Summer is coming. For many small business owners, a change of seasons means a slowdown in business as customers and clients focus on time with their kids, or leave their wallets at home for weekends in the sun.
Here are eight ways to ensure a happy, productive summer:
1. Tackle the hard stuff first.
Summer is the perfect time for finally getting to those projects that have been haunting you all year. The fact that you've been putting them off--however good your excuse--means that there'll be a lot of psychological resistance.
Conquer it by taking a deep breath and hard-charging whatever needs doing. Does your inventory need a complete overhaul? Is expensive equipment ready for tune-up and repair? How's the paint job looking in your showroom?
Grit your teeth and tackle these chores head-on. Fall will be here faster than you think.
2. Improve your website.
Unless you've been living under a rock for 20 years, you know that the internet is the ultimate place for one-stop everything. Whether it's to shop, read up on the news, socialize, or watch a movie, our computers and smartphones are increasingly where we turn.
Your website is the face of your business--not having one makes you nonexistent for millions of people. Learn as much as you can about getting your business online.
Your website should be convenient and attractive, and optimized for web searches. Strategies like keyword optimization, blogging, promoting your business on social, and getting onto review sites like Yelp and Google Places are excellent places to start.
3. Educate yourself.
If the summer months have left you with less to do than usual, consider taking an online course in a subject that will sharpen your mind and your business skills at the same time.
Lots of universities offer professional development classes, like beginning design or programming, and there's a host of online sources for free classes in a wide variety of subjects, including Coursera's Digital Marketing or Strategic Leadership classes.
Just make sure that your schooling is focused. Random online jaunts that lead you from one tangentially-related topic to another are ineffective and can leave you feeling less informed than when you began.
4. Strengthen your company culture.
A vibrant company culture isn't something built overnight. And even if your culture is top-notch, it still needs to be constantly tended if you don't want toxic weeds to creep in.
Take advantage of the summer weather by organizing a company retreat or picnic; get to know new employees better over a long lunch; hit the bar with everyone after work and witness firsthand the magical effects of laughter and relaxation on a group that's been working hard together.
5. Have a fire sale.
Nothing attracts new customers like a killer discount, and if the summer months are preventing you from selling much, you may as well cut your losses and keep traffic moving through your website and front door.
If you were planning on an inventory overhaul anyway, you'll be killing two birds with one stone.
6. Throw a party.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, foot traffic is as important as web clicks, and one way to increase the former during a sluggish season is to have an open house at your store.
Stage it on a clear night under the stars, make sure there's plenty of good music, and think about offering a simple buffet or putting together gift bags to reward your customers for devoting themselves to you.
Take advantage of summer holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July to personalize the party, and use social media to advertise. The main thing is to stay active, fun and engaged.
Just looking busy and successful will help you remain on people's radar until summer's behind you and business picks up again.
7. Revisit your plans.
Use summer's leisurely pace to revisit, reestablish and recommit to your business plan and objectives. How well are you doing with the goals you set last January? What strategic shifts are required to do even better in the months ahead?
Think of summer as halftime in the big game. You've got a few precious months to perfect those X's and O's that'll lead to a crushing victory over your competition.
8. Get your business budget/financials in shape.
We all want that toned summer body, and your business does too. Revisit your business financials and plan ahead for the coming year.
Look back at previous statements--when were you lacking cash and what other seasonalities were present last year in your business? How many customers failed to pay you?
Factor things like seasonality and allowance for bad debt into your budget and formulate a plan for what you'll do if you're low on cash. And don't forget to work on your business credit--it'll make you strong for any season.