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When business slows down

  • Blog
  • 25 February 2016

The business cycle has its peaks and troughs: depending on your enterprise, summer, for example, or the new year, may be slow spells. As disconcerting and frustrating as this can be, the downtime can represent a useful breathing space in which to think through new strategies to get more business. Here, we set out several productive exercises for your quiet times:

When business slows down

Take an online course

There are some high quality, reasonably priced online resources for studying. You may want to refresh your knowledge of your industry or practice area to ensure that you are completely up-to-date with the latest developments. This helps you to provide the cutting edge service that distinguishes you from your competitors and can provide inspiration for new products or services. You may equally feel that you have gaps in your understanding of the laws and regulations affecting your company or you may be less than confident about your grasp of accounting principles: studying these disciplines can be a hugely rewarding use of your slow days.

Identify efficiencies

The day-to-day challenges of running a business can curtail your time for strategic thinking. Quiet periods can be excellent opportunities to take a step back and look at where your business could be more efficient in terms of both time and money. Can you save time by reorganising your days and are your systems fit for purpose? Can you get cheaper supplies and are you doing all you can to reduce waste? Are your employees being used effectively? Any adjustments you make to your operating practices can be piloted during the slow times so that you aren't faced with adapting to new methods when business is more hectic. Time spent assessing your accomplishments to date and setting out new goals and timetables will also be amply rewarded.

Networking and business development

This is a great time to catch up with contacts, either informally or through scheduled meetings of professional or industry bodies. This helps you to stay in the information and news loop and to remain visible. As such, it can be key to identifying new customers, markets and business partners. On a related note, now is a good time to think about the benefits of membership of trade associations and business organisations such as the FSB, which can offer advice and support for the good and the bad times.

Marketing

Business downtime is useful for doing some proactive marketing. This can be as simple as making some cosmetic changes to the appearance of your website, Facebook page or Twitter feed and making sure that your full range of advertised services or products is up-to-date. Or it can involve inserting testimonials from satisfied customers. Adding value to your Internet presence through a simple news feed or blog can also pay dividends in terms of attracting new customers.

Touching base with past clients can be a profitable exercise. Sending them a personal, handwritten note can help them feel appreciated and may encourage repeat business or referrals. It's worth thinking laterally about this customer contact. For example, if your quiet spell is in January, can you harness their new year's resolutions with a discount voucher to use your exercise class, decorating service or tuition?

The essential point is that quiet time need not be wasted time.