5 Strategic Time-Use Tips

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Is a seasonal or some other business slowdown leaving you a bit bored right now? Use the down time to take care of your business by handling one or more of the tasks below that you’ve been putting off doing.

How to use business slowdowns to your advantage
Image source: Istockphoto

It’s common for many non-retail small businesses and independent contractors to experience seasonal slowdowns at the end of December and beginning of the New Year as well as at other times during the year. Although the lack of business can be a bit disconcerting even when it’s expected, having time on your hands offers one big benefit: it gives you time to handle tasks you’ve been to busy to pay attention to during the rest of the year.

If you’re going through a slow period right now, here is a list of ways to use your time that will help tune up your business to keep things running smoothly in coming months.

1 – Back Up Everything

If the hard disk on your computer failed today, could you recover everything that was on it? Would your accounting records or customer list be lost? What about photos, ,email exchanges, and important documents?  And what about your website? 

Use the time when things are slow to do a full backup of your computer and website. You can do it manually backing up to a removable hard drive or you can set up a cloud-based automated backup solutions such as iBackup. WordPress sites can easily be backed up using one of a number of WordPress plugins.  

2 – Do Those Software Updates You’ve been Putting Off

Your devices and the software and apps you use all issue updates from time-to time. Chances are you’ve seen the reminders that pop up on your computer or device screen. These updates are important. Many are to close security holes that could get your devices or your website hacked. Others add important new features or fix existing bugs in software. But If you were busy when the notifications showed up, or if you worry that an update will make changes you don’t like, you may have avoided installing them.  

Take the time when your business is slow to make those important updates. (Be sure you’ve backed up everything, first.)  The updates will help protect and enhance your business in the long run. One exception: before you install a major upgrade in an operating system (say, upgrading to Windows 11 from Windows 10), check to be sure the all the software that you currently use is compatible with the new version.

3 – Review and Update Your Website Content

Your business website is your business’ face to the world. Customers and prospects form an impression of your company based on the way your site looks and the textual content you use on the site. If your site looks old and outdated, isn’t using https, has out-of-date references, broken links, or non-working forms, the site will make a poor impression on visitors. Instead of looking at and buying your products or calling you to make an appointment, they’re likely to click away and do business with a competitor.

Make use of your slow time to go through the site and update design, content and images. Make sure the links work, that your business name, phone number and address (at least your city and state) are present on every page. Be sure forms work, that you have an email signup form on every page, and that the site is easy to navigate. Fix what isn’t working the way it should.

4 – Review Your Business and Finances

Look back at income and expenses over the last 6 months to a year to determine what products, services or clients are most profitable, and which are least profitable, or even a source of loss. If you invoice clients, is the time it takes to get paid causing you to borrow money and pay interest on the funds you borrow? If so, how does that cut into your profit margin?

Look at your costs and where you may be able to cut them or need to make pricing changes of your own.  Are your profits going down because you’re paying more for inventory, supplies, services, or gas for your vehicles?  Are you staying on top of those increases and passing them on to your customers?  Are there vendors you deal you could request a discount from because your business has grown and you buy in quantity from them? If your business has grown since you got your merchant account, have you contacted the provider and asked for a lower rate, or shopped around for another provider?

There are many other costs you can look at, too, from advertising expense to the cost of leasing business space (if you do). The key is to know what your expenses are, stay on top of changes, and work to reduce your costs and/or increase your own prices so your business remains profitable.

5 – Update Your Business Plan and Goals

Use the information from your review of business finances to help you update your business plan and set new goals and timelines and develop strategies to meet those goals and timelines.  Can you increase your profits by increasing by upselling customers on additional products or services? Do you need to get back in touch with customers who have stopped purchasing from you? Could you benefit by offering additional products or services, or by dropping some?  Do you need to reach out to customers in a different demographic or geographic region? Do a better job at digital marketing?

Use your slow time to make a list of goals, deadlines and tactics that will serve as your business’ roadmap to succeed in the coming months.

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