The Ebb and Flow of Small Business Life

When you work for a large employer there’s often a sense of consistency. Shifts in workflow tend to be less noticeable unless there is an industry-wide downtime. Sheer size allows absorption of the ebb and flow that the calendar year brings.

For small businesses, however, the realisation that business, even when you aren’t seasonal, ebbs and flows with the calendar year can come as a shock. In fact it can be positively unsettling.

Even for businesses that aren’t seasonal, demand will be affected by the calendar. Typically we see two peaks in demand. The first is in November when everyone is increasing spending in the lead up to the Christmas season. This is then hit hard by the tighter belts of January.

However, this sense of battening down the hatches doesn’t just for the end of December and the start of January alone. This slump lingers on and it isn’t until the spring, comfortably into March, that we see the second peak in demand.

Firstly, it’s important not to panic and to realise that this seasonal ebb and flow is normal, not just experienced by you, and no direct consequence of anything you’re doing. A quiet time doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suddenly getting something wrong. Secondly, it’s important to realise that this quieter time is a gift for getting your business housekeeping in order.

As we head towards the next quieter period, which will come after spring, here are some ideas of what can you be doing to make the most of this time.

Get your planning hat on

When you’re in the busy times it’s often a case of ‘head down, work hard’. There isn’t room for planning and reflection. However, it’s in planning that business growth becomes possible.  Step back, reflect on successes and weaknesses so far, and set some new goals.

Take stock of the money

For many small businesses owners, managing the financial side of the business is very much a case of ‘needs must’ rather than something embraced with relish. However, this is critical to the health of the business and your scope for growth, and should therefore be taken seriously.

Use the quieter time to take a good look at your financial health and work out specific financial goals. Now is also a good time to get your financial affairs under better control using cloud accounting. Knowing you’ll get help and support transferring the data is essential.

Develop and network

As we’ve said, busy times see the heads going down and introspective beavering away happens. This is necessary at the time but contributes to you shutting off external influences, which can help grow and support your business.

Quieter times are a time to invest in both the development of your workforce and enhancing their skills, as well as getting out and networking. Using this time to work on connections will give you resilience for the next busy time.

Rest up

Small business life doesn’t come neatly packaged in 9-5. Instead, the buzz of working hard can also be matched with the reward of taking time off when things are quieter. Use this time to recharge your batteries and ensure you’re ready for the next upswing.

Just remember, whether you’re busy now or twiddling thumbs, things will change. They always do. Use the quiet times wisely and they will fuel the busy times in more way than one.