It’s summer, and you need a break and so do many of your employees. Unfortunately, many of your customers are also taking vacations and that means slower sales, drawn-out buying decisions and sluggish cash flow. It could also mean waiting for inventory if your suppliers do the same, and various other issues that plague businesses during the warmer months.
By planning effectively, you can beat the summer blues and keep your business running optimally during the next few months. These tips will help you determine whether you’re on track:
Take a Break – It’s Good for Your Health
[quotesr]Research shows that taking a break from work actually makes you perform at a higher standard than if you didn’t do so. [/quotesr] This is especially important for small business owners, who tend to translate “work in your own time” to “work ALL the time.” I’ve been there too, and I know what it’s like.
One study showed that 82 percent of respondents from this category felt they performed better after taking a vacation, and medical research shows that around one-third of male business people who regularly get time off have a lower risk for heart disease.
You can’t run your business if you’re unhealthy, ill or suffering from burnout or fatigue. So take that break, get inspired and refreshed, and come back ready to move mountains.
Stagger Staff Vacations
Ask workers to schedule their vacation time in January of each year. This will give you the information you need to plan out the entire year in terms of staffing.
Proclaim that all leave is allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. This encourages employees not to wait until the last minute to put in their applications, or they might be refused.
Stagger your daily staffing schedule during summer. You might not be able to keep a full staff complement, but companies that offer extended service hours can still meet promises to their customers by having some staff come in earlier and others later.
Offer holiday work incentives. This is particularly important if your business operates during public holidays. For some people, the extra money is pivotal in getting them to agree willingly to work on holidays. It may not be practical in every business, but if holidays are generally productive selling days for you then it could be.
Support telecommuting, and let your critical employees work from home. This way, they can have the best of both worlds (and so can you) by having time off and still keeping their workload up to date.
You should also identify and maintain a pool of qualified, tested temporary employees, or establish a relationship with a good temp agency that can provide you with affordable, short-term help when you need it.
Peek Into Your Customers’ Plans
I’m talking mostly about existing clients, because it’s a bit difficult to contact prospective clients and ask if they’re going to have orders while you’re taking time off. With existing and especially with regular customers, however, it gives you a great opportunity to connect with them either personally or electronically. Wish them a happy summer, ask if they are planning to be out of office and whether they know of any needs they’ll have ahead of time.
It isn’t even necessary to mention you’re taking time off – it’s enough to remind them that suppliers may do so and some proactive planning is in order. This could also apply to potential clients who are close to making a final buying decision.
Plan Your Inventory
Whether you purchase raw materials and turn them into products or act as a broker between supplier and client, [quotesr]if you have a sound business plan in place then you’ll have an idea of what you need to supply during the summer season. [/quotesr] Negotiate upfront with your suppliers, either to ensure that you have adequate stock throughout the summer or to stock up ahead of time and negotiate comfortable payment arrangements.
If your suppliers are taking time off, they may be more than happy to deliver the inventory before doing so, even if it’s on a consignment basis and you only pay for items once you make the sales.
For companies whose market is relatively stable, it’s advisable to consider “locking in” a supplier on a contract basis, so you don’t end up scrambling for materials in the middle of the slow season.
Run a Special Promotion
[quotesr]A special offer, promotion or discount also gives you an excellent opportunity to make contact with clients and increase awareness before everyone disappears for the season. [/quotesr] It heightens your brand’s visibility and reminds them of upcoming holidays, which is often the catalyst they need to get it done now. By making it financially viable for the customer to order early, you can often cut your own costs through early payment discounts, too. Whether this looks like an early bird payment discount, a limited-time offer or a loyalty reward is up to you.