Every small business faces slow seasons — are you ready for them?
Slow periods affect most businesses from time to time, and small business owners feel the squeeze most of all. If you’re a provider of outdoor services, winter might mean fewer customers. For retailers, summer is the slow season. It doesn’t matter when your business starts to lull — what’s important is that you know how to prepare for those times when cash flow gets a little tight.
In the end, successfully working through an off-season for your business depends on planning and preparation throughout the year. And, believe it or not, slow seasons can be beneficial for your business because they give you a chance to focus on administrative tasks that may have been neglected when you were super busy.
Here are four ways you can keep the motor running on your business all year-round, even when you’ve hit a bit of a slump.
1. Don’t panic!
There’s no getting around it —slow periods are nerve-wracking! However, it’s important not to panic and make decisions out of desperation when things take a downturn. It may be tempting to make drastic changes, run with new ideas that you haven’t fully thought through, or have big flashy sales just to draw in a quick buck.
These things might feel like solutions because they keep you active, and it’s hard to do nothing when you get nervous. Still, these quick fixes can derail your progress and send your business off in a wayward direction.
Instead, take a breath and stick to your plan. Staying consistently on course with a solid strategy is far more likely to help you get through a slump than any last-minute sale.
2. Work on the details of your business
Instead of running wild trying to draw in clients, spend the extra downtime working on the ins and outs of your business. You know — the things that seem to linger on your to-do list without ever actually getting done. When you’re busy running your business, it’s normal to be pressed for time. Administrative or “big picture” tasks can easily fall by the wayside in light of the work that’s immediately in front of you.
So, if you find yourself putting things off so you can focus on the next client meeting or project completion, the slow season is the perfect time to work on your business, not just in it. You have the time to tackle projects like your marketing plan, enhancing your website, getting your taxes in order, automation, and process improvements. Set yourself up for success by creating a stellar internal business structure. When things pick up — and they will — you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.
3. Manage your cash flow
Most small businesses depend on cash flow to keep themselves afloat. If you aren’t careful with your cash reserves, you might get caught in a bind when things take a downturn. During your slow period, take stock of your cash flow and reduce expenses as much as possible.
This might mean hiring people for seasonal rather than permanent work, limiting the number of tasks you outsource, and watching your day-to-day expenses more carefully. It is also a good idea to assess your invoicing and accounts receivable processes — are you getting paid the right amount, on time?
4. Keep your chin up
Going through a slow season in your business can wear you down. Not only do you have the burden of finding enough work to keep the lights on, but you may start to question your own success. Was your original plan faulty? Do customers no longer see value in your work?
It’s easy to get discouraged when facing a season of change, but it’s important to remember that seasonal downturns are normal for many businesses. Stay positive and try to use this break to level-up your business in ways that you wouldn’t otherwise have time for. And remember to plan this year so you’ll be prepared for the natural cycle of your business. Plan for the worst, hope for the best!
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