"I know of numerous business owners in Sussex who speak about hating summer because of the challenges it brings. The reality is that they are not so much the victim as the partial cause," explains award-winning business coach, Tim Rylatt. "Summer is a time when business-to-business sales is perceived as more challenging and a time during which staffing problems can arise with childcare becoming an issue during the school holidays."
The most common problems that business owners report
In the latest Small Business Survey from the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills, business owners still put the economy and competition as their two top barriers to business success and Sussex business owners are no different – so how does this escalate in the summer?
Seasonality – many products and services have fluctuating sales related to the seasons. You'll find that high-street holiday companies take very few bookings in the height of summer because people use them to book in advance; it's the last minute holiday websites that take the business during these times. Seasonality can be problematic but, in most cases, can be planned for.
Staffing - lots of businesses do not manage staff holidays effectively due to poor monitoring systems that rarely, if ever, get checked in advance to plan for foreseeable absences. Instead, more often than not, business owners panic about important day-to-day jobs being missed and end up filling in the gaps themselves; they certainly don't get a summer break!
Competition – Lots of companies almost give up and stop trying during the summer... which is ridiculous really. When times are challenging we need to apply more, not less, effort. We need to be focused and energised, and we need to keep our eyes on the ways to succeed, not the reasons why it is potentially a little more challenging to do so. Rather than hunkering down and waiting for the pressure to go away, summer can be a great time to stand out from the crowd; because much of the competition is standing relatively still!
3 top tips on how survive the summer months
1) Understanding the seasonality in your business can help plan resource loading; beyond knowing it just 'gets busy'. Tracking the seasonal percentage growth in activity can allow for some activity-based budgeting in terms of required staff hours and resourcing. This gives more accuracy in defining the real requirements and allows for realistic staff holiday levels to be agreed, communicated and managed ahead of time. This, in turn, leads to lower staff stress, more considered holiday planning for and by them, and stronger relationships with the team as a whole.
2) Managing staff effectively is not just about logging days off on a spreadsheet. If you take the time to assess the skills of your team then you can share those skills across the company to cover gaps that arise during holidays. Instead of the already busy business owner trying to pick up the pieces, you can re-arrange the jigsaw or upskill employees in preparation. A pro-active and planned approach brings more consistency for both your team and your clients.
3) Creating business growth strategies during the slow times will set you ahead of the competition and help to not just ride out economic lulls but have you surfing on the top of their waves too. Business owners can often feel at a loss when sales drop but the drop is normally predictable. With a bit of planning ahead you can actually take control of the situation by reviewing your strategy, setting some goals and getting to work on achieving them. Tim explains, "One of the best things to do during a busy time is ask your clients for testimonials about your business and ask them for a referral. You can add the testimonials to your website, print marketing collateral and use them in social media – there's nothing better to get new business than a referral from a client! These are often what will keep you busy."
For more handy business hints and tips, visit Tim's blog: www.bizcoachsussex.com