“To everything there is a season,” says Ecclesiastes — and by extension, the Byrds. As small business owners, we all have a season and it may vary from industry to industry and from location to location depending on what your product or service is. For retailers who sell physical products, the holidays might feel like the most incredible rush of the year, while the summer might feel like the doldrums.
Conversely, small businesses who provide valuable services like home repair or other physically-based services that are better performed during warmer weather might find themselves twiddling their thumbs by Thanksgiving. We all have a slow season. What matters is what you do with that time to help your business stay healthy and your employees engaged, no matter what it is you provide to your community.
Running a business can get a little rough if you don’t have a game plan for the offseason. As a small business owner, it’s critical to step back every now and then and take a global view of your business year and figure out how to make the most of your personalized slow season. Here’s how to manage the ebbs and flows that can lead to business-damaging downtime.
1. Maintain Financial Vigilance
When you have lots of extra cash or other funds available during your busy season, it can be all too tempting to give out bonuses, expand the business, open a new location, or otherwise burn through your extra bucks before the year is complete. Be conscious and mindful of your business’s long-term needs over the course of the entire year and don’t spend more than is responsible just because you have the cash on hand. Defer spending and instead try saving those additional funds for a rainy day or a thoughtful, considered project to improve your ability to do business.
2. Manage Your Time
It’s hard to juggle your personal time when running a business that is busier sometimes and less busy other times, and it’s even harder to keep your employees, be they full-time or part-time, engaged during a slump. Seasonal small businesses can provide an example because they can really only succeed by being very organized and efficient with all of their resources, be they employees, customers, or suppliers. Try to shift housekeeping activities like program reviews, strategy sessions and other extraneous applications to less busy moments in your year, so you can avoid stress and burnout when you busy season starts. Take less busy moments to look into new workflows and efficiencies to help your business better manage increased volumes when they do come.
3. Plan Ahead
No one can predict day to day what might happen with the economy, your market or what factors might influence your small business, but it’s important to at least try to plan ahead. After one year in business, any small business owner should have at least a basic understanding of the cycles in their industry and base projections of sales data on those cycles, whether they’re seasonal or otherwise predictive. If your small business hasn’t been around for a year, then research peers and market sources to get an idea about how to project sales. Ideally, a small business should be able to look out six months in advance, at the bare minimum.