When Business is Down
• Catch up on paperwork.
• Reorganize processes to become more efficient when things begin to roll again.
• Set new goals and action plans.
• Find creative, new ways to pursue marketing, outreach, and networking activities.
• Increase your knowledge and skills in aspects of your profession outside your usual area of expertise.
• Take a course or get a tutor to improve or solidify your technology skills.
• Talk to accountants and financial advisors about your cost effectiveness and profitability.
• Use your time for enhancing your physical and mental health.

If you are a part-time person, hard times may tempt you to spend less—rather than more—time on your business. However, even when the phones not ringing and you are not meeting with clients, you may need to increase and intensify your work hours in order to market your business and upgrade your skills. Plot out proactive steps to take advantage of opportunities that do exist and be ready for action when economic conditions improve.

What Do to Keep Yourself Up

Manage the stress and negative thoughts. Visualize the good times: review the strengths, talents, and skills that contributed to your previous success. One technique is to actually sit in a chair marked “Coach” or “Mentor.” Ask yourself, “What were your greatest successes and how did you orchestrate them?” Tell yourself what you need to do to ensure maintained or enhanced performance, for example: make X number of cold calls, revisit old clients, explore a particular new technology that could help, or investigate a certain new venture that could be profitable.

Every Day
Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes.
• Make two calls to clients you’ve worked with during the previous 2 years.
• Write two notes to clients, colleagues, and others who you have met and with whom you should confer.

Every Week
• Take a current or previous client to lunch, dinner, or coffee.
• Attend a networking meeting with other independent professionals or business-to-business groups.

Things to Consider
• Join a volunteer group that has a diverse representation of business groups.
• Partner with another entrepreneur, consultant, or agent.
• Spend at least 2 hours per week reading books or listening to tapes to expand your general or business-based knowledge.
• Register for an on-line or on-site course to increase skills (e.g., accounting, computer).
• Inquire about coaching services.
• Schedule at least one hour per month to purge files, organize papers, or conduct computer maintenance activities.
• Update databases and integrate information between mobile phone, PDA, and computer.
• Send out mailings on a regular basis. Be consistent.
• Make a special effort to have e-mails and marketing materials reflect your personality.
• Be a guest at several different Chamber of Commerce meetings.
• Consider the times: how can you help your clients and colleagues alleviate stress? Perhaps your mailings or presentations should include a relevant cartoon or joke.

Rising to meet the challenges of a downturn in the market can lead to greater profitability in the long run; it can also result in a healthier you. Applying systematic productivity strategies now can allow you state in the future that you that weathered the storm and maximized your opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Author's Bio: 

Geri Markel, Ph.D. is an educational psychologist who has co-authored several books applying behavioral research to learning and performance. She developed Managing Your Mind® Coaching & Seminars to help individuals reach their Performance Breakthrough Zone. Geri’s clients include Pfizer, Ford Motor Company, Domino’s Pizza, University of Michigan School of Dentistry, and AT&T. Learn more about her tools for optimal performance and productivity at or at (734) 761-6498.