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No matter what business you are in, there will be often be times when the pace changes, sometimes as predicted, sometimes not. Occasionally, the change is to become more frantic, and other times it slows to a crawl.
In some industries, these changes are obvious because they are linked to the seasons. Landscapers and Gardeners in climates like Canada have a slower pace in winter than in the other three seasons. Snow clearing firms can be extremely busy in the winter and turn to other pursuits in the summer. Fishers work killer hours during their season, and then repair boats and equipment in the off seasons. Construction work has its peaks and lulls, as does agriculture and lumbering. Accountants are inundated with work during tax season, and then it returns to normal – whatever that might be. 🙂
For the average small and medium-sized business, there is an ebb and flow to the business year, and the secret to growth is just as much how you handle the slower times as how you maintain production during the hectic seasons. A great book (also on YouTube) on this subject is “Seasons of Life” by Jim Rohn. It is recommended reading.
I have chosen to write about this topic now because for many businesses (excluding tourism of course), the dog days of summer can see a slowing down.
Use your downtime to take time out for yourself and your family
Too many small business owners don’t know the meaning of vacations and that is sad. A mind that never has an opportunity to wander away from its routine and see new things and read new insights will grow stagnant in time. We all need time to recharge and reenergize.
So start your down season with some well-deserved vacation days. You may have to check your emails and make sure nothing goes off the rails, and that is understandable. But it doesn’t mean you can’t take the bulk of the day to do something different from your normal routine, to read and meditate and consider the larger picture of life.
Spend time with those who love and support you and give back some of the time they sacrifice so you can grow your business.
If you can’t take a string of days together, at least aim for mini-breaks for mornings or afternoons where you can renew and restore yourself.
Once you have exhaled and relaxed a little bit, it is time to take advantage of the change of pace.
Things to do in slower seasons to grow your business
Start by bringing all of your financial numbers up to date.
Go over your financials and look for evolving trends. Is one area of your business growing in profitability, while another is declining? This is the time to consider realigning your business to your most profitable sectors, and also to detect new trends that could offer growth potential.
How can your business take advantage of these trends? What modification of your products and services can you offer that will ride the popularity of a new way of thinking?
While you are focused on financial matters, take the time in slow season to do as much as possible in advance to prepare for tax season. Put your expenses in order, do a mileage report to this date, and estimate your taxes for the coming year so you can prepare for it by saving now.
While you are at it, clean your office and get rid of clutter so you can access everything you will require in under 60 seconds.
Prepare for when it will be hectic again
For years I knew a business owner who did holiday cards and figured out her gift plan for special clients in August because that’s when she had a mini-break. When things were crazy as the end of the year approached, she had everything ready and her thoughtfulness (done when she wasn’t stressed in late summer) was always appreciated.
Think about what else you can do in advance to make things easier during the hectic season. Do you need a more efficient way to handle some routine chores? Should a staff member be trained when the pressure isn’t so high to be ready to jump in and help you next season? This is the time when you should develop new processes and consider ways that would ease the load when it increases.
Look for opportunities to secure new contracts during this time as well. Refine your proposal presentations so that when you have a chance to go after a new contract, all you have to do is personalize them for a specific client because all your relevant research will be done.
Clarify your goals for the next several months
Businesses don’t grow just because you get more orders; they grow because you implement new strategies and take advantage of trends and momentum in key areas.
When you have some time to consider options, use it to clearly define your business growth goals for the next several months, and itemize your strategies into realistic, achievable actions.
You don’t have to plan your year in January or December or any other months that marks the close of your fiscal year. You can pick the month when you have the most free time and devote your energy to updating your growth and development plans then.
Update your website and check your marketing materials to ensure that they really reflect what you are trying to promote about your business.
Upgrade your skills
If there is a course you always wanted to take or a skill that you feel would enhance your business, arrange to further your training during your slower season.
If you need to implement new technology that will require training, the downtime is the perfect opportunity to make the changes you need.
In the process of gathering new knowledge, don’t forget to use this time as well to check industry trends and investigate what your competitors are doing.
Make sure that you recognize the cycles
In consulting with many small businesses, I am reminded that most entrepreneurs believe that there is no downtown for them, ever.
That’s where I gently remind them that you do not serve your business or yourself well if you do not become attuned to the cycles of your business and the best ways to alter your approaches to take advantage of them.
In the heat of your peak season, you do not have time to do anything but handle what must be done each day and hope that nothing blows up. But you can’t work your best if you constantly operate in frantic mode.
Build some down time into your business structure that allows you to step back a bit and restore yourself and your business.
In the long run, both of you will be healthier for it.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, take care.
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