When many sole entrepreneurs and small business owners get started, they focus on getting paying customers right away. Once they do, they spend the bulk of their time working “in the business,” rather than “on the business.” Working in the business is important because it keeps cash flowing. Working on the business is also important, because it keeps your business fresh and sustainable into the future.
Given the choice between spending energy on activity that directly brings in revenue and spending energy on activity that does not, it’s clear where most of us will land. However, you face a number of risks if you do not take time to work on your business from time to time.
A lean period, when revenues have dropped a bit, can be a great time to stay busy and work on your business. Not only are you giving much-needed care and maintenance to your business entity, but you are securing you success when the next busy time hits. Here are some thoughts on how to make the most out of your next slow period.
From a learning perspective:
- Invest in yourself and/or your staff by attending a professional development conference or workshop. You’ve been caught up in serving your customers for so long, you may have dropped out of touch the latest developments in your industry.
- Meet with your team and collect stories of “lessons learned” from your past busy period, and document them. These stories are the “intellectual capital” of your business, and having them well documented ultimately adds to your company’s value.
- Prepare a presentation on the successes of the last busy period, and hold a “lunch and learn” session to share your success, either internally or externally. You’ll gain some insights just by going through the exercise of writing the presentation. More importantly, sharing your story with others and inviting their input, questions, and feedback will make you smarter next time.
- Update new-hire training materials. If you have to let people go during a slow period, you’re going to have to hire people back before the next busy time comes. Have a first-class training program in place that bring new hires up-to-speed quickly.
From a quality perspective:
- After a busy period, you’ve got all kinds of new data that ought to be collected and analyzed. Find your efficiencies and maintain them. Find your inefficiencies, and improve them.
- Update you critical business documents. If your busy period forced you to change how you handle the increase in traffic, make sure your operating procedures reflect those changes.
- The pressure of high customer demand puts a strain on your quality control systems. Evaluate your product/service defect rates during your busy season, and make the corrections necessary to guarantee top quality performance before the next busy season strikes.
Lean times in your business are not the time to shut down and ride out the storm. Rather, quiet times are great for taking necessary action to work on your business, update and upgrade your processes, and prepare for the next big wave of activity that is sure to come.