Tough time for small business owners

By Laura Raines, for the AJC

We know the recession has not been kind to big business. We’ve read about the layoffs, bankruptcies and plant closures. “It’s not been good for small business either,” said Karen E. Ervin, inspirational speaker, author and founder of Entrepreneur Enterprises, which offers online courses to help entrepreneurs plan and start a business. “People are working harder than they were last year, struggling to meet payroll or taxes and watching as their colleagues’ businesses fold up.”

Karen E. Ervin

Karen E. Ervin is the founder of Entrepreneur Enterprises and an author and inspirational speaker. Ervin has advice for small business owners on navigating the recession. Photo by Leita Cowart, for the AJC.

As the area director of Kennesaw State University’s Small Business Development Center, Lydia Jones sees the toll of the economy daily. “There’s so much stress out there,” she said. “Money is tighter. Lines of credit have been decreased or been wiped out and gaining access to capital has been a major issue.”

Jones recently received e-mails from two clients written at 1:30 and 3:45 in the morning, respectively. Reading them later at work, she immediately advised them to “get some sleep.”

“Burnout is a problem we’re addressing frequently these days,” she said. Here are some tips from the experts:

● “Know your physical limits,” Jones said. “Too many owners want to do it all themselves and I see them walking around in various states of zombie-like exhaustion. You can’t work up to your optimal level if you’re sleep deprived.”

● “Establish your priorities,” she said. “Know what you need to do first to keep your business running. Is it driving more sales, collecting accounts receivable or finding ways to cut costs? Write them down and keep them visible so that you don’t get distracted.”

● “Manage your fears,” Ervin said. “It’s such a pessimistic environment out there and entrepreneurs need optimism to thrive.” Fear is paralyzing. She tells entrepreneurs to break a large goal into small steps that they could do daily to help them reach their objective. Instead of focusing on failure, focus on success in small steps.

● “Have a contingency plan,” Jones said. “If the major customer walks, what then?” Brainstorm ideas that could keep you afloat in the interim — maybe offering a different product or service, or working from home instead of renting an office. “If you know what you’ll do if something critical happens, you’ll be less likely to panic,” Jones said.

● “Resist temporary satisfaction,” Ervin said. “During an economic downturn, it’s tempting to cut corners.” You might take on a client that isn’t a good fit because you don’t have the experience to do what he needs. That doesn’t help either of you. Or you may buy from a cheaper supplier to save money, but that will show up in your product and affect your customer relations. “Don’t succumb to temporary measures that could damage the future of your business. The recession won’t last forever, so don’t do anything that will tarnish your reputation,” Ervin said.

● “Communicate your situation to close family members,” Jones said. “Help them to understand what you are going through and ask for their support. You may need more flexibility in your schedule as you try to balance the demands of work and home.”

● “Protect your time by delegating,” she added. “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. Outsource routine tasks so that you can concentrate on doing the things that contribute to profitability.”

● “Recharge your creative energy,” Ervin said. “The constant struggle to stay afloat in a down economy is exhausting. You think you don’t have time to take a walk, do yoga, go to church or have dinner with a friend, but it’s exactly those things that will help you come back to work rejuvenated.”

● “Develop your potential,” Ervin said. “Instead of focusing on the numbers, focus on improving your skills and talents as a business owner. Read books or articles that will keep you in the know and jump-start new ideas to improve your business.”

● “Get some education and help in this changing market,” Jones said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of running your business. Taking a workshop, a course, joining a business network, or talking to a consultant from one of the 17 Small Business Development Centers around the state can give you new information. It can help you step back and look at your problems more objectively.”

12 comments Add your comment


October 31st, 2009
9:39 pm


October 31st, 2009
9:49 pm

Enter your comments here

Donna Satchell

November 2nd, 2009
8:54 am

Great article about small business owners. Karen Ervin made some excellent points about managing your fears and recharging your creative energies. Karen – thanks for your valuable insights.

Donna Satchell
STARR Consulting & Training

Dave Chambers

November 2nd, 2009
9:26 am

Excellent Karen E.

I want you to know that I overstand all of what your are saying and will in the futre reflect back on this article to help me through future stagnant times. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on how to make it through these tough times. Please send more info on your book and how we may obtain a copy.


Dave Chambers.
Quik Action Plumbing Co.


November 3rd, 2009
9:07 am

Karen, you provided great insight. This is a very informative article. Thanks for the tips.

Jon Exume

November 3rd, 2009
10:46 am

Very good article Karen:

There are some good tips that I have picked up from this article about not being burnt out. Good ideas.

Mary LaBroi

November 4th, 2009
1:35 am

Great article reminding us that life goes on after us; however, while we are here, we can address our issues by planning, prioritizing, delegating, reviewing and starting the cycle again. One of the most important things is to take care of ourselves in the interim. Thanks Karen for the reminders. More information needed like this.

Mary LaBroi
Zen Massage

Kim Thornton

November 4th, 2009
9:53 am

Thank you Karen for this timely article.

Kim Thornton
Caregiver Solutions Training Institute


November 4th, 2009
12:29 pm

It is nice to know that we are not alone in our worries and stress. Not good that we are all facing this, but somehow there is strength in sharing our struggles.

Sporty King

November 5th, 2009
5:12 pm

Excellent ‘back to basics’ commentary from both professionals. Principles always need repeating to help make the small steps seeking big gains. Thanks and blessings.


December 17th, 2009
8:39 am

I have read a very useful book that helped me acquire Gov’t grants to start my business.

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Juanita Bryan, Juanita Bryan Inc.

January 27th, 2010
10:00 am


I truly enjoyed reading your article! The tip about “resisting temporary satisfaction” was well received. I look forward to reading more about you in the future.

Many blessings to you….