The Australian Small Business Blog

Monday, October 12, 2015

What should a business owner do over the summer break?

by Dr. Greg Chapman

This was a question asked of me by a journalist recently. Here is a transcript of the interview on which their article was based.

In what ways can a drop in business during a summer lull have a detrimental effect on a small business’s general health?

It’s common for many owners to take time off during the summer, as it is the only break they get all year, but even during these slow periods, enquiries are still being made. In a business that depends on repeat customers, and word of mouth, this means, if the business is closed, their competitors get the sale, and potentially the ongoing business later in the year.

Whether open or closed, the overheads continue. Rent and utility costs still need to be paid, and the cost of these overheads must be met from profits in the busier parts of the year, reducing overall profitability.

What steps can a small business take to prevent a drop in trade during the summer?

One common practice is to have sales. These tend to appeal to a different market segment than the rest of the year, so it’s important to differentiate the product from what appeals to their market in the non-summer months. An example would be sale of summer stock before winter, or last year’s model of vehicle before the arrival of next years which have new bells and whistles not available on last year’s.

Slow summers can be a useful opportunity to get certain things done. What essential housekeeping or administrative tasks do you think should be carried out in a summer lull?

The lull is a great time to undertake planning for the business. Normally owners are too busy during the year to plan, using the slower period to undertake this essential task should be a high priority.

Other operational tasks that would interfere with normal trade, such as housekeeping, and stocktakes can also be undertaken at this time, but these activities don’t improve businesses as planning does, just maintain them.

This article suggest the following options as tasks for the quiet summer months, can you offer a sentence or two on the viability/sensibility of each each?

Evaluating staff

Staff evaluations should be undertaken throughout the year rather than just once a year. Performing them over summer becomes difficult if many of the staff are on vacation.

Reassessing written content (web, print, social media etc)

Reassessing written content should be part of strategic reviews. Has the marketing focus changed? Are there new products? Has the environment or direction changed. The strategic review will inform what content needs changing, and when it needs to be done. Having a new website, if that’s appropriate for the start of the new year makes sense, but put the strategic horse before the tactical cart.

Gathering testimonials and reviews

Gathering testimonials and reviews should be undertaken when customers have just experienced your service and have been delighted by it. Delight wears off over time. If these have previously gathered, and as part of a strategic review it is felt more recent testimonials are more relevant, using slow time to present them in marketing materials makes sense.

Fostering key relationships

Key relationships can’t be fostered once per year, and should be nurtured throughout the year, but in the summer months there may be events that only happen then, eg summer sports, which enable a more relaxed environment in which to build the relationship. Of course many of your best buyers may be away at that time, which is why it’s not a great idea to leave things to summer.

You can find the link to the journalist’s article here.

May You Business Be - As You Plan It!

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Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success and Price: How You Can Charge More Without Losing Sales.

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