Almost every business has slow times of the year. Some businesses are seasonal while others just pay the price for the college kids being gone in the summer or spring break.

The question is how to keep the business viable during these tough times. Here are some tips to help you keep the cash drawer a little fuller during down months.

Why Are Some Months Slow?

There are reasons you have good months and there are reasons you have slow months. Your job is to try to determine why.

What’s happening outside your four walls that could be affecting your business? Are people on vacation? Are economic conditions unfavorable? Which month was your last good month? What’s changed since then?

Has your average sale gone up or down? Are you controlling inventory in a responsible manner?

Average sale is an excellent indicator of business health. If you’re having a slow month, but your average sale is the same or more, what does that tell you?

It says you have a shortage of customers and you might want to think about ways you can improve foot traffic.

If your average sale is down then you might have some employee issues that require some sales training refreshers.

Use Your Swipe File

What’s a swipe file? It’s a file you use to steal successful ideas that others have used. It’s a file you have compiled about things that work in your industry.

It might be web pages you’ve printed, or ad’s you’ve seen in trade magazines. It might be successful promotions or sales ideas others have used that you’ve read about.

If there is one secret of success, it’s finding someone who is successfully doing what you want to do and do what they do.

You’re not going to be much of a poker player if you don’t know the odds of the various hands. Learning from others is much more effective than trial and error on your part.

Use Your Competitive File

Your competitive file consists of 12 folders, one for each month, which contains your advertising for that month along with your competitors advertising.

During your slow months pull out last year’s folder and your sales figures and see what you were advertising and what your competitors were advertising.

Did their advertising reduce your sales? We’re looking for any clues or changes that we might be able to alter in some way to improve our bottom line.

Talk to Customers

Invite some of your best customers in for a coffee and doughnut talk. Ask them to honestly assess you business.

What do they like what do they not like. Some are not going to be forthcoming with negatives for you but try to get honest answers about how you’re doing.

One-way to do this is to prepare a multiple choice check box survey. All they do is check a box with a pencil and put the survey in an envelope and drop it in a box.

You will have no way of knowing who checked which box. This gives them an opportunity to be blunt, but anonymous.

Some Final Thoughts

Running a business is a challenge. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. I don’t think I’ve ever met a successful business owner who was not a student of his or her business or industry.

They are constantly in learning mode. They are improving, innovating and evolving. The more you know; the blacker your bottom line will be.

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