Every now and again, businesses will go through a quiet spell. This can be for all kinds of reasons. Plans fall through. Markets change. The economy changes. Change will always happen. And as we are now experiencing, an unforeseen pandemic could hit.
Of course, quiet periods can decimate cash flow, and the Office of National Statistics found that 90% of small business failures can be chalked up to poor cash flow.
So whether you’re starting to see tumbleweed rolling through the office or you’re simply planning ahead, let’s look at 8 productive and positive things you can do – in no particular order – when business dries up a bit.
1. Acknowledge and Communicate the Situation
As soon as you realise you’re going through a quiet spell, communicate that clearly with your team. Explain the situation, but try and keep things positive – avoid judgement or finger-pointing. Putting the situation out there helps to control the narrative; when managers clam up, rumours can run rife – especially when people believe their livelihoods are at stake.
There may not be a lot going on, but maintaining an open channel of communication between yourself and your team is essential. Dry spells can be a great opportunity for introspection, so encourage open exchange of ideas on how best to remedy the situation.
Before you announce the news to your team, you’ll probably want to work out how much you’re short and what will be needed to bring you back to an even keel. This way you can start to set realistic targets and put meaningful plans into motion.
2. Renew Your Focus on Marketing and New Opportunities
Worries and quiet spells go hand in hand, but simply saying “stop worrying” is far easier said than done. Once you understand the ins and outs of your situation, try to refocus your attention on hunting down new opportunities.
If you’ve been really busy with client work up to this point, some important marketing activities may have fallen by the wayside – especially those that need a lot of time-consuming maintenance like social media, pay-per-click, or email marketing. Pick that baton back up and get running again!
3. Network, Network, Network!
I grant you, networking isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t make sense for every single kind of business, and some of us simply aren’t natural networkers. However, if networking does suit you, a quiet period can be a great opportunity for you to reach out and make some new business connections.
If you’re not a confident networker yourself but you do have one on your team, see if they’d be able to do a bit of networking on the company’s behalf. You could even attend events together – let them take you under their wing! If you’re an experienced public speaker, you could offer to speak at local business events too for added exposure.
Not networked before? Give it a whirl! Most areas have some sort of free or low-cost networking events that can help you get a feel for it. Eventbrite, local Growth Hubs, and Chambers of Commerce are great places to start looking for events near you.
4. Renew Your Strategies and Research
When business is doing well, you don’t often get time to sit back and think strategically about your business. Dry spells give you the time to reflect and strategise. If you’ve been busy for a long while, things may have changed drastically since the last time you reviewed your marketing, continuity, and business plans.
Start by carrying out fresh market and competitor research to get a renewed picture of your company within its market. What conversations are people having about your industry online? What are people saying about you and your competitors? Have any competing companies gained a significant foothold in search rankings or over social media? These are all great places to start your investigations.
You may also find it useful to look at current and historic marketing data. Is there anything you can implement or learn from? Are there any new trends or insights that your data reveals? Is there anything new that your data tells you about your audience? This may not be the best time to introduce radical changes to your business or marketing endeavours, but carefully testing out a few data-backed approaches may be enlightening.
5. Reevaluate Internal Processes
You can also use this time to look at your internal processes and see if there are any new, more efficient ways of doing things. Consider things from your customer’s perspective first – are you making them jump through any unnecessary hoops? Are your buying processes intuitive and easy to follow? How about when things go wrong – are your after-sales processes as efficient as possible?
How about internally – can you streamline any of your “back office” functions? Are there any ways in which you’re making more work for yourselves? A quiet spell may give you the space to try out new processes and come at old problems with a fresh approach.
6. Prepare for Cost-Saving Measures
If you’ve not had to particularly tighten your belts before, you may not know exactly how you’re going to do it. Here are some examples of cost-saving measures; they may not suit everyone, but hopefully they’ll get you thinking about how you can cope with any cash flow issues:
- Put a moratorium on announcing new pay raises, bonuses, and company-funded social gatherings (like your Christmas party).
- Shop around for better utility rates on gas, electric, telecoms, internet, etc. or negotiate with providers if possible.
- Review your purchasing with a fine-tooth comb to see if any miscellaneous costs can be minimised.
- See if you can barter with other companies for products and services “quid pro quo” where possible.
- If things get particularly hairy, you could consider moving selected full-time roles to part-time and even using temporary unpaid leave. Make sure you’re complying with relevant employment laws when doing so.
7. Get Round to Tasks You’ve Been Putting Off
If tight schedules and high-stress levels are the norm in your business, a bit of quiet time gives you a chance to breathe, to reconnect with others, and to do some remedial admin that you might have been putting off. Jobs like filing, archiving, and shredding/destruction of files (both physical and digital) can be seen as unchallenging – boring even – and frequently get pushed to the bottom of the “to do” list.
Without efficient systems for information and documents to flow in, around, and out of your business, a business’s once razor-sharp efficiency can start to wane. Without admin, you end up swamped with hardcopy paperwork or digital noise, unable to lay your hands on anything. A quiet spell gives you a great opportunity to catch up.
8. Ask Happy Clients to Share the Love!
Word of mouth is arguably the most valuable kind of marketing there is – a bit of social proof in the right place can go a long way. A quiet period can give you the opportunity to ask previous happy clients for reviews through platforms like Yell.com or Google; to share more in-depth testimonials with you over social media or email; or (best of all) directly refer your company to a colleague or friend.
If referrals work well for you, you could even incorporate a referral programme into your marketing mix. When done well, an offer like “tell a friend and get 10% off your next [whatever]” can work wonders. Naturally, you need to consider all profit margins, practicalities and legalities beforehand, but if a large chunk of your business comes from referred business, this could skyrocket you out of your slump!