Six things you can do when business slows

14th December, 2016

Only an Olympic sprinter has a keener appreciation of time than an SME owner, but luckily many SME owners are about to find themselves with a lot more time on their hands.

We’re entering the stage of the year which is affectionately known as ‘El Llama’ – a period where it seems everyone is on holidays and nobody’s at work.

Here are six things you can do during the period to make sure that you’re ready to go when things get back into rhythm.

1. Furiously Google yourself

Ever wonder how people find you? We’ll give you a hint – it’s not the Yellow Pages.

Let’s say you’re a florist. The first thing a person does when they’ve done something wrong is head onto Google Maps, look at their suburb, and then type in ‘florist’.

If your business pops up but the listing has incomplete information, then the person will not be inclined to visit your shop.

This is about putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and trying to find yourself, digitally. If you’re difficult to find on Google, then it may be time to consider ramping up your SEO efforts .

2. Data, data, data

Most SME owners have an ocean of data, but a leaky bucket to hold it in.

Do you have a product line that sold really well at a particular time of the year? Was there another product line that left you with a stocktake headache?

If you’re a tradie, was there a period when you had a lot of jobs? If you have a list of jobs you did in the year, you can start figuring out when you’ll need a spare parts or particular tools on hand.

Reviewing the data you hold in point of sale software, digital customer records, and even your emails can help you make more informed decisions about your business in the coming year.

3. Reflect and reassess

Unless you did everything perfectly all of the time (unlikely), there are probably some things you wish you could have improved on.

Now’s a great opportunity to not just identify what you could have done better, but to analyse what led to it and how you can improve in the future.

Most people will avoid too much introspection because it hurts the ego, but the ability to clearly assess what you’ve done and how you can improve is the basis of learning.

This process should help you identify your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.

4. Chase up invoices

We know that January and February are among the worst times for cash flow, and it’s because a lot of other businesses go on holiday in the December/January period.

That’s why it’s time to gently yet firmly remind those you provided services to during this period that they should get their books in order before they go on holiday.

If you don’t get in early with this process, you may find your business on the back-end of a list of suppliers waiting to be paid out.

So now’s a time to do some gentle chasing.

5. Build a prospect list to hit hard in the new year

We’ve all the got those business cards in the bottom drawer or post-it notes around the office with random names and phone numbers on them.

Perhaps they were meant to go onto a prospecting list, but at one time or another you were just completely snowed under.

It’s understandable, but the upside is that if you take a bit of time now and collate all of those leads into a list you’ll have a full list to start next year with a bang.

6. Review your business plan – or create one

If this time of year is good for anything, it’s good for quiet reflection.

If you’ve been taking The Pulse’s gentle advice all year, you’d have a business plan broken down into goals and actions to take to hit those goals.

Now’s the time of year to figure out whether you got everything you wanted out of the year, and if not, to figure out what you need to do to hit those and your goals for the next year.

Did you smash this year’s goals handsomely? Or did you miss the mark? Asking those questions can lead to growth.

The important part is to make sure you have goals and a plan to reach them. And, more importantly, a way to measure your progress.