Depending on your industry and business type, one of two comments likely resonates for you during the holiday season:
- “Get ready for the holiday rush!” (certain retailers and service providers)
- “October is the last REAL month of the year, so we have to make the most of it.” (everyone else)
Many would agree that there are noticeable lulls during the holiday season that can seem unproductive. Consumers and businesses alike are often less engaged in November and December, so if your business depends on the typical M-F schedule, it’s time to get creative and stay busy with tasks that can have a major impact on your future success.
Kick the new year off strong with 7 things you can do right now:
1 – Audit your business systems:
This is one of the healthiest exercises for any business. It not only improves efficiency, but also helps your long-term cash flow by decreasing waste.
- Pick one full week this month and keep a running total of hours spent on each business task. Hopefully you’ll find that most of your time is dedicated to your expertise (or your craft), but there will undoubtedly be many hours spent on administrative tasks as well.
- For your most time-consuming tasks, seek out solutions that help you minimize the time they take. That solution may be software, a piece of equipment or another employee. Since you already know how much your time is worth, do the math to make confident decisions about where to invest in improvements.
2 – Identify areas where you can cut costs:
With everything else going on to keep your business running smoothly, it’s easy to fall into the habit of getting a bill and just paying it without really evaluating what you’re spending your money on.
- A good habit to adopt when paying bills (both at work and at home) is to occasionally ask yourself, “how can I make this bill smaller?”
- Once you start to vet your expenses, begin to chip away at your costs. Some expenses are hard to adjust, such as Internet, phone and property leases, but cutting back on costs like utilities or office supplies (do you really need to print that?) can do a lot for your cash flow.
3 – Launch a new program:
Think back to all of the great ideas you’ve put on the backburner over the last several months, and set aside some time for a passion project.
- In just a few days, you can develop and launch a social media program for your business, implement a newsletter, or even start a company blog.
- Each of these examples is both simple and therapeutic and does a great job in spreading awareness about your organization.
4 – Prepare your taxes:
Taxes are one of those things that have to be done, and now is a good time to get a head start.
- Organize and prepare your receipts, do some research and make sure you understand what receipts to keep for tax time.
- If you have employees, one commonly overlooked step in small business tax planning and preparation is payroll. Add this to your list and learn what not to miss when filing payroll taxes.
5 – Check in with past and existing customers:
Take off your sales hat and connect with your customers on a personal level.
- Send them a holiday card, drop them an email, or follow-up on a project you delivered earlier in the year. Adding a personal touch to your business will not only create repeat customers, but advocates of your products or services.
- To get immediate value from these interactions, you can ask for referrals or testimonials, but it’s not required. Just a simple “how’s it going?” can do just as much to win future business.
6 – Take a vacation:
Book a trip and leave town for at least a week, if you can. You’ll come back with enough energy to make up for lost work anyway, and your friends and family deserve your undivided attention.
- Research tools and ask for help to make an actionable plan that will allow you to delegate your way to a much-needed vacation.
- Give yourself permission to take a step back and recharge this holiday seasons. There is much to be gained by letting go of stress and learning to enjoy some time off.
7 – Plan, plan, plan:
By now you should have a good idea of your organization’s performance-to-date, as well as a decent projection of how the year will end.
- Where did your business thrive this year, and where did you come up short? Maybe you built a great product or service but didn’t attract as much business as you’d like. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, maybe you had to turn down business because you couldn’t keep up with the demand.
- Every organization should be able to point to their strengths and weaknesses during a given period of time to identify areas of improvement.
- Improve on those weaknesses by developing an actionable project plan with hard, realistic deadlines. If you’re not sure how to take on one of your business challenges, allocate some of that time to research.
Don’t let slow times hold your company back, use it to take your business to the next level!