Today is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. Traditionally, it is the start of the year-end holiday season which lasts through the New Year. Many business owners (not those in retail!) see this as a slower time of the year with people distracted by shopping, holiday parties and vacations tacked around the actual holidays. So, if the customer side of your business is slower, maybe it is a good time to spend more time than usual on planning and improving your business.
Notice I said “more time than usual”; let me explain. Many larger corporations that I have worked in have an end-of-year cycle that they call planning, but which is heavily oriented towards just defining next year’s budget – I’m not suggesting you follow this model. As an entrepreneur or small business owner I hope that you are following the approach I advocated in my August blog, How much time do you spend “working ON your business”? – incorporating planning, etc. into your everyday business processes and not making it an end-of-year event like some larger businesses. However, if your business cycle gives you the gift of some extra time to reflect on what is working well and what needs to be changed, then I say, why not take advantage of it – especially if you have been neglecting those aspects of running your business.
For me, the first thing I am doing is giving thanks (after all it is Thanksgiving):
- for the two major projects I’m working with that will leave the world a better place
- for the wonderful people whose businesses I’m still involved with
- for the interesting and enjoyable new clients I’ve added this year
- for the support and encouragement I’ve received from my strategic partners and from my broader network
I’m also thankful for some amazing progress that three different clients have made in just the last few weeks – everything just seemed to come to fruition at the same time!!
What, in your business, do you have to be thankful for?
Next, I’m reviewing my marketing efforts for the past 12 months and identifying how I want to spend my marketing dollars in the new year. When I first started this business (4 years ago) I understood that my leads would predominantly come through referrals from my network and my clients – so I focused on improving that network locally. Before the end of the first year, I got involved in a community that also gave me a national marketplace. As 2010 was coming to a close, I realized that I had drifted into a position where I was neglecting my local marketplace (I had no clients in the Northern NJ/Metro NYC area) and made the decision to redirect marketing dollars from the national market to the local market – and maybe overcompensated for my prior neglect. Now I get to decide how to re-balance that situation. For one thing, I’m going to be placing a greater emphasis on getting speaking engagements because I enjoy that type of forum for meeting new people.
Is it time for you to re-balance your marketing and sales efforts?
I’m looking at the leads and potential clients that I haven’t been able to convert this year to understand if there is something about my services and product offerings that I can change, augment, etc. (and that I’m willing to change!) which would appeal to those individuals.
Do you need to offer different products and services?
An area where I’m pretty good at staying on top of things on an ongoing basis is investigating tools that I can use in my client engagements, or that clients can use to help run their businesses. The trick now – and where I need to spend some time – is how to best deploy and integrate the tools I’ve recently found that I think will be useful.
What tools, processes, etc. should you be deploying to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your business?
Hopefully, you are, as I recommend, reviewing these issues and opportunities on a periodic basis – not just annually. But if your business cycle gives you a little extra time during the holiday season to focus inwards on your business, then be thankful and use the time wisely.