When I first started coaching my mentor coach warned me that August and December tended to be slow months while January, April and September were the busiest months in terms of clients seeking coaches. Armed with this information, I was able to build a realistic income forecast for my business as well as plan personal downtime.
Planning around my business cycles is one key way I have been able to stay in business for 12 years.
Unfortunately, too many people believe that the amount they make one month will translate to all months and then they’re in trouble when that’s not the case. I have seen it too many times. A business owner will have a big party and overspend after having a great month then they are short when a lean month comes along.
Most businesses have an annual cycle and it’s imperative to know what that cycle is for your business.
Determining the Cycle of Your Business
If you have been in business for a year or more, go back in your records and chart the amount of business each month. Is it steady? Are some months much higher while others much lower? Use this information to define your business cycle.
If you are just starting out, do some informational interviews with other people in your industry. Ask what the busiest times of the year are and what the slowest are. Ask what affects people’s decisions in buying.
It’s important to make the distinction that the business cycle I’m speaking of in this article is not dictated by the economy but rather by the buying habits of your clients and the seasonality of your market. Slow periods created by a down economy require additional measures be taken to generate business.
Making the Most of Your Business Cycle
Once you determine your business cycle, brainstorm ways to leverage or minimize the slow times. Here are some ideas:
Do side work
For example, I teach classes at a virtual university. During slow client months I keep my calendar full by teaching more classes and replace the client cash flow with teaching cash flow. This minimizes the impact of client’s taking vacations and breaks that month.
I would recommend that the side work either relates to your main business, compliment your main business or feed a passion in you. The point is to stay engaged, not to start something completely new and different.
Although it’s great to think we get everything done we need and would like to, the reality is we often don’t. Make a list of unfinished projects such as scanning business cards, calling old contacts, updating addresses, hiring a new CPA and plan to knock out the list during a slow month.
Design new products, set-up partnerships or create a marketing campaign that will roll out following the slow cycle.
It seems easier to take time to think, plan and strategize when there are fewer day-to-day activities happening.
When fewer people are using the systems you have in place it’s easier to transition to newer, better ones. Some systems to review: credit card processing, database, newsletter provider and communications among your team.
Schedule doctor’s appointments
I book all my annual doctor’s appointments during my slow months. Doing so keeps appointments from conflicting with my client call schedules and gives me more wriggle room around the appointment so I don’t feel rushed to get back to the office.
Meeting friends for coffee or taking the time to have lunch with your spouse can be a luxury during a busy month, so plan some outings when you can.
Slow months can be the perfect time for you to get away because fewer clients will miss you. I take two to three weeks off in December to spend quality time with my family in Colorado. I find that during this time I can turn off my computer completely and enjoy really quality downtime to refresh my creative juices.
To offset the weeks without work, I offer clients the opportunity to pay upfront for the following year’s sessions if they need more tax write-offs in the current year. Typically, two to three clients take advantage of this offer that helps to keep my December income balanced with other months.
No matter how you choose to use the extra time during slower months, make sure you do use it efficiently. Time is a commodity for small business owners.
Recommended Books on How to Make the Most of Your Down Business Cycle:
- The Small Business Lifecycle: A Guide for Taking the Right Steps at the Right Time
- Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company
- Save Your Small Business: 10 Crucial Strategies to Survive Hard Times or Close Down and Move On
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
- The Quintessence of Strategic Management: What You Really Need to Know to Survive in Business
New Business Mentor Leah Grant publishes Startup Success, a weekly enewsletter. If you’re thinking about starting a new business or are in the early phases of entrepreneurship, get your FR.EE New Business Startup Kit including the Secrets of Successful Business Owners audio at http://www.leahgrant.com