Ahh, summer. Firing up the coals for a backyard barbecue with friends, dusting off the bat to play beach cricket with the kids, or packing the car for a road trip along the coast. However you like to spend the summer months, and whatever business you run, the festive season is a perfect opportunity to step back and take stock.
As a traditionally quiet trading period for many industries, it’s not unusual to hear negative narrative about small businesses struggling over the festive season. Instead, we want to share how small business owners on Xero are taking the opportunity to turn reflection into action – and why it’s the perfect time to do so.
So with that in mind, here are some top tips for taking charge of the summer months.
Cut the costs
The change of pace in summer can be a good opportunity to review your overheads and see where you can cut back, even if only during the festive season.
Xero customer Michael Venn from MJV Plumbing Services is a proud lean operator,. “I don’t have many outgoings,” he says. “I mean, I have my ute and my bookkeeper! But in terms of other operations, everything just goes in my diary. People call me, I write the jobs in and write the hours against that job. At the end of the week I sit down to do my invoicing.”
Ask yourself what overheads you can reduce across the December and January period ahead. This can include non-essential overheads, like pausing a subscription that’s . Perhaps your employees have said they would love an extended summer break beyond their standard leave period. Is voluntary unpaid leave an option?
Some businesses choose ramp up sales leading into the break and officially ‘close down’ for a few months. While this can make it difficult to draw a salary over summer, it may prove a useful way to avoid the standard operating costs that are just there to keep the business open.
Time for you
The festive season can also represent a rare opportunity to sit back and take stock, as Jordana Blackman, the founder of Chicks Who Ride Bikes, has found. “I’ve realised it’s so easy to get stuck in your routine or focus only on the stuff you like,” she says. “That’s not good for business.
“I listen to a podcast, watch a video or read blogs to do with marketing – anything to expand my knowledge.”
Start as you mean to go on in December onwards. Thirty minutes a day spent talking to your customers, or checking out global best practice, is time well spent at any time of year.
Revisit the business plan
With some more time and space around you, it can be a good idea to sit down and look back over your business plan. “It’s all very good to start up your business and make a whole plan,” says Menucha Korik, founder of Menucha Korik Photography. “But you have to go back to it to balance out the emotional responses… It gives you the chance to say: ‘I wanted to do this. Have I achieved that, or did I get sidetracked?’”
Given business is so disruptive these days, your business plan may have changed. This can be positive – reflecting a nimble approach. But stop to reflect on your original strategic goals, to see how well they meet the needs of your current customers.
Let the numbers tell the story
Last but by no means least, the summer period gives you ample time to revisit the numbers.
What fuelled your most busy periods? What kinds of customers drove this growth? What led to quieter months? Which products and services outperformed others? How can you better budget over the next 12 months to beat the annual ‘quiet summer period’?
This time of year represents a great opportunity to take stock and ensure your business is working for you, as much as for your customers. Remind yourself why you went into business in the first place, and check that it’s still serving those needs well.
Sometimes, a little summer perspective can make all the difference.
Photos: Chicks Who Ride Bikes; Menucha Korik Photography.