Tuesday, 30th April 2019 | Sales,Marketing,Management

10 Ways to Survive Slow Times

Seasonal slowdowns are a common occurrence for many small-business owners. Here are some tips on how to survive the slow months and make the most of your time until sales spike again.

Spring has finally sprung across Canada! While most of us are excited for warmer weather, many small-business owners are fearing the start of a slow business season. Depending on the nature of your small business, there’s typically a season (or two) when you see a spike in sales and another that represents your biggest slump.

Regardless of when your slow business season takes place, it’s entirely possible for your business to survive–if not, thrive–with a little preparation and planning. Here are some ways you can make the most of a slow business season, and a few ideas on how to survive any slips in sales.

1. Anticipate your small business’ slow months

As a business owner, you know your operations better than anyone. So, looking back on previous years, it should be easy for you to predict which months will see fewer sales. As you plan out each year, avoid basing your sales targets on strictly your best months. Maintain a conservative approach with your budget and spending so that you don’t face a budget shortfall when sales are slowing down.

2. Strategize your savings

If you’ve planned ahead, you should be fully aware of when the slow business season will set in. With less revenue to work with at this time of year, many small-business-owners will need to implement a cost-savings plan, including some (or all) of the following measures:

  • Reduced operating hours
  • Fewer shifts for employees
  • Smaller inventory purchases
  • Discounts on excess or aging inventory

Remember: your savings plan needs to account for fewer customers and less revenue. Before you implement the savings tactics above, be sure to forecast your anticipated sales and budget needs based on the activity of previous years.

3. Plan for the rest of your year

When sales are slow, you’re likely to have extra time on your hands. Use this time to plan your marketing activities, budget forecast, inventory orders, staffing plans and more. Using the time you have now can set you up for success when business picks up again.

4. Undertake renovations and other fixes

Many small-business owners fear disrupting their operations with a renovation or upgrade, especially during their peak sales periods. This is why a slow business season is a perfect time to fix up your storefront or office space. If you own a restaurant or service-based business, slow months are also a great time for refreshing your menu and service offerings.

5. Rethink your marketing tactics

Some small businesses just aren’t seasonally relevant, such as landscaping companies trying to operate in the winter, or a snow-plow operator trying to drive sales in the summer. It can be hard to find market relevance, but a little creativity in your marketing will go a long way.

In your slow business season, consider hosting a giveaway that customers can redeem when the season is ripe; this can help your business name to remain top of mind year-round. You could also sponsor an event or hold a contest to ensure your name still generates a word-of-mouth buzz that carries you through the slow season.

6. Optimize your operations plan

Updating your operations and testing the validity of any new processes is something business owners simply can’t do during busy periods. When a slow business season approaches, it’s the perfect time to change course. Take a look at your regular procedures to evaluate where and how you can improve. This can include everything from customer service to accounting, shipping, inventory management and even invoicing.

7. Broaden your knowledge and network

It can be tough to take time off as a business owner. Slow times are the best time to take a day or two away for a conference, course, seminar or another event that will better your business. Not only will a learning opportunity to improve your own knowledge, but industry events provide ample networking options for you to gain partnerships that can better your overall business.

Connect with your local Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade for details on upcoming events for small businesses in your area.

8. Reflect on customer feedback

Let’s face it: customers are leaving you reviews on Google, Yelp and other social media outlets whether you like it or not. Even though it’s a best practice to respond to your reviews (even the positive ones), it can be tough to carve out the time to do so regularly.

Use the extra hours you have during a slow business season to not only review and respond to all of your feedback, but also implement any changes required if you receive recurring negative comments regarding your products or services.

9. Revisit your website

Even if your website is brand new, there’s always room for improvement where SEO is concerned. A little effort goes a long way when it comes to optimizing your search ranking. A few quick checks you can implement include:

  • Ensuring you have title tags, headings and alt-tags on your site
  • Updating and implementing keywords throughout
  • Fixing any broken links
  • Checking your page-load speeds

10. Evaluate your social media efforts

While you’re updating your website, a slow business season is also the perfect time to check in on social media. Even if you have an agency or freelancer running your channels for you, how often are you looking at your ROI?

Now that you have a few extra hours, check up on your social performance and metrics. Ask yourself if you’re reaching the right audiences on the right platforms. If not, consider rethinking your approach to ensure you’re making the most from your investment on social.

When your slow times rolls around, don’t panic. With solid forecasting and planning in place, you should be able to predict when your slow times will occur each year. With this additional foresight, you’ll be able to make the most of your time, ensure you have processes in place to account for any slumps in sales and avoid the fear that can come when sales slow.

Read Also

5 important considerations when applying for a business loan

Managing money is one of the key tasks of running a small business. Changes in facilities or staff, acquiring inventory, or just the natural ebb and flow of your industry can all affect your cash flow. This is why business loans are commonplace. They play an important role in financial viability. This said, deciding to take a loan—and selecting the institution to take it from — shouldn’t be done lightly. Before you decide, here are five things you should consider.

1. What do you need the loan for?

This is a question to ask yourself, not to justify that decision to take out a loan, but to clarify the best products and terms for your needs.  Once you’ve determined the purpose of your loan you can pinpoint your best option.

2. How much do you need?

While carrying debt is not, in and of itself, a bad business practice, taking as much as you can get is risky. Your debt load can affect everything from day-to-day operations to your credit score, so after you identify what you need the loan for, put a realistic number on your project.

3. How much time do you have?

If you need funding quickly, you’re going to want to work with a lender that’s equipped to meet your timeline. Traditional bank loan applications are cumbersome to complete, and it can take a long time before you’ll have access to the funds. Private lenders simplify their application process and can get your funding, fast—sometimes as soon as 48 hours, however, the rates tend to be higher than with the big banks.

4. Do you need a lump sum or are incremental amounts better?

Your answer to this question will help you decide the type of loan that’s best for you. Traditional banks offer lines of credit where you can take out payments on an as-needed basis, but if you need your money upfront, you’ll probably want to apply for a term loan. This is a loan that granted in a lump sum with regular repayments until the balance is paid.

5. What is your existing debt load?

Before applying for a loan you’ll need to inventory your current debt load. If you’re already carrying debt, you must first calculate how much more you can afford. Taking on debt is normal—but taking on too much debt will put the company in a precarious financial situation. At iCapital, we’ve helped dozens of small business owners make this calculation. It’s surprising how many people apply for additional funding when it would be the business is an extremely precarious position. Ensure that you are on the path to success rather than bankruptcy by doing the math before submitting your financing application.

In the end, selecting the right institution to borrow from, and amount to ask for, comes down to identifying what you need, what you can get approved for, and what you can realistically pay back. With this approach, you’ll be taking on healthy, planned debt rather than putting your company at risk.

 

Small business financing Canada ,Accounting

Food Trends in Canada

Is there a secret to success in the restaurant business? We’re not sure, but if you have it, we’d like to chat.

Until then, it helps for you to stay informed about the ongoing changes in the marketplace. The sooner you identify and take advantage of new trends, the more you will benefit and the easier it will be to adapt to future changes.

Below are five trends worth watching:

  • Fewer Menu Items - With customers valuing the ‘experience’ of dining out, more restaurants will stop trying to cater to every taste. Instead they will look at menu themes or focus on a few dishes that they do exceptionally well.
  • Now You Need to Satisfy Both Boomers and Millennials - One wants healthier options and the other wants to deal with more connected and responsible businesses. And both of them have money to spend. Boomers will appreciate more gluten-free, low-salt and vegetarian options. Millennials will need to hear about you on Instagram or other social media, and they want to know that you offer socially responsible foods, like free-range chicken.
  • Beverages Refined - While different, more exotic dishes have been an ongoing trend, in 2015 that trend will shift to your beverage menu. You will see a wider variety of teas and coffees (even Tim Horton’s now has its Dark Roast option), exotic juices and alcoholic options that include ciders (gluten-free), low-alcohol choices and oil-infused cocktails.
  • More Hybrids - It started when chef Dominique Ansel combined croissant and donut pastry dough to create the Cronut in 2013. In 2015, the hybrid trend will grow to include dishes like ramen burgers, brioche/souffle mix (another mash-up from Ansel) and dessert pizza.
  • Localization & Personalization - In 2015, local restaurants will continue to battle their big-box cousins for the hearts and tastes of diners. Two powerful weapons in that fight will be menu items made from local foods and offering customers more ‘choose your items/ingredients’ options.

Remember, no matter how hot the trend, what works for one restaurant doesn’t always work for another. Stay informed, talk to your customers and find out what works best for your business.

Source: https://blogs.technomic.com/technomic-spots-five-2015-food-trends-for-canadian-restaurants/

Marketing ,Management

What to do if a bank won't give you a business loan

It’s the nature of business to need funding on occasion. Renovations, new hires, inventory purchases, and slow days can send business owners in search of a loan. But what if the bank won’t approve you, or you don’t have time to go through their cumbersome application process? Suddenly, “business as usual” is a much bigger, more stressful problem. This is why private lenders are a go-to for Canadian small businesses—they present fewer hurdles and get money into your hands faster. 

Private lenders vs banks

When considering lenders, it’s a mistake to think of banks and nobody else. While banks enjoy name recognition and a reputation for longevity, there are other, modern options. Private lenders like iCapital are an excellent alternative for small business owners, in many cases exceeding what’s on offer from the big banks.

Banks tend to be extremely risk-averse, even refusing to loan to businesses in riskier sectors like restaurants and retail. And, even if they will consider your company, their application processes are onerous and slow, causing an additional time burden while you wait for an answer. Private lenders like iCapital operate very differently. Using a simple, less restrictive, online application, we strive to make the process easy and fast. Applicants can expect their approval within 24 hours and funding the day after. And, private lenders’ standards are less strict and more inclusive, so we lend to more businesses—even people with low credit scores.

What are the different types of business financing?

If you’re approaching a private bank for a business loan, the first decision you’ll want to make is what kind of funding product is best for you and your situation. The three most common funding options are:

  • Merchant cash advance - Companies that do a lot of debit or credit transactions might benefit from this kind of lending option because repayment is on a percentage of the day's sales. If your business has a quiet day (or even season), you won’t be stuck trying to come up with repayment while you have no money coming in.
  • Term loan - This is a very standard kind of loan where you receive a certain amount of funding and repay a set amount on a set schedule until your loan is discharged. This works well for those who want to know exactly how much they owe and when payments are due.
  • Secured loan - With the pledge of an asset, you can take out a secured loan. In general, you can get a better rate with a secured loan, but unsecured loans can be the way to go for small amounts as they are uncomplicated to negotiate. Your decision between secured or unsecured funds will depend on your specific situation.

Taking out a loan shouldn’t be a job in and of itself. If a bank turns you down, or if you need money quickly, consider a private lender. Their faster, simpler application process means you can put your energy where it belongs—back into your business.

Small business financing Canada ,Business loans for bad credit

Efficiency sparks joy: How to Marie Kondo your business processes

Though unlikely, it is possible that you’ve somehow missed the surprising success and sustained popularity of Marie Kondo, the woman who built an empire on the concept of tidying up. Even if you’ve failed to read any of the self-styled organizational guru’s books on the subject or to binge on the Netflix series, you’ve almost certainly heard people using the now-ubiquitous phrase, “spark joy”. In the past several years, we’ve learned to question whether objects, relationships, or even life choices spark joy, and to do away with anything that fails to meet this criterion. One thing is for sure: Marie Kondo has led the way in thinking about decluttering and organization—two real-world ways to improve efficiency. And efficiency, in the business world, is about as joy-sparking as you can get. Read on to learn more about how to Marie Kondo your business processes for a leaner, more cost-efficient organization going into the new year.

Step 1: Start with gratitude

Especially important if you’re working with a team but helpful even for solo ventures, start by acknowledging your strengths and successes. Decluttering should not be an indictment but rather an evolution. There is always room for improvement.

Step 2: Tackle one area or process at a time

Every business has numerous processes to meet their organizational goals, each with its own peculiarities. Although they may be linked, it is better to begin with one and see those changes through before tackling another. If your supporting processes like accounting or recruitment are most inefficient, start there. If the biggest difference would be made with a change in operational processes, that’s the best place to begin. These are changes that will spark the most joy in terms of employee satisfaction, customer service, or even your bottom line. Having a success story from the start will encourage your team to continue..

Step 3: Perform an audit

On her show, Kondo always begins by laying out all of the contents of an area or room in one place. Her thinking is that you can visualize everything and take stock. For your business process, this could be done with your team during a brainstorm session. On a whiteboard, map out the process from start to finish. Consider everything from the employee perspective and from the customer perspective. Next, mark which steps are working well (in green marker), which are satisfactory (yellow), and which need improvement (red).

Step 4: Time to tidy up

Make a plan of attack for the improvements. Determine who will take responsibility for each piece of work. Set a deadline to come back together to gather feedback on the process changes. Working in pairs or teams can make the work go faster.

Organizational clutter is the natural result of work. Over time, processes degenerate or fall behind current knowledge or technologies. Plan for regular clean-ups, whether they’re once a quarter or once per year, and let your joy be sparked by your business’ efficiency, as tidy as Marie Kondo’s famous drawers of perfectly folded clothes.

Management

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