Summers can be slow for many small companies. Sales can fall and some team members may take the opportunity to get away from the office. Small-business owners may want to take advantage of a slow summer by choosing any one of these actions from the list below. They may help you get an edge on the competition.
1. Clean out your inbox.
If you get overwhelmed when you have more than 25 emails in your inbox, you may want to come up with a better system to manage it if you're having a slow summer. Creating a process where each email is read only once may help you get closer to inbox zero. In this process, after you read the email, you would then delete, reply to, set for follow up or file the message.
Other systems where the same email is reviewed continuously or where your inbox is used as a to-do list may contribute to wasted time. Using this simple system may help you get to inbox zero.
2. Tap into a beginner's mind.
Companies can get off track of their true mission when dealing with urgent and sometimes off-target requests from customers. Consider returning to some of the most basic questions if you're having a slow summer:
- Why is my company in business?
- What pain do we solve better than anyone else?
- Who has the money to pay for our services?
In answering these questions, you may discover that your company mission has drifted off course. This may affect revenue and morale—you may want to use this downtime to think of ways you can get back to your company's purpose.
In an effort to tap into beginner's mind, you may want to schedule time to check out for a bit. Leaving your smartphone in your pocket or shutting off all communications for an hour, day or week may help you let your mind wander. New creative ideas can occur when the mind is free from daily distractions. Volunteering for a cause of your choice can also be an effective way to generate new innovative connections.
4. Improve your skills.
Many small-business owners often don't have time to learn new skills because they're so busy. The summer can be a perfect time to teach yourself something new by creating your own independent summer school. There are industry-specific webinars that can be attended from your office.
For broader skills training, try Coursera, which offers free online classes from major universities like Stanford, Oxford and Yale. You may also want to pick one new business book to read from each night. When you are finished, consider emailing the author to tell them what you learned or ask them any additional questions that you have. You may create a valuable relationship this way.
5. Review your financial statements.
Unfortunately, some small-business owners don't check their financials on a monthly basis. If you don't know where your company has been financially, it may be difficult to know where it is going.
If you don't understand every number on your profit and loss statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement, consider getting help from your local accountant or bookkeeper. Don't be embarrassed to ask for help. This lack of financial knowledge can be a common problem among small-business owners who never learned this side of the business.
6. Network with others in the industry.
During a slow summer, you may want to join social media conversations about key issues on the platform that is popular in your industry.
But you may also want to get out of your office and meet peers at trade shows or other in-person events. This may put you closer to what is happening in the marketplace, and it may help you make critical customer, employee and vendor connections. You may even want to meet with your second-tier customers (i.e. not the largest), the ones who may get neglected during the year.
7. Survey customers.
Sometimes small-business owners don't ask enough questions about what their customers think. Since customers may also have more time in the summer, consider sending out a three-question survey to see what actions you may want to take based on results.
You may want to spend the extra time to get in touch with the customers who never respond to reply with their feedback. In addition, consider being proactive and securing online reviews from customers on the most popular websites that refer new business to your company. Developing these types of evangelists can be an effective form of marketing.
Which one of these projects will you choose in order to get ahead? What other things will you do to get ahead right now?