Regardless of the business you are in, there will be financial ups and downs. This is normal, even in unprecedented circumstances such as we are facing now with COVID-19. We are all concerned about the hardship brought up the virus and all the unknowns surrounding it. As a business owner you need strategies for slumping and thriving seasons.
When business slows down, it is not the time to panic. It is a time to reflect. Reflect on what you can do to improve your business or your personal life. While what we are seeing now is unprecedented, things will turn around. Here are some best practices to help maneuver through difficult times to not only survive but to thrive as conditions improve.
Take care of yourself & your team
Take some downtime for yourself. Avoid burnout when the opportunity is given to you. It may be a great time for a short vacation if you can fit it in.
Take up a hobby. Experience something that has always intrigued you. Or develop a new skill, for personal or professional reasons, that you always wanted. You might even want to take a class. There are many learning opportunities (many of which are inexpensive or free) that may help your business or bring new ideas for creative thinking and innovation. You may even study another industry to learn how they solve problems that are like yours.
Learn to improve your time management so that when business picks up again you have more time to spend on what’s important. Take this time to strengthen relationships with the people that are important to you. This includes family and friends, not just business relationships. Consider when is the last time you paid them attention the way they deserve?
Indulge in the arts. Read, listen to music, attend theater or just walk through a museum and open your thinking and perspective. Work on personal development for you and your employees. Take the time to develop an exercise regimen or get that physical you’ve been putting off.
Sharpen your knowledge by taking some time to teach others. This is also an opportunity to improve your interpersonal skills. You might take the time to do some good for someone else and volunteer.
Take care of your finances.
Look at what you are spending each month. Make sure your accounts receivable is equal to or greater than current and planned expenses for the next several months (ideally at least six months).
Review all your spending practices. Are you able to lease expensive equipment you are planning to buy or delay the purchase? Are you renting more space than you need? Can you sublease some of it?
Make sure the amount of time you allow customers to pay invoices is standard for your industry. Be consistent about collections from customers who are overdue. You may consider offering discounts for faster payments. Because you want to be efficient, invoice as soon as possible to instate a swift collections system and timely payments from your customers.
Finally, you can work on your bookkeeping and taxes. If you’re behind on record-keeping or other paperwork, get it done.
Work on your marketing
Take some time to update your marketing plan. A marketing plan is an evolving strategy that needs to be updated and improved regularly. It is not a static set of rules.
Take some time to gather and analyze what has worked and what hasn’t over the past year. Did some community event or promotion bring in more customers? Consider what you want to do again and things you would like to change. Also look at new opportunities that may have emerged since you last worked on your plan.
While developing your marketing plan, also work on personal promotion. It is different from marketing the business, but it grows your personal brand and public recognition. As you know, the better you are known, the more opportunities will come your way.
This also a great time to give your website a fresh look. Your website is the center of sales and your site’s look and style are equally as important as the purchasing experience your customers go through. It is always a work in progress. You can use this time to improve your website’s look and checkout process.
While working on your website, be sure to optimize for mobile use. With so many people using their phones to shop, without a mobile friendly website you may be missing from search results and losing out on potential sales.
Build your social media backlog
If you have a social media strategy in place, then you know that consistently posting new content is important. It needs to be engaging, both visually and with content. This is time consuming, which makes a good time to stock up on content for when business picks up again.
Use lifestyle photos of your product or service in use so potential customers have a really good idea of what it looks like. Showcasing your product in a real life setting creates desirability for your product. This works because people buy based on feelings and emotions, and lifestyle photos are a great way to evoke emotions.
Create a backlog of your blogs. The best blog posts are ones that are evergreen, meaning the topic will be relevant for a long time. Your blogs should explain how you can help your customers. When they are strategically tied to your products and services, they are informative and entertaining. Blogging is somewhat different from other social media outlets. Most social media become outdated within a few days, whereas blogs have a much longer life span. Therefore, you might want to research topics you want to write about and create a posting calendar.
Work on your business model
Every business has things that can be improved. Take this time to refine and redesign areas of your business you regularly wish were available. Improvement doesn’t just mean on your business model, but things you don’t have time for when you are busy. This could include improving landscaping, painting, or deciding on new product lines or menu items.
At the same time, you can improve your business operations. This is a difficult and time-consuming responsibility, but one that is nonetheless necessary. Inefficiencies build up over time, regardless of how good the system is. Look at defined areas of your business (i.e., accounting or customer service) and think about how they could work together better. Try to focus on the areas that will provide the greatest improvement for your time.
Also, this is a great time to look at your strategic planning. Survey customers to find out what they really think. Getting to know your customers better helps you learn what they really think about your products and services. This allows you to plan appropriate improvements in the future to insure customer loyalty. At the same time, survey your employees so you know what is going on with the people at your company.
Slow times can be valuable to your small business. It provides a chance to do what you normally don’t have the time to do. You can take some time for personal development, or to work on your business instead in your business. It all takes time. Using your time wisely when it is slow will make it easier to manage when your business is busy again.
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