So Your Business Just Slowed Down. Is It Time to Panic? If there is one thing I have learned in more than 20 years of running my own company, it is that at some point, your business will slow down. Let's discuss what to do when that happens.
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There's an old joke that always makes the rounds when you mention being an entrepreneur. You're probably very familiar with it. It goes something like this: Entrepreneurs are the only people in the world that will work 80 hours for themselves, just so they do not have to work 40 hours for someone else. The joke has been so overdone, I'm not entirely sure who even said it to begin with, but I personally first heard it from Lori Greiner.
It's something that has really stuck with me through the years, especially when my nose is to the grindstone. You understand. It really doesn't matter where you are in your entrepreneurship journey: Maybe you just started, or perhaps you have a few years under your belt, or you might even be a seasoned pro. Wherever you are at, you know what it is like when things are crazy busy.
Those are the times when you aren't sure which way is up, what day it is or how long you've been wearing those same sweatpants. You don't have time for anything else, because running your business is more than a full-time job.
Next thing you know, your business is slow
If there is one thing I have learned in more than 20 years of running my own company, it is that at some point, your business will slow down. It is inevitable, and it always feels like you're suffering from whiplash: One day you're in over your head with business, and the next you're trying to figure out how to stay in business.
Now, you're painfully aware of which way is up, you know exactly what day it is and your sweatpants are washed daily. Of course, there are ways to plan for slow downs in business, especially if you run a business that has clear ebbs and flows such as retail. But, what about those surprise times you encounter where your business slows?
It's not the time to panic
Let's be honest: We don't always have time to craft a carefully made plan for every possible surprise we might encounter. It's easy to sit here and say, "Make time and create a plan just in case!" But when you're working more than 80 hours every week, where are you going to find the time to do that? Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.
Right now is a great example of that. I have noticed a trend with the companies around me, as well as my own. We all went through a boom. The end of 2021 was a good year for us. Then, April hit and numbers started plummeting.
Yes, I have owned my own business for many years. No, there's never a point where I don't worry about it, but I don't panic. It would be easy to see the numbers trending downward right now, panic and do something crazy to immediately boost numbers back up. But that boost would be temporary, and the long-term effects could potentially far outweigh any positivity it adds instantly.
Create a long-term plan
Instead of panicking, take a breath. Recognize that business ebbs and flows no matter what — sometimes it is predictable, and sometimes it is not. If you find yourself in the latter, like I am now, create a long-term plan for your business. There are four things I recommend to think about:
1. How can you bring in more leads/business in a sustainable manner?
2. What internal processes can you fix to be more efficient to save money?
3. How have people's needs changed, and how can you address that moving forward?
4. What ideas does your team have, and how can you encourage them to create more?
In a panic, you might try to buy a sketchy email list from a company you've never heard of to boost leads. This can truly hurt your business in so many ways. Instead, consider a more sustainable source of leads such as a partnership or sponsorship deal.
In a panic, you might try to cut costs. I've certainly seen my fair share of companies cut out their marketing budget completely to save money, only to find themselves out of business because no one knew about them. Instead, find ways to make internal processes more efficient such as automating lead creation into your CRM so that your sales team has more time to make more calls.
In a panic, you might miss that people aren't looking for your product or service. If you sell shorts and a freak winter storm hits, people don't need shorts anymore. Instead of trying to wait out the storm, consider ways to make your shorts winter friendly. Whatever your business is, get creative with something that is sustainable and will increase your business well past your current slow period. Most importantly of all, ask your customers what they want!
In a panic, you might miss something your team members can see but you can't. I remember during one slow period I asked my team for their ideas on how to overcome it. In search of inspiration, one team member took to our website. As they clicked around, they discovered that our lead form was broken. We had no idea! Instead of trying to take everything on by yourself, ask your team members for their input, and encourage them to always submit their ideas. New perspectives are always welcome.
So, yes, your business just slowed down. Is it, in fact, time to panic? No. This is an opportunity to expand your business in a sustainable manner — take advantage of it!