Mariners once dreaded sailing the seas around the Earth’s equator. Not for the heat, or the sharks or the waves. Rather for the lack of wind. Sailing ships would often become stuck for days or weeks, unable to move due to the shortage of any breeze. The nautical term for this area is the doldrums, meaning windless waters.
Nowadays, the doldrums carry other meanings, as well. One of the most used is to denote a period of stagnation or inactivity. Like an ancient sailing ship leaving the trade winds, businesses also go through doldrums. Often these doldrums occur during a specific season and can be forecasted in advance.
For example, new home construction slows during the winter months as bad weather makes work difficult. Furnace repair contractors don’t get many service calls during the summer. The hospitality business grinds to a halt after Labor Day and the end of vacation season. Companies need to plan and budget accordingly to make it through these slower times until their next peak season rolls around.
Your business probably also has its own doldrums or slow season. For you it may be in the spring. Or perhaps in the summer, when customers and employees alike take off for some needed escape from work. No matter when your doldrums occur, you need to have a plan of action to properly deal with them and to make sure your sails are in tip-top shape when the trade winds return, and business takes off. Here are some quick tips to get you going:
Work on your business instead of for it – When sales are popping, you’re often too busy to take care of some basic house… well, make that businesskeeping chores. Now that times have slowed, it’s the perfect opportunity to take care of many tasks you just had to put off. Such as…
Update your marketing plan – A good marketing plan never stands still. It’s always moving, dynamic and flexible. Look back over the past 12 months. What didn’t quite go as planned with your marketing plan and could use some tweaking or revamping? What went right and should be done again? And, what went totally wrong and needs to be sent to Davy Jones’ locker at the bottom of the sea?
Give your website a fresh face – Have you looked at your website lately? Your customers do. Is it a proper and energetic reflection of your company that engages customers and encourages them to do business with you? Or is it a reflection that you really don’t know much about modern marketing? Even worse, is it a reflection that the last time you updated your website it was in the age of dial-up modems? A static, never-changing website can give your customers the impression that nothing’s going on with your company. A new, dynamic design, on the other hand, tells your prospects you’re a company on the move, ever striving to improve your products, services and your ability to help them. There’s no better time than your doldrum period to ask yourself these questions and act to ensure your site best showcases your firm’s knowledge, expertise and solutions-oriented approach.
Reconnect with old clients – There’s so little time to talk and interact in this fast-paced world of the early 21st century. The doldrums are a great time to reconnect with those with whom you’ve lost touch. No, not Aunt Mabel. In this case, your old clients. Give them a call, or better stop by their office to catch up. If they still do business with you, let them know how important they are and update them on any new offerings that could help them. If they’re no longer clients, call anyway. Let them know you appreciated their business in the past and that you were thinking of them. Update them on your company’s progress and see if there’s any chance to rekindle a business relationship. Don’t forget, it’s much cheaper to get old clients to either do more business with you or come back to the fold than it is to prospect for new business.
Get organized – Remember last tax season when it took you two days to find that important documentation? And remember how you swore it would never happen again… you were going to get organized next time around. Well, guess what? Now’s your chance to do that. Organize your office, your files, your marketing materials, your supply cabinet and whatever cluttered, disorganized and frustrating thing that has driven you to distraction.
Efficiency is the mother of success – Closely related to the above tip, the doldrums allow you to not only make your operation more organized but efficient as well. Every operation, no matter how perfect at its start, has inefficiencies creep in over time. Your boat’s engine may purr as you glide out of the marina, but overlook the occasional necessary tune up, and you have an engine guaranteed to leave you stranded somewhere. Examine your operation; Look at each step from the moment you meet a prospect to the making of a product or until you deliver the service. Examine your billing process and your follow-up. No matter how many steps you have in your company’s process, there’s a good chance you need at least a little tweaking at best, or at worst, a complete overhaul. Make productive use of your slow season to get back on course!
Help your bottom line – Your finances may need a boost during the doldrums as business drops. This can cause cash flow problems for smaller businesses. If revenues drop more than expected or you haven’t set aside sufficient funds to tide you over, your business could be in jeopardy.
There is an option that could put some wind in your sails during these doldrums. It’s called invoice factoring. Invoice factoring allows you to “sell” your accounts receivable invoices to a third party. This third party pays you upfront for outstanding invoices, giving you the cash you need today to run your business, and eliminating the worry and hassle of slow pay collections. You’re left free to run your business.
Invoice factoring is a convenient alternative to a traditional bank loan or fee-laden online loans. Factoring gives you the money you need when you need it with no long-term obligations. You can also get cash quicker through invoice factoring – usually within a day or two. If you would like to learn more about how invoice factoring works, simply call toll-free 1-877-960-1818 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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