Because of the pandemic and the accompanying economic effects, many companies have seen a downturn in business in recent months. And slow times aren’t new or unique; many seasonal companies deal with downtime every year.
However, just because business isn’t currently brisk, it doesn’t mean that leaders and entrepreneurs should be idle. A slow period can provide an ideal opportunity to focus on aspects of the business that may otherwise be put on the back burner.
But which tasks are most important to prioritize and tackle before the next uptick in business activity? Below, members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share 15 valuable tasks for leaders and teams to tackle when business is slow.
1. Work to better understand your customer.
When business is slow, leaders should reflect on developing a more intimate understanding of customers versus taking the shotgun approach of “everyone is a customer.” Different customer segments have needs that have changed during the pandemic. Ensuring your service is still relevant to them can help maximize opportunities for growth. – Shannon Block, Skillful a Markle Initiative
2. Improve your customer experience.
Last year, my mentor said, “Disney is closed for the first time in years and will use this time to improve the Disney experience.” My team had a similar mindset: work to improve processes and strengthen relationships. Focus on prospects, clients and vendors, as market changes affect them too. Clean up your database, document processes and find other ways to be more efficient when business picks up again. – E. Tanner Milne, Menlo Group Commercial Real Estate
3. Get to know your employees.
Invest in relationships with your employees — both direct and indirect reports. Do impromptu, informal one-on-ones. Ask them how they’re doing, and actually listen. This is time well-spent not only when business is slow; it should be baked into your normal routine. – Darin Lynch, Irish Titan
4. Invest in client and partner relationships.
Spend the time focused on your clients, partners and people. People are very disconnected and isolated right now. Invest your time in them, love them, listen to them and find ways to be of service to them. Doing it now will pay off big in the future. – Jonathan Keyser, Keyser
5. Identify new sales channels.
When business is slow, focus on identifying new channels to sell in or new mediums to promote your services or products. Get creative and monitor what works and what doesn’t. In slow times, it’s great to retool processes and evaluate business models, but without a fresh and creative effort for pipeline building, you won’t achieve the sales needed to stay in business. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting
6. Build your sales funnel.
You don’t get busy by being idle, so turn that idle time into productive time. For example, build out your social media and digital marketing channels. Doing something will always be better than doing nothing; doing nothing is a sure way to fail. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology
7. Spread the word about your mission and social advocacy.
I suggest that business owners consider developing and launching an effective social impact strategy. Utilizing the power of social media and a hashtag marketing strategy are two ways to effectively spread the word about your brand’s mission through social advocacy. With this strategy, you will easily elevate your brand’s position in a crowded marketplace through social impact. – Jeff Shuford, National Invest In Veterans Week
8. Identify what’s working and what’s not in your sales.
Leadership teams should always be helping to bring in more business through various methods — especially when sales are down. Being able to see what’s working and what’s not working with the sales that you have can help you make decisions to propel your business forward. – Todd Marks, Mindgrub
9. Take a thorough inventory of your business.
Taking an inventory of your business and cutting out excessive layers helps. This is the time to really understand what you have — from human capital to cash flow to a more in-depth understanding of your suppliers. Lastly, spend time with the people who are actually running the business to find areas of efficiencies (and of course, cost savings). – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.
10. Analyze and improve processes.
When business is slow, our time is freed up to focus on the things that will make our business better. Improving efficiencies in current processes will only help the business down the road. Take the time to analyze and make changes to both core operations and secondary processes, if needed. In most cases, you will find something worth improving upon. – Lauren Winans, Next Level Benefits
11. Refine tools and approaches.
We leverage lean times to evaluate our tools, processes and approaches so we are proactive and poised for when the work ramps up. Executing these refinements provides value for our clients while also improving our efficiency, keeping us current with technology and strengthening our financial bottom line. Staff is engaged in the research and development, which creates buy-in and cultivates our firm’s culture. – Brian Garvey, SFS architecture
12. Revamp policies and procedures.
A pause in the action is an opportunity to work on the business as opposed to working in the business. Our teams have been able to revamp policies and procedures, focus on areas to improve efficiency and eliminate aspects that were wasting resources, creating a leaner and meaner experience for clients and employees. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
13. Ask the staff what needs to be fixed.
Evaluate your processes and tools. A slowdown is a great time to make improvements so you’re ready for the pace to pick up. Get input from your staff as to what processes don’t work well and commit to fixing them. Don’t hold on to “We’ve always done it that way.” – Jason Comstock, Clarity Technology Solutions LLC
14. Work on annual and quarterly goals.
There should always be yearly and quarterly goals that business leaders work on together to move the brand or company forward. Use slower times as an opportunity to focus on the things that move the collective forward. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
15. Get organized for future growth.
Leaders should take every opportunity when it is slow to get organized for the next big wave. Is there a process that needs to be addressed? Is there succession planning that needs to happen for growing teams? Do budgets or sales forecasts need to be refined or re-forecasted? All of these questions and more should be ready for review during a slow period. – Tom Rourick, RSM US LLP