All businesses go through peaks and troughs. The slow season, invariably spanning several months a year, when clients may not require the services on offer, need not necessarily mean all doom and gloom. It rather presents some valuable opportunities.
The slow season presents valuable opportunity to tie up the loose ends, complete paperwork, and organize things. The high season requires engaging with customers round-the-clock and scrambling to fulfill work orders, leaving very little time for paperwork and other non-revenue generating activities. The lean season is the time to catch up – check invoices, complete documentation, do follow-ups, and undertake a thorough audit. Such housekeeping tasks lays the foundation for strategizing about the company’s future.
The insights from the previous peak season indicate the profitability and effectiveness of the enterprise offerings. Take a close look at finance to plan business operations on a smaller budget. This is an essential requirement during lean periods anyway.
The slow season offers the perfect opportunity to analyze where the business stands. Projects and business processes become inefficient or cumbersome over time, owing to short-sighted decisions, quick-fixes or for short term expediencies. The slow season is a good time to step back and look for ways to fix the underlying inefficiencies.
Take a close look at last year’s sales and figure out what worked, and what did not. Eliminate mistakes committed in the past, and adopt success stories as the best practice paradigm.
Take a close look at the supply chain, and fix any underlying issues. Clear off old equipment or tools. Evaluate vendor relationships, and take on new vendor connections, as required.
Commit to any business process restructuring, to lower administrative costs or eliminate inefficiencies.
Today’s world is in a continuous state of flux. New technologies and paradigms make existing and entrenched ones obsolete overnight. To put things in perspective, only 60 of the Fortune 500 companies from 1955 still survive. Most of the remaining 420 companies either have gone bankrupt or have been taken over by others. The change is more pronounced in recent times and affects small and medium businesses even more than large ones.
Catch up with the latest technology trends in the field, understand how environmental changes will disrupt the business policy and ecosystem. Evaluate and make plans for any changes to business strategy and product offerings. Undertake SWOT analysis for any new investments.
Changes can be disruptive to the workflow. Change invariably breeds confusion and insecurities, leading to customer dissatisfaction and lost revenues. Yet some changes, such as upgrading to a new system, making some changes in the workflow to improve efficiency, and more are indispensable for the long-term vitality of the enterprise.
The slow season is the perfect time to roll in such changes. Take the opportunity to strengthen the infrastructure, such as upgrading the software, deploy a new cloud server, install a new CRM or anything else that adds long-term value to the enterprise.
The slow season is a good time to search for new customers and research in customers, to better understand their needs, requirements, and nuances. Such insights are invaluable to repackage product offerings, indulge in deep customizations, and engage with customers on a personal basis during the next peak season. Today’s customers are highly fickle and demanding, but at the same time appreciate personalized engagement.
Lack of demand need not mean a lack of work. Pace the workload, to distribute work uniformly throughout the year. Making extra efforts towards selling service agreements for the next slow season could mean good income during slow times.
Many contractors structure their service agreements to push non-essential services, such as routine annual maintenance, to the lean season. Experimenting with different tiers of service agreements for different customer needs, with the assurance of providing service all year round is a sure-shot way of building trust and credibility with customers.
Contrary to conventional notions of cutting down on expenses, the lean season is the season to spurge. Aggressive marketing during the lean season can net in orders, to keep the system oiled and the staff on their toes. Aggressive marketing during these times can also lay the base for getting new clients, ready in time for the next high season.
Marketers need to focus on services such as preventive marketing, to increase chances of success. The lean season also presents the perfect opportunity to work on the website and update the SEO.
The slow season is the time to focus on Human Resources.
Skilled hands are a valuable source of competitive advantage in today’s knowledge economy. However, talented employees are in demand, and hard to come by. The lean season offers the opportunity to search and recruit new talent and bring them on board.
When inducted in the lean season, they can take their time settling into their roles, and do not have to hit the ground running. This is also the time to train employees, to enhance their competencies, and make them proficient in enterprise systems.
Likewise, the lean season is the time to indulge in thorough performance evaluation and let nonessential staff or deadwood go.
Always being on one’s toes does more harm than good in the end.
The slow season is also the time to reward employees with some quality time off, to return recharged. Better work-life balance places the employees in good stead, making them more committed and productive. The top management can also utilize this time to attend conferences and workshops, and enrich their competencies.
All business is cyclical – a slow season invariably follows a peak season, and vice-versa. Smart enterprises counter periods of lean demand by being creative and bold, and never slowing down on their momentum.