10 Things That You CAN and Should Do If Business Is Slow

Mar 17, 2014, Written by Sue Miley

A big sign calling for help is painted oI remember staying up all night long listening to a battery operated radio when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.  It was truly a living nightmare listening to reports of New Orleans not even an hour away.

It hit us hard and many businesses were truly taken out.

I was working on staff at my church at the time.  So many displaced from New Orleans moved into Baton Rouge.  Power was out in our house for 11 days.

The impact to small businesses and big businesses was in some cases catastrophic.

Basically in the last decade there has been something going on almost every year to effect the economy.  If not a natural event, it could be a terrorist attack or a national financial crisis.

We know this.  It’s life.  God doesn’t promise us easy.

Accept That Slow Times Are Inevitable in the Life Span of a Business

So we need to figure out how we can prepare our small businesses to withstand these major economic events, as well as the everyday “business is slow” seasons.

We need to plan.

We need to act.

We need to create a resilient business.

As a small business owner myself, I have learned that my business can do well regardless of the economy, natural disasters, or the competition, in most cases.  (I say in most cases because some things outside of our control do happen.  But in those times, I have to trust God and assume I am supposed to do something different.)

What To Do If Slow Times Hit

For most of us though, there is much that can be done if business is slow.  Here are some steps you can take to beat the odds and do well in spite of the economic circumstance:

1. Step back and look at your business model.  During a poor economy or natural disaster we learn a lot about what our business model depends on.  If your business model needs a lot of cash flow, make sure you have lines of credit established in good times, or business interruption insurance in case you physically cannot conduct business.

  1. Follow-up and check in with all past customers.  If you have been in business awhile, you probably have a pretty good customer database.  You may have been too busy to follow up consistently with this customer, but now is the time to do it.
  2. Do the most fabulous job you can possibly do with the business you have.  This is where we have to fight depression and apathy and lean in to the work we have.  If we do a great job, the word of mouth will definitely help.  It may be that the market is shrinking, but we are small, so there is still business being done in our industry by others.  We need to be better at what we do so that we get that business.
  3. Improve your systems and foundation during slow times so you can capitalize on them when things pick up.  This is the time to put together all of the policies and procedures you have wished you had in the past, but were too busy to get to them.  This could be precious valuable time to really secure your foundation for even better growth in the future.
  4. Keep working.  Don’t laugh, but many of us actually don’t try to work when things are slow.  Instead of looking harder for business or getting other things done to improve their business, they go home. Which makes them depressed, which makes them sleep more.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
  5. Fight depression.  I actually believe that most people get depressed at some time or other in their life.  I believe in staying ahead of depression if at all possible.  I wrote about it a long time ago in this post called Outrunning Depression on my counseling blog.
  6. Re-evaluate your product or service offerings.  Is there some other service that people need based on the current environment?  Does the down time give you time to be creative and develop new products and/or services?
  7. Re-evaluate your marketing.  Maybe you don’t even do marketing.  Maybe you need to start.  Here is a post on The 5P’s of Marketing.
  8. Recognize that there will always be slow times and prepare for it.  It may be seasonal or it could be economic.  Plan for and save for these times.  It worked out really well for Joseph in Egypt where he saved and saved during the feast time as he knew the famine was coming.  You can say that you don’t have the gift of prophesy that Joseph did, however, you do.  We all know it now.  There will be a slow time in your business at some point in the future.  Make sure you are prepared.
  9. Take care of yourself.  This may be a time that you needed for rest and rejuvenation.  As long as you have prepared as suggested in point 9 above, slowing down may be just what you need.  Enjoy it and do the things above and that way when things pick up you will be at the forefront of the upswing.

It May Just Be Seasonality

I remember the first summer I was a counselor.  All of the sudden I was down to like 5 clients.  (I only had about 10 or so to begin with as a part-time counselor.)  I panicked.  I thought I was such a terrible counselor that I scared everyone off at once.

Even when I added someone that summer they would not come regularly.  We couldn’t get any momentum.  It was terrible.  I immediately regretted leaving my long-time business career, selling my house and downsizing, and spending two more years of my life in school.  (Actually the school part was fun.)

I thought I must be a terrible counselor.

Then August came and one by one, as kids went back to school and vacations were over, my clients came back.  New people suddenly called all at once.

It was seasonality.

I just didn’t know it.

Even though my counseling is a smaller part of my business now, I don’t worry when summer comes.  I am prepared for it.  I changed my business model to include business coaching which is a little steadier in the summer.  I take more time for myself and spend time with my family on our vacations during this time.  And this is the time I can write more and create.

I hated the feeling the first year or two. Now, I try to reassure other counselors I talk to that it is just timing. Don’t give up.  Prepare and use the time wisely.

What do you do when it is slow in your business?  Do you use this time wisely?  Have you created a business model that thrives regardless of the economy?

We would love to hear your thoughts.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.