If you’ve been a small business owner for a few years, then you know that for all the festivities during November and December, there’s also that dreaded cloud hanging over the good times. That’s because right after the holiday season is the slow season. January and February are when consumer spending is at its lowest, which means a number of businesses see revenue go down.
It’s a difficult pill to swallow and there’s nothing that’s going to make it easier but there are things that you can do to help put your mind at ease.
1. Make Some Cuts
When business is down, you want to try and save money any way that you can. Now is a great time to step back and evaluate what’s happening with your business. It’s a great time to look at whether all of those outflows of cash are really necessary. Making cuts is one of the toughest parts of owning your own business but successful business owners know that sometimes cuts are needed for the success of the business.
Look at your staff. Is there anyone whose hours you can cut back without hurting your business? Is there someone that’s not pulling their weight? Are there any clients that are costing you more than they’re paying you? Are there subscriptions or systems that you’re using that are hurting your business more than they’re helping?
Take a hard look at your operations and decide if changes are needed.
2. Focus on the Future
When there’s a little more breathing room, there’s also a little more time for you to look at ways for you to improve your business. There’s the added bonus of making you feel like you’re doing something to help the success of your business.
What can you do to improve the service your customers receive? Is there a way to streamline service? Are there changes you can make to your website to increase sales per visitor? Are there previous clients that you can reach out to and regain their business? Have you planned out a social media campaign for the next three months? Have you planned out a marketing campaign for the next three months? The next year?
Have I put enough on your plate yet?
3. Take a Look at Your Business Goals
This is different than focusing on the future because it’s about where you want to take your business in the coming year, three years or five years. It’s about the direction of your entire business.
The beginning of the year is the best time for you to look at your business goals. It’s when you should be setting them for the year and looking at whether you met last year’s goals and if not, what you could have done differently.
When you set your goals, think about where you want your business to be in the next few months. Do you want more clients? Do you want to grow your online presence? Do you want to get closer to the clients you already have? Where do you want it to be in the next six to nine months? Where do you want it to be in the next year? What are you going to do to make sure this happens? This is the foundation for your business goals.
Once you set them, write them down and put them in a place that you’re going to look at them every day and remember them. This is what you’re working toward for the year. This is what you want to achieve.
While the beginning of the year is a great time to set your goals, you need to use the rest of the year to revisit them and reevaluate them. Many savvy business owners say they look at their goals at least once a month to make sure they’re on the right track and if they’re not, they think about what they can do to get back on track.
4. Go Back to School
As an entrepreneur, there’s always something new you can learn. Maybe there’s a change in the industry. Maybe you still haven’t gotten the hang of Instagram. Maybe there’s new sales software you’ve been meaning to try out. Now is the best time to increase your knowledge even if it’s just by watching how-to videos on YouTube.
The business industry is constantly changing and evolving. With everything going on, it’s tough to keep up, but now is possibly the best time to do so.
Before you tell me this is a useless suggestion, hear me out. You kill yourself 90% of the year. Small business owners work long hours day and night. They commit to 60-hour, 80-hour, 90-hour work weeks just to move their businesses forward. They’re constantly thinking about ways to improve the business and ways to expand. They’re always looking for ways to increase revenue and reach new customers. Their brains are constantly going.
The human body isn’t meant to do that for long periods of time. I am not saying that you take a vacation (though that would be ideal), but cut back some of those weeks to 50 hours or take a Sunday off. Take a little time to recharge your batteries. Your business will thank you for it.
Bonus: Come Up with a Plan for Next Year
This is a bonus answer mostly because it’s not something that will help now. It is, however, extremely important. When you’re working through these slow months, keep track of the must pay bills and the ones that you can trim. Get an idea of how much must be spent during the slow times. Rent, payroll, utilities, insurance, etc. What do all those add up to? How long does the slow time last?
Once you get an idea, start creating an emergency fund. Stock a little away during each of the good months to make sure you have a cushion of money to spend during those lean months. Chris Burnam, the president of StorageMart, had some really good advice in a guest article he wrote for Entrepreneur.
“Even with plans in place, the slow seasons are an emotional roller coaster. Accounting for loss isn’t the same as actually watching money leave your hands. When the downswing hits, avoid reaching for drastic change. Coupons, sales, and downsizing feel like quick solutions, but they can harm your business in the long run.”
“Stay the carefully crafted course, and the rough waters will seem less scary.”
-Chris Burnam, StorageMart President
You have the strength to weather those rough waters, you just need to find it.
Written by Erika Towne