There are times for any entrepreneur when things can slow down. Seasonal trends, whether holiday time for many businesses or obvious lack of demand or opportunity. (Ever try to work as an exterior house painter in sub-zero weather?) In some industries, the interest of customers turn elsewhere in the summer.
Macroeconomics may play cruelly in your industry, or there could be a recession. Maybe there's been an unusual local or regional event that hurt your business. No matter how high flying your company, eventually it will experience a slowdown. It can be tough on an entrepreneur. You worry about the health of the business, your employees, bills, your income and obligations.
You could get stuck in a funk, but that does no good and can only lead to depression, inaction, and, as a result, more problems. Instead, here's a list of 28 things you can do. Some are aimed at your business. Some recognize that when things slow, there may be other parts of your life you can attend to.
How do you handle a slowdown?
- Market your business. It seems obvious, but some people don't immediately jump into overdrive. If you don't, try it. Not only will you eventually get more business coming in, but you can learn a lot about what works and doesn't in your marketing.
- Personal promotion. It's a bit separate from marketing the business. Work on your personal brand and public recognition. The better known you are, the more opportunities will come your way.
- Rethink your business model and processes. No company does everything right. When there's a slack, you have the opportunity for reflection, refinement, and redesign that you probably regularly wish was available.
- Strategic planning. If things generally run well, look at markets, customers, and other trends. Is your strategy still on target? Are there new things you should be considering?
- Ask for help. Entrepreneurs might find this tough, because you have to admit there's a basic problem beyond a periodic aberration. Look to others who know more than you and get solid advice that you can take.
- Take some down time. Avoid burnout when the opportunity is handed to you. You might even fit in a short vacation.
- Take a course. There are many areas of learning that could help you in your business or that might bring new ideas and knowledge, which is good for creative thinking and innovation. Check out the number of online classes in any field (many free or inexpensive), or see what's available in a traditional class if you're craving some human interaction.
- Take up a hobby. Enrich your life by exploring an activity that's always intrigued you.
- Study another industry. The longer you work in an industry, the more you risk becoming myopic. Look at what other types of businesses and endeavors do. How do they solve problem and what might be applicable with a twist to yours?
- Network. Get involved with business groups. Stay in touch with colleagues. Feed and expand your network.
- Develop new offerings. Consider whether there are new products and services your existing customers and markets might appreciate.
- Do competitive research. Invest some time in better understanding your most significant competitors. Are they also having a problem? If not, what might they be doing differently? If they are, take stock of their current strengths and weaknesses.
- Strengthen important relationships. Separate from networking, think about the people who are important to you and consider when's the last time you paid them proper attention.
- Spend time with family and friends. This could fit under the above, but think of it separately so you explicitly consider your personal life, not just the business side.
- Indulge in the arts. What a wonderful way to open horizons in your thinking and perspective. Read, listen to good music, attend dramatic performances, walk through an art gallery or museum.
- Develop a skill. Whether in business or life, you likely can catch yourself thinking, "I wish I knew how to do that." Now's the time to learn.
- Improve your time management. Things will speed up again and you may find yourself fondly thinking of the extra time you had. Open more of it by using what there is wisely.
- Upgrade your office. Whether it's new tech, new furniture, a coat of paint, a thorough cleaning, or general organization, prepare yourself and become more efficient.
- Personnel development. There's more in your business than you. Help develop your staff members and expand their horizons.
- Survey customers. What do they actually think, want, and feel outside of your assumptions? How is your company doing in regards to them? Get some harsh but necessary answers.
- Survey employees. Knowing what's going on with people at your company is every bit as important as knowing what the customers are doing.
- Write. Turn out some articles or blog posts. Start a book if you're so inclined. Nothing cements understanding like the process of explanation.
- Teach. Sharpen your knowledge by importing it to others, and work on your interpersonal skills at the same time.
- Volunteer. You might choose a charitable non-profit or an industry or professional body. Whatever the choice, do some good for someone else.
- Exercise. You really don't have an excuse now. Start a good habit.
- Take care of medical issues. When you have downtime, see if you can move up an annual physical, optional procedure, or necessary visit to the dentist. You'll enjoy having the time freed up when you might need it more.
- Do your bookkeeping and taxes. If you're behind on recordkeeping or other paperwork, get it done.
- Start another business. Not in terms of giving up, but maybe you've had a second idea you wanted to explore. Why not own an additional going concern?