Advice from the Experts: Getting Past the Summer Slump

August 2, 2023  | 

This blog post contains the transcription of a free virtual Lunch & Learn we hosted in July 2023 titled, “Getting Past the Summer Slump.” You can view all of our upcoming webinars here.

How to Propel Your Business During a Slow Season

Who are the Top Experts to Know?

Hanneke Antonelli is a best-selling author, two-time award-winning entrepreneur, and certified life coach and exit planning advisor (CEPA®) with 18 years of business experience. Now based in Boston, Hanneke draws on her business degree, Wall Street sales experience, and her decade as an entrepreneur to help business owners upgrade their leadership skills. With her help, they are able to focus on the path to sustainable growth that reaps higher profits and more freedom.

Kathleen Lawson is a Business Strategist who helps solo professionals and small business owners stop spinning their wheels and get into focused action, moving toward the vision they have for their business. With a focus on strategy and execution, she helps them put the structure and routines in place to successfully bring their ideas to life. Kathleen works 1:1 with both new and established business owners, runs a group program called Close the Gap, and facilitates planning workshops. With an MBA from Babson College, corporate experience, 20 years working for herself, and raising five boys, Kathleen is uniquely positioned to help her clients get results.

Courtney Levy is the co-founder of 2dogs consulting, a firm that provides CFO services for small businesses, which she started with her husband, Jake. She spent the first 10 years of her career in various finance roles, including training through the Financial Management Program at General Electric before pivoting to sales operations and planning at HubSpot for 4 years. At HubSpot, Courtney grew the Sales Planning and Incentives team from 2 to 12, focusing on designing, analyzing, and planning for various strategic initiatives for the HubSpot sales team. Winning 2 President’s Club awards and promoted 2 times in under 3 years, Courtney widely became known as the expert in the area of sales, financial, operational and strategic planning.

What Can Businesses Do to Keep Their Revenue Growing, or Steady, During a Slow Season?

A strategy for keeping your revenue steady would have started with your planning back in Q2 or Q1. That is a great time to know how you’re going to manage a slow period. If you know it’s going to be a slow time, you can ensure that you’ve saved enough money to get through the slump.

If your clients are going to be on vacation during the summer, you can also start thinking about systems in your business you’d like to improve. There may also be an opportunity for you to take time off yourself, giving you the chance to recharge and take a break so that you’re ready to get going once the fall rolls around.

It’s important to remember that you can’t take an annual sales number and divide it up into 12 months to think of an average income, as each month and each quarter are different on their own. The key is really about being intentional and planning. If you don’t think ahead, you may panic once you get further down the line.

If you do have two years of data in your business, then history does tend to repeat itself, so you can use that to inform the seasonality of your business for July and August. If you have a target of a million bucks this year in revenue, and you know July and August has only contributed to 10% of that, you can back into what that math is and how much you can actually expect in income. Additionally, look at what your obligations are in July and August, what your bills are that are coming due, and make sure the cash reserve going into July 1st can cover those in addition to the income that you do expect to flow in. That will give you a great sense of comfort that even though revenue is lower, that’s what you should expect through these months.

It’s all about knowing your numbers, your projections, and how you typically operate in each month. Many people don’t know that because they’re so afraid of their numbers and looking at money. Work on your money mindset and find a system that’s easy for you to figure out your numbers, like an accounting system. A spreadsheet works as well. That will help to reduce the overwhelm.

Don’t forget about flash sales, either. Sometimes there’s the mindset that you can’t launch anything in summer because people aren’t paying attention or aren’t going to buy. Don’t follow what everyone else is saying, and instead, follow what works for you. You can also shift the perspective and ask yourself why someone would want to buy in the summer. Additionally, you can offer a package where clients pay for a bulk of something upfront, therefore giving you cash to get you through the slower months.

What Projects Can Business Owners Focus On During This Time?

Revisit some of the goals that you set at the beginning of the year, if you had a financial target or revenue target for this year. Ask yourself if that’s still realistic, or if things are trending a little bit differently that would cause you to adjust your financial plan. Most likely there has been, so take the opportunity to replan for the rest of the year and track where you’re at in comparison to those goals.

Additionally, look at your systems and where they’re failing you. Take a look for anything that needs upgrades or can be improved to then increase the value of your business and further decentralize yourself from it.

You can brainstorm other programs or services. Now is also a good time to implement new internal projects, like a CRM or bookkeeping system. You can focus on your habits, create new routines, and complete the projects you’ve kept putting on the back burner. Marketing is a great example of this. The opportunities are endless.

Another task to focus on is your networking and growing your pipeline by setting up coffee chats and building relationships. This is a fun thing to do, especially when the weather is nice!

When things are slow, it’s a great opportunity to get your books in order. If you’re a victim of reconciling January through December in the following January, get your books for the first half of the year done. You’ll feel so much better about that. Schedule a mid year health check with your tax accountant and your CPA. They’re not that busy right now, so it’s a good time to ask all of those questions that you might have versus waiting until tax season does come around and they’re way too busy to give you enough of their time that you deserve.

It’s easy to lose your motivation when things are slow, so make sure you stay on top of everything and focus on consistency. Again, it goes back to planning and intentionality. If you’re going to take time off or have laid back afternoons, think about what you really need to get done and make sure that those things are not getting dropped. It’s all about having those big business rocks and knowing what’s important to you.

How Can Business Owners Use This Time to Prepare for a Busy Fall?

You can start to think about your delegation plan. If right now might not be so busy for you, maybe now is the time that you already work on your business versus in it. Then, get very clear on your plans for the fall. What are the systems that are going to need to be in place? Where can you delegate more? What’s the delegation strategy going to be? How are you going to make sure that you’re not bottlenecking yourself? Can you completely give someone else ownership of this? Who are you going to need to hire to help you? Do you need a new employee or do you just need some extra manpower to come in and 1099 them?

Really getting clear about that part of your business will help you to keep your eye on the prize and work on those bigger visionary strategy things. Summer is a great time to daydream a little bit and have that “longer term planning hat” on as well. Think about what 2024 looks like and what your business looks like in 3 to 5 years. Think about that exit strategy. That’s a great thing to do while you’re sitting by the pool enjoying a cocktail.

Should Business Owners Reduce Their Spending During a Slow Period?

It goes back to what your own financial situation is, what your cash situation is right now, and your ability to cover your expenses through the summer. The expenses that you specifically want to look at are going to be the ones that don’t change or fluctuate with revenue, like your rent, salaried employees and benefits, etc.

Reactive expense cutting is almost never a good thing. If you let go of staff, for instance, you’re going to incur more costs in the long run when you all of a sudden get busy again and you need to hire back up and train back up. It continues to go back to that planning. If you knew that the summer slump was coming, then you were able to build up your cash reserves to cover the expenses that you have in the months.

Think long and hard about reactive cost cutting. It ends up being more costly for businesses in the long term. Go back, sit down with your accountant, and plan for the slower months. Do you have a runway of savings that can help your business to survive? Profit First is a great book to read about this, otherwise, definitely ensure that you have an accountant, bookkeeper, or someone who can really help you to dial in on this.

Also, make sure you have a nice cash flow. You can use a spreadsheet to see your projected income for the next few months. Look at the numbers and take control of them. It’s very exciting to do so.

Be empowered to know exactly what you’re spending money on. If there are 10 subscriptions hitting your account every month, take a review of that line by line and make sure that you’re definitely using it. You’ll be able to think about if something is really adding value to your business or if it can be downgraded. This is something you can do every quarter as well.

Remember that when you hire a bookkeeper or an accountant, you get to ask the dumbest questions. Don’t feel like you need to show up and be the expert. That is why you hired this person. No question is stupid. Also, you’re paying them to answer these questions. If your accountant can be a little condescending, drop them and hire someone else.

Don’t be afraid to also elevate beyond a bookkeeper and accountant and hire a fractional CFO. They’re a more strategic financial partner in your business.

Continue your spending if you’re able to, especially from a marketing standpoint. Unfortunately, some business owners think marketing is not a necessity, so they might be tempted to stop or pause services with the marketing agency they’re working with. However, this time of year it’s important more than ever to continue focusing on your marketing because when fall rolls around, it’s busy again, and three months have gone by without you maintaining your marketing because you didn’t pick up the pieces when you ended your contract, you might be in a funky place.

If you’re not sure if a software or service is worth continuing to pay for, do an exercise to at least understand the revenue generation from it. Go through a process that will see what your business growth will look like if you remove that service, and you’ll find that you may need to continue paying for it or else it may negatively affect your business. Money doesn’t have to be the only return that you get from a service, either — getting time back is valuable as well.

How Can Business Owners Get Past Their Anxiety When Business Is Slow?

Have a plan for the inevitable and for unknown things that might come up. If difficult situations come up, have strategies to help get you through it. That includes having a community of people to call. You may end up questioning decisions you made, but remember that you already made the decision, so there’s no point in worrying about it now. Write yourself a note to look back on every time you need to, when you need a reminder. Don’t get in your own thoughts because nothing good happens there.

A slower time like summer may feel dangerous because you’re not doing as much, so you’re not in as much action. For example, a lot of people, during a vacation time, will start to stress because they haven’t worked for a few days or a week, so they start to stress about that. Once they’re back into their usual routine, that sort of goes away. You just need a few strategies to get yourself out of the thinking and to get back into action.

Have perspective. As entrepreneurs, we’re very guilty about looking at the now but not looking at what we’ve gone through to get to where we are, so we don’t really have the whole picture in place. When it gets to a slow point, you may go down a rabbit hole, where you’re just worrying about what’s happening now. If that happens, look back at the numbers and look at last summer as well as statistics and information you have. It helps to kick that imposter syndrome to the curb.

Feelings are not facts and not everything you think is true. Take care of your health. You are your business’s biggest asset. Without you, there is no business.

Also, we tend to make information mean something about ourselves, and then it is that story. Everybody has slow months. Having a slow month doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or doing something wrong. You get to tell yourself the story that will help you to succeed.

Are There “Warning Signs” That Business Owners Should Look For?

Look at your financial metrics and don’t be afraid of your numbers. If you’re not afraid of your numbers, you can solve the problem earlier rather than later, when you may already be in the crisis.

Pipeline metrics are really critical, as they lead to revenue, so look at how many leads you have coming.

Also, think about if these issues are a “you problem” or if it’s an industry problem. If it’s an industry problem, you know that you’re still doing okay, but if it’s a “you problem,” something needs to change.

Manage expectations and detach from the outcome. Many people get upset if something doesn’t go as planned, so be flexible, because surprises come from several places.

What Advice Should Business Owners Remember for the Remainder of Summer?

Work on your mindset so that you can then change your actions

Set a goal or two so that you have something to work towards.

If you’ve done something before, you can absolutely do it again. You’ve probably been here before and you’ve gotten through it.

You attract the energy you put out. By putting intention into something, you’ll end up getting the results you’re looking for.

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