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What to do When Business Slows Down

Updated: Feb 4

Businesses in all industries have ups and downs throughout the year. Some are more seasonal than others. What does your business trend look like?



We've all been there, the business is firing on all cylinders until that dreaded slow down season starts. Speaking from personal experience, that's the wintertime for our hauling company. Living in the northeast in beautiful Stamford, Connecticut, our business consistency throughout the winter has been completely determined by Mother Nature, herself. It's as clear as day when you look back over the years and compare the winter months and weather during that time. If it gets really cold, our leads and bookings slow down; and if there's a major snow storm, well you can just forget about the business until all the snowmen have melted.


Speaking with other companies around the country, everyone seems to experience their own slow down at some point during the year. For example, in Texas I've spoken with a handful of companies that have mentioned their slowest period is around the holiday season toward the end of the year. Their timeframe is much shorter than some in the Northeast, but it's slower nonetheless.


So what do you do? That's the million dollar question, and I'm going to do my best to answer and provide some ideas to power you through your tough times. I'll give you a hint of what not to do... don't just sit around with your hands in your pockets and wait for the leads to start rolling in!


Why is Business Slow Right Now?

You probably feel like the world is caving in when business begins to slow, and you'll feel this doubly if you haven't prepared for the change in job volume. Tightened cashflow cycles are usually what unprepared small business owners feel during a slower period, and sometimes that is coupled with a tightening in their chest too! But don't stress, slow downs are a natural part of business and there are a variety of reasons they can happen.


Holidays

For some industries, the holiday season is where they make all their money for the entire year. In other industries, people just aren't thinking of them during this timeframe because their minds are wrapped around everything that has to do with the holidays and planning for travel, family events, and so on. One tip when measuring your companies performance throughout the year: segment the holiday season for each year so you are comparing apples to apples. If you approach this more linearly, you may find wider disparities in your findings.

Seasonality

The holidays is one example that has to do with seasonality, positively or negatively. But not all seasonality is based around the holidays. Take for example, the pool industry. In most parts of the United States, this is a summer season type of business, and tends to be more profitable during that part of the year.

Weather

Consumer spending habits change during more extreme periods of weather, hot or cold. For example, a plow company would receive far more calls during a major snowstorm event than you would for a light dusting of a couple of inches. A light snowfall is manageable, and you'll have some people willing and able to take on the responsibility themselves to shovel outside their homes. But for a major snow event where people are literally blocked in and the city snow plows are pushing hundreds of pounds of snow and slush up against your driveway as they come by, well this will make people go online and find a plowing company ASAP. And the reverse is also true if it doesn't snow at all!

Economy

This is probably the biggest factor on the list. During downturns, people shift their minds and often go in to survival mode. Sometimes this has a lasting effect on the rest of their lives (think grandparents that lived through the Great Depression). During times when the economy is down, those who've lost jobs have less to spend, and those who still have work could become more frugal with their spending as a way to offer themselves protection. In both cases, unless the junk removal is an absolute necessity (like selling their house or moving), they may decide to do the work themselves and load their car a hundred times over the course of a year for the dump, or may even put their project on hold until further notice.




So do these 5 things during your slow down period:



#1: Keep Advertising


To me, this is the most important of all the actionable items on the list. Stay the course with your advertising and keep running ads and doing your other forms of marketing through the slow periods.


Do this, and you'll undoubtedly put your company in a position to thrive once business picks back up. Businesses aren't made in the busy times, they're made in the slower times. Utilizing the slow time to continue marketing and warming up the leads that come in so when they're ready to choose a provider, you will be top of mind. A lot of customers, although they're not actively booking, will do their research during the slow months in preparation for the spring. So don't miss out on this opportunity to connect with the customers by shutting down your online ads just because it's slow and they're not converting as highly as you may want.


#2: Analyze Your Books

Slow periods are a great time to take a more in depth look at your books, and more specifically, your expenses. Go through your profit and loss sheet with a fine toothed comb and look at the year over year comparison (just ask your account for this or if you do it yourself, print out the full current and full previous year - or whatever timeframe you're comparing with). See if you notice any major outliers like spending increases in certain categories. Why did spending go up significantly here or there? Take a deeper look by inspecting the general ledger next and view all the transactions in that category. Then find what you can eliminate, and get rid of it! Lowering your expenses wherever you can is just as good as making more profit. It has the same effect on your bottomline.


#3: Build Your Team Morale

Slow periods are also a good time to build team morale. Take your guys out to lunch individually and connect with them deeper than the surface relationship you might have during the rest of the year. This will do wonders for your overall team productivity and create a better bond between you and then rest of the team. Another option would be to host a staff lunch. If you're on a budget, just go the pizza route. (Who doesn't love pizza?)


#4: Maintain Your Trucks


The is something you'll need to do throughout the year, but you have no idea (or maybe you do) how many times our trucks were due for service but our schedules were too busy to pull them off the road. Even for just one day! So we held off on the service until we had a window to get it done. You should use this time during the slow period to make sure all of your trucks and equipment are up to date on service and inspections. We do Federal Annual Inspections on all of our trucks, and have this done every winter.


#5: Double Down on Your Networking


Networking is a terrific way to build a sales pipeline for the future. Find groups of people and businesses that your service can work with. For the hauling industry, a few come to mind - realtors, property management companies, home improvement contractors, movers, etc. Build genuine relationships with these people, and when the time comes that they're in need of a dumpster or a team to haul some stuff away, they'll think of you. The same goes for people that they know that may be in need of the same types of services; they are likely to toss your name in the ring as a provider. From there, you do what you can to exceed their expectations and build a list of evangelist customers that'll always use (and more importantly refer) you to others!


You've got more time in the slower months, so use it wisely and keep moving forward and building your business. These are just a few ideas, and there are certainly more you can try. But take the time to think about your operations and how you can better set yourself up for success once things pick back up, and start taking action!



Success favors the hard working. Let's talk more about how to get you back where you want to be.

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