How many times have you heard that August is typically a “slow month”? The good news is that slower sales months offer more than just potential vacation time. Whether they occur during the summer or in late December (another traditionally slow time), downtime offers an ideal opportunity to lay the groundwork for future productivity and growth. Here are a few business tips on how you can maximize slow time in your business:
1. Plan and audit. A plan makes it easier for you to get where you're going. But in order to know where you should go, you first need to know where you actually are. Review your internal practices and controls to discover the areas that are holding your business back. Ask yourself, 'What should I do if I could start all over again?’ By examining specific areas within your company, you should be able to determine which areas impeded your growth in the past year. Would you have been able to secure a loan if you'd established better banking relationships? Once you find out where the weaknesses are, remember to then think in terms of future growth and develop a concrete plan of action.
One thing that is always on the back burner is disaster planning (personal and professional). That means taking care of personal wills and getting physical exams are good ways to take advantage of downtime.
2. Review customer statistics. All customers are not created equal, so in addition to knowing your customer base, you should also rank your top 10 to 15 accounts based on volume or revenue, if not both. This is where you're making your money. So determine what they're buying and what they have in common.
Also be sure to gather information about customers who have reduced or withdrawn their business with you altogether. The most expensive cost on your financial statements could be the cost of not doing business with certain customers. Once you determine who those customers are, again think of the big picture and develop a game plan for resurrecting each account.
3. Combine work and play. There's no reason that you shouldn't benefit from your downtime by getting away from the office. Just make sure to keep your focus on business growth and opportunity. Some entrepreneurs play golf or tennis, but they're not always as discriminating as they should be when it comes to whom they should be playing with. So when planning your leisure activities, consider inviting your biggest clients or vendors. Your banker, accountant and lawyer are other great choices. I try to create relationships with them so while I'm enjoying myself, I'm also bettering my company.
Another great way to combine business and pleasure is to plan your company retreat or take that much-needed business trip during the slow months. Retreats offer an ideal time to review yearly productivity and plan for the coming year. At the same time, you can develop and solidify nonlocal business relationships by making visits to vendors and other associates.
If you find that your business doesn't experience extended periods of downtime, work these steps into your regular business program. These are the steps every businessperson who's really serious about business must take. This should be part of the business of the business.
Remember in order to lead your business to its goals, you must continually focus on the bigger picture. It's not the microstep that's important, it's the macro-outlook. If you can capitalize on your downtime as a limited commodity, your business will reap the rewards.