Planning for Success: 8 Questions to Ask Yourself in the Slow Season

No matter where you operate, you’ll have dips in business throughout the year. Take advantage of the extra time to analyze how your business performed in the past and set yourself up for success in the future. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. How did my plans and budget from last year compare with reality?

Look at your revenue, expenses, and profits from last season and see how they compare to previous seasons.

If your records aren’t in tip-top shape yet don’t worry, you still have ways to find this information. Go through the jobs you’ve done and compare the income with the costs for material and labor to see which jobs were the most and least profitable.

You can calculate your total profit by subtracting all of your expenses from your sales. To calculate your profit margin divide your profit by your revenue and multiply by 100 to get a percentage.

You can calculate the profit margin for individual jobs using this method as well. Analyze the jobs below your profit margin and figure out what can be improved, and analyze the jobs above your profit margin to see what type of work is your most profitable.

2. Was my team communicating well?

Successfully completing projects is a good indicator of effective communication. If you had any projects that ended poorly, figure out if the issue was poor communication with the client or poor communication with or between your workers. There will always be a few misunderstandings, but if you find those misunderstandings happening often or projects are being delayed or ending with unhappy customers, your team communication may need some tweaking.

If team communication is the issue, make sure everyone is on the same page. Decide on a platform that all communications will be sent through. Whether that’s text, email, a phone call, or an app, choose what works best for your team and stick to it. Your team needs to know where to find the information they need and where to go to ask a question or communicate a problem. Having your communication go through a single channel will ensure that import information won’t be missed.

3. Was my team doing quality work?

Make sure you’re up to date on best practices, and do some research on ways you can refine and do the best work possible for your customers. If you belong to a trade association, like the PDCA for painters, that can be a great source of information on best practices for your trade.

Are there any new products or services you can use to help your business? Testing them in the off season will ensure that you’re ready to reap the benefits once you become busy.

4. Were my marketing efforts successful and where could I increase or decrease my marketing budget?

It can be difficult to tell whether or not your marketing is having an impact on business. Keep track of how much you’re spending on ads in different channels like Angie’s List, Houzz, or Facebook, and then note where each new job is coming from. This not only ensures that you know where your money is going, but sheds light on the value of your marketing efforts. Take a look at which channels you’re spending the most time, money, and effort in and compare it with your sales sources. From there, increase your budget in valuable channels, and decrease it in less valuable channels.

You don’t need a large budget to start marketing. Utilizing things like social media, email marketing, and customer referrals effectively can be a low cost way to start generating new leads for your business.

5. Was I effective at generating leads and repeat business from past customers?

Stay top of mind with potential and past customers using email and social media. Get to know them and share valuable information like blog articles or guides. This will establish you as an expert in your field while increasing the odds that they’ll choose you for future jobs and recommend you to their family and friends.

Be sure to post referrals and testimonials from your past customers as well, because the words of a happy customer can be really effective at selling your business to others.

6. What was my competition doing and how did that compare to what I was doing?

Know what other businesses in your field are offering and how they communicate with their customers. It may sound like a big job, but can be as easy as staying up to date on social media. You can also set up Google Alerts for specific keywords like your name, competitors names, and your industry, and be alerted when they’re mentioned.

Follow up on sales you lost to a competitor. It may seem intimidating, but your prospect may give you some valuable information when you ask why they decided to go with the other service.

7. Are there any processes I could simplify or automate to save time?

If you found yourself in chaos this season, it’s time to pinpoint the issues and streamline some processes. Here are a few ideas to get started:

Create product and service lists if you don’t already have them. If you do, review your lists and update pricing and labor rates. Updating your product and service list in the off season will ensure that you’ll be giving accurate proposals next season.

How many times have you forgotten to follow up with a customer because you had too many other things on your mind? Automate your customer follow up process by setting up email campaigns. Write some emails in advance and use your campaigns to reach out to your customer automatically, regardless of whether you have the time or energy.

When you’re busy, cleaning and organizing gets pushed to the backburner. Making a point to get your truck, office, and business organized during slow periods will make everything simpler when you’re pressed for time. One way to organize your office is by reducing your paper usage or by going paperless all together. Don’t know where to get started? We wrote a post to help you do just that.

8. Do I want to increase my business during the off-season?

Reaching out to customers that you have sent estimates to but have never accepted, offering them off-season discounts can give your business a boost when it’s slow.

You may also consider diversifying your services to things related to your main business. For example: A landscaping business may offer shoveling or snowplowing in winter. Expanding your service list widens your audience and allows you to make money all year.

If you need help with any of the tasks mentioned here, such as reporting, maintaining your product and services list, or setting up automated email follow ups, we’ve designed Estimate Rocket for you. If you would like to know how Estimate Rocket can help eliminate the boring parts of your business just let us know and we’d be happy to help you get started!

Are there any other questions you ask yourself to reflect on past seasons? Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

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