OK, so it’s early January; you’re still full from the celebratory food and drink, and you may not have opened your business in the New Year yet.
Even when you open this or next week, maybe because of the usual holiday period and a little virus it will be a bit quiet in these first few weeks.
Well, instead of doing nothing, how about taking advantage of this and cleaning up some things in and around your business? Now is a great time to tidy up inefficiencies, catch up on some administration, finish those new ideas you have, and make plans for the future.
Here are some of the things you can do around and in your business when it’s quiet.
First, you can sit quietly over the next couple of days and prepare your business plan for the coming year.
Here’s a great online resource we offer if you want to do that – a walk-through how-to system on preparing your business plan in just one day.
Early January, when it’s quiet in your business and you can concentrate on looking ahead is the best time to write a business plan, especially this year.
You will be hopefully coming out of Coronavirus lockdown, depending on where you are, or at least capable of seeing several scenarios that could pan out and thus planning for them. You will have had nearly a year’s worth of financial results in “the new normal” and should be able to understand what it means to your business. You will probably have had a lot of time to worry about what may happen and thoughts about how to cope – now is the time to put them into a logical planning document.
While you’re planning for the future, make sure you also prepare a focused marketing plan.
Now, more than ever, you need to make sure that all your marketing time and dollars are well spent. Find and take advantage of opportunities or new markets or new products fit for the Coronavirus situation. Plan to pivot your business and products.
When you prepare your marketing plan, make sure you:
- Define the benefits of your product – not the features dear to your heart, but what it brings to the customer that is dear to their heart
- Define your target market – who is most likely to buy the above benefits from you and focus efforts on them
- Make sure your business is geared up to meet what the customer wants – not just in the product, but also in the way you deliver and package your product and after-sales service
- Recalculate your selling price so it suits the target market – don’t sell a Rolls Royce to a Hyundai buyer
- Identify your marketing activities for the year – what will attract the type of people who are in your target market?
- Document your campaign plan – write it down and make it real!
- Monitor, monitor, evaluate, evaluate and change it if you have to.
If you want to know more about these 7 steps, I have written a book you can buy called “SMART Marketing – 7 Easy Steps To More Sales“. It’s a great quiet-time read because it’s written like a parable about two very busy business owners!
We even offer some FREE products to learn about marketing.
The next thing you can tackle is to get your paperwork in order.
I say “paperwork” but of course, I also mean the digital stuff – I mean, of course, all your records that perhaps you haven’t had time to organise and file or otherwise deal with properly. In this quiet time, you should take the time to catch up and get organised.
Before you start though, check out some good filing resources, from filing cabinets and files to indexes and electronic filing and organising apps. I’ll introduce some systems and apps below, and no, I do not get a cut from these sites and products!
Your local office supply store can recommend modern paper filing systems – maybe yours needs an update so that you can find things more easily. Check out this article on three common filing systems – The 3 Most Efficient Filing Systems For Paperwork. This article – Filing – discusses the different ways you can set up your filing system (so that you can find it again!).
And if you’re not the most logical person, check out The 2021 Surest Guide For Organising An Office Filing System for some guidance.
If you want to digitise everything, all you need is a scanner, a document management app, and some free time! Check out this article, The Best Document Management Software for 2020 (it hasn’t changed in a year), for a simple explanation of document management software and some of their “top picks”.
Another thing for you to catch up with, and understand and analyse, is your financial accounts.
I know that for most of you, the accounting reports are a bit of a puzzle. Firstly, you may not even be up to date. Second, when you are and you print the reports from your software, or if they are provided by your accountant, it’s one of the last things you look at in your normally busy day.
But they are the most important reports you will ever own, so you really need to get to know them and what they mean.
And guess what, now that you don’t have a “normally busy day” is the best time to spend some time on them.
If you’re not financially trained, the first thing I would do is to spend some time learning about accounting. Here’s an article on simple accounting terms, and here’s one on the debit and credit rules.
If you really want to get into it, you could enrol on a simple bookkeeping course, online or at your local adult education centre. You’ll never have more time to attend classes than now!
Then I’d start to “tidy up” your accounts like you did your paperwork and records – get up to date, make sure things are filed and can be found, and then print up to date reports and look through them.
I’m sure you’ll have some basic questions about the reports like “if I made this much profit, where’s the cash?” Or, “what’s the balance sheet mean to me?” Listen, when it comes to accounts, no question is a “basic” or dumb question. Accounts are pretty much a learnable science.
Now is the time to call up your accountant and have a good discussion about all your questions. Get to understand your reports now, so that when you get busy, you can still print a report and not have to spend so much time on understanding your results.
The fifth aspect of your business you can tidy up during this quiet time is process efficiency.
By this, I mean, examine how you actually process work.
What are the steps in taking and fulfilling orders?
How many steps do you take to send out invoices and collect on them?
What do you do, exactly, when you replace or hire a new worker?
All your work – and I mean all your work – is made up of a series of steps.
For example, when you open up your store in the morning, you could:
- Unlock the front door
- Switch on the lights and air-conditioning
- Disinfect the front counter (yeah, we’re in the virus right now!)
- Open the safe and take out the change
- Switch on the till and put the change in the till
- Sign in your first arriving employees
- Open the rear door for deliveries
- Go back to the front door and hang out the “Open” sign
See what I mean? Everything that you do is a series of steps. Most of these steps grew from use and habit. When you are busy, you don’t really think of the steps you take and over time, more and more steps are added because of something that happened that needed an extra step – something you can’t even remember anymore!
The trouble with these “automatic” steps that everyone “knows about” is that everyone will do them in a slightly different way. Some people cut some steps because they “think” they’re unnecessary, not knowing that you may rely on that cut-out step later. Or some people add a step because they like to be more certain, but can’t see that it’s unnecessary of they do something else that ensures it’s done right.
The question is, amongst all your workflows, how efficient are they? How standard are they? Do they produce the same and predictable result no matter who carries them out?
Take the time to look at the most urgent or the most inefficient tasks at work and study how it is done. Then redesign the system to cut out inefficient, unnecessary, and out-dated steps. Record the most efficient design. Create forms or checklists for the new design. Train all your staff.
When you get busy again, these steps will make your workflows sing like a symphony!
So, there you have it!
And you thought that all you had to do in this quiet period was worry about the future and sweep the floors!
Remember, take this opportunity now to:
- Prepare a business plan
- Prepare a marketing plan
- Clean up your “paperwork”
- Understand and use your financial reports
- Redesign your processes for more efficiency
So go to it! See you soon.