Getting Real: Tough Truths About 2023
It’s been a weird year, and I know I’m not alone. Is it the economy? Is it something else? And WTF should we all be doing about it? In this episode, I will share my thoughts and some insights into what’s happening this year for so many of us business-wise.
There’s a recurring conversation I’ve been having all year. With my clients. My peers. My friends, My social media followers.
If you’re wondering what that conversation is…it’s that it’s been a super weird year for many of us as business owners. The flavor of weird it’s been may vary, but I can see and hear the sharp exhale of relief when I tell them it’s not just them.
It’s never just you. But it’s so easy for us to think that whatever may be happening in our business is “just us” when, really, it usually isn’t. It rarely is.
That inspired this episode, as I want all of you to know you’re not alone in the weirdness of this year. I will get honest with you and share some tough truths about 2023.
Real Talk: What’s Happening?
In an average week, I talk to a lot of business owners. And not just my friends or clients. I chat with people on social media and other business owners in my professional network.
The fascinating thing is that people feel this has been a strange year on multiple levels. It goes way beyond the economy and is about reinvention of how we do business and work in a world that’s changed so much since 2020.
Over the past few years, we’ve had the harsh reminder that life is short and we live in a broken system. So, no wonder we want to “do business” in a way that isn’t just about making as much money as humanly possible, no matter the cost.
I know there’s been a deep personal re-assessment of how I want to spend my time, both professionally and personally, that’s driving my decisions right now.
This brings me to a question I’ve answered more times than I can count about how people’s revenue is faring in the current market.
Starting with my revenue, in full transparency, it’s down from last year. That’s due to a mix of factors, the most prominent being that we chose to turn down a significant potential client engagement this spring. They said yes to the proposal, and we opted to say no before we got to the contract.
It was a luxury to be able to make that decision as the rest of our client base is very stable, but the truth is, I needed room to work on BS-Free Business and to prioritize my well-being.
As the saying goes, no regrets. So please remind me of that when I review year-end financials!
In terms of what I’m seeing with everyone else, it’s a wild variance. Some people are way up revenue-wise, others are flat, and others are down. Honestly, for a year like this, I say that making it through is a victory in and of itself, so don’t let the numbers mean too much.
In looking for common threads, here are a few things I’ve noticed regarding revenue:
- Revenue is Up: Those who are up revenue-wise work in growth industries that are relatively risk-tolerant, such as tech or healthcare. They’ve been in business for years and usually have a well-defined niche and solid reputation.
- Revenue is Flat: Those experiencing flat revenue growth work in market segments that are less risk-tolerant (such as retail or real estate) and may serve a more general audience or rely heavily on a single lead source.
- Revenue is Down: Those who are down often serve other online entrepreneurs, and that market is experiencing a definite downturn (in my opinion, at least). As consumers have become more savvy, those offering coaching, courses and programs have to work harder to gain their trust and it’s hitting them in their pocketbook, which impacts their service providers.
These should be taken as observations only, not as gospel. They may not be your experience, but they have been mine in recent months.
But What About the Economy?
In the Summer of 2022, I did an episode on the looming recession, so it’s worth an update as part of this discussion.
As we touched on in last week’s episode on pricing, consumers are price-conscious and feel that corporations are unfairly profiting. The most recent Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® in the US indicated “less confidence about future business conditions, job availability and incomes.”
I’m no economist, but none of this is surprising as there’s a steady drip of both positive and negative financial indicators and we’ve been playing will we or won’t we with a recession for well over 18 months.
So, are we in a recession? The short answer is no.
Much like I shared over 15 months ago, we’re not in a textbook recession. A recession is two consecutive quarters of contracting Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s September 2023 Outlook reported that the “global economy proved more resilient than expected in the first half of 2023, but the growth outlook remains weak”. GDP will continue to grow, albeit slowly, with projected global growth of 2.7% in 2024. Persistent inflation continues to be a concern, as are interest rates and borrowing costs.
While we’re not in a recession, and it doesn’t appear one will happen, real economic pressures impact consumers and organizations, resulting in a more conservative spending and investing environment.
In the context of your business, slower economic growth may lead to slower buying decisions, as companies of all sizes are cost-conscious.
I predict we’ll start the year with much of the same focus on cost containment, but as the year goes on, there’s confidence that a recession isn’t happening for things to loosen up.
I want to reiterate something I said in my episode on the recession. I’ve been through two significant recessions throughout my career, and this isn’t it. What we’re currently experiencing is so far from those two situations that I’m choosing to see this as a bit of a blip in my plans.
How Do You Roll with It?
You may wonder what you should think about, knowing nothing will magically change when we enter a new year.
First and foremost, you need to STOP being complacent with your marketing. You need to diversify if you rely on referrals or another single source of leads. If you’re spending time on marketing that isn’t actively supporting your business, it’s time to invest that energy elsewhere.
I get it. It’s easy to sit back and rely on what’s always worked, but marketing tactics constantly shift. You must be ready and willing to experiment to reach new potential clients.
If you need new clients or you’re concerned about the longevity of your current ones, now is the time to take action. You can’t control your clients, but you can control the time and energy you invest in marketing.
Packaging and Pricing
Another thing that’s in your control is your packages and pricing. We discussed pricing in the last episode, but it’s worth carefully considering what’s happening in your market.
For example, the tech market is a little all over right now due to layoffs, a financial meltdown in the spring, and more. It’s generally resilient, but our clients have more pressure to contain costs. This is not the moment for us to go in and double all our prices, but we can be creative in delivering our services by adjusting the scope.
Balance your pricing with the financial realities of the market so you don’t price yourself entirely out of the game.
Regarding your packages, look at what you’re doing right now and see if there are new and emerging needs you can address. Maybe it’s time to sell strategy or assess how you can create something fresh and new.
In short, be intentional with your pricing and packages, and look for ways to innovate.
Set Realistic Goals
As we wrap up, I want to encourage you to set goals that will serve you but not break you. I understand how disappointing it is to fall short of your dreams, so this may be a time for you to be realistic, depending on where your business and target clients are in the current economic climate.
Think about what will work best for you and set you up to thrive. Not every season needs to be about growth, and you may be planting the seeds now for the future.