We're now in the summer school holiday period which gives many business owners the opportunity to have a well-deserved family break.

However, with slow trading forecast for the next six weeks, the likelihood is that our businesses will see a negative bottom-line contribution.

August and December are normally the two quietest months for many businesses – particularly for the trades and professional services.
So what should your focus be during these downtime periods?

1. Review your business performance to date
Ultimately, the numbers on your profit and loss are the outputs of all your activities over the first half of the year.

This is actually the most important document in your business.
So, get your accounts up to date and compare your current and quarterly profit and loss against the same period last year; then run a variance against your forecast and expenses budget, if you set them.

Where have you improved? Are there more gains to be had? Highlight any opportunities and put actions in place. There may even be an opportunity to increase your prices too for those products and services which are selling well.

However where have you fallen behind plan? If your expenses were too high, determine why and agree what you could do differently to improve these in the second half of the year.

If sales have dropped determine the reasons behind this fall. Consider if it lies with a particular product or service or a one off deal which skewed the figures last year.
If there’s a change you can make to improve these numbers, perhaps better marketing and promotion of your services to new and existing customers, then get your team around the drawing board and agree on an implementation plan.

Don’t leave things to trickle on as they are, create a revised forecast with your team, consider the expenses budget and set individual targets for the remainder of the year.

2. Examine the current checklist of jobs booked throughout the summer months
If the order books are full and you’ve got the staff to cover, then that’s great.
If your workload planning forecast shows gaps and potential idle time, start by chasing any live proposals and quotes.

Can you secure any additional work during the next few weeks? If not, ask employees to take a well-deserved holiday, but have enough slack within the productive staff to cover any reactive work that might come in.

3. Chase aged debtors
Whilst you may be entering into the quieter period, it is cash that will ensure your survival during these leaner periods.

Pick up the phone and chase those customers whose debts are overdue

4. Review your marketing and sales plans

Analyse what worked and what didn’t. Which activities sparked interest from new or existing customers?

Focus on doing more of what works and refining what wasn’t working.

If it was attending exhibitions and events that helped to promote the business and reach new clients, then review what’s on over the next six to nine months. Plan and book which events you should attend, writing them in the diary.

The summer lull is also a good time to update your website, write new blogs and plan themes for newsletter releases for each month going forward.

Plus take the opportunity to review and modify your social media profiles and continue to drip feed and share your interests through which ever online platforms you use.

5. Review all employee personal development plans, including your own

Is everyone doing the right role for the needs of the business – both today and in the future?

Are the responsibilities allocated appropriate for the business’ requirements going forward?

Are there any gaps in capabilities or skills? The next few weeks present an ideal time to start afresh with a blank piece of paper and map out the ideal hierarchical structure.

Then start working on timelines and plans to secure the roles and responsibilities, with the aim to develop your businesses capabilities further.

6. Are there any maintenance, IT system upgrades or system improvements to focus on?
Reflect on when you were busy; where were the pinch points or bottlenecks?

Could these areas be improved and streamlined whilst it’s a quieter period?

As a team, agree priorities and decide on remedial actions.

7. Review all policies and procedures

This quieter period is an ideal time to be working on updating policies such as HR, GDPR, and H&S etc.

Work on securing and documenting new processes while you have this time.

8. Declutter and archive

Holiday periods are a great time to cleanse and clear out all those old files sat gathering dust – both physical and online.

How about sitting down to complete the essential but monotonous task of clearing out your old emails?

Everyone works more efficiently when there is less clutter around.

Complete what you’ve been putting off for so long, clear your desk, empty the drawers, cleanse the shelves and online archive systems; ultimately, improve your working environment.

9. Get yourself out there!
There are still many networking and business events going on over the summer months, along with some great business socials.

Check out Eventbrite and see what’s going on locally in the business networking scene.

It is also a good time to meet with existing customers, as they are likely to have more time for you to discuss future business challenges and requirements.

Don’t view this hiatus as a business killer, it is a chance to build and develop those valued business relationships.

10. Take some downtime for yourself

Don’t feel that you have to be in the office every day.

If it’s quiet, take the opportunity to have a breather – even if you have had your holidays!

Go for a long walk one afternoon or read a biography of someone who has inspired you.

Whatever your release is, use the spare time to reflect and have some thinking space.

It is important to make time for you – a relaxed mind is likely to be far more effective than a stressed one.

And living in the modern age of social media and smart phones, you’ll easily be able to pick up any important messages.

Come September, you and your team want to be refreshed, full of enthusiasm and brimming with energy, working to a clear plan prepared for the looming storm of intensity and demands leading up to Christmas.

“ Efficiency is doing things right; Effectiveness is doing the right things. ”
Peter Drucker

If you’re interesting in knowing a bit more, at Business Doctors we offer free access to the Value Builder online tool , along with a free no obligation meeting to go through the key factors which will increase the value of your business.

We will also be running some freedom seminars and workshops during September and October across Cumbria.

Please keep an eye on our events website page .

Summer reading/audio – Obtain a copy of Built to Sell by John Wirrillow

Alternatively Business Doctors Cumbria offers an initial free business health check, and can support and help you to establish a clear vision on the steps to fulfil your aspirations.

For further information, please contact Peter Fleming on 07966 68611 2 or email peterfleming@businessdoctors.co.uk