Almost every small business, regardless of industry or type, will inevitably experience a period where sales and activity just aren’t very high.

Granted, this is a difficult concept for many new small business owners to grasp, given how often they’re scrambling to stay above water when business is booming. The question to ask yourself however, is when you do come upon a slow time, are you prepared? Have you put together a ‘rainy day to-do list’ to keep your employees busy and make the most of the situation?

The key is to make sure that you’re not just paying your employees to play games on their smartphones, but rather using their varied skills to add value to your business. Who knows, you may discover talents and creativity that you didn’t even know they had, while also making them feel more attached to the business. It’s amazing how motivated employees feel when they know their ideas are being listened to. Here are several ways to turn a slow period into a very valuable time for your small business:

Good Ol’ Fashioned Cleaning

It’s no secret that a small business’s appearance plays a major factor in its ability to attract new customers and keep them coming back. A simple but big part of a great looking shop is cleanliness. Every small business can use a consistent cleaning, and what better time to do so than when very few customers are visiting your shop. Have your employees start with the basics such as dusting, cleaning windows and floors, and if they have enough time, move on to more intricate details such as rearranging items and displays.

Plan & Set Goals

Depending on what time of the year your small business experiences its slow season, you will likely fall under one of these two scenarios:

  1. your busy season has passed so you have a solid idea of your performance for the year-to-date, or
  2. your busy season is approaching so you have time now to plan and project your future performance.

If you’re in the first group, take this time to meet with your staff and look at the areas you’ve succeeded, and review the data and set realistic goals for the rest of the year and your next busy season. If you’re in the latter group then use this time to get your staff excited about the fast approaching busy season, set goals, and maybe even decide together what incentives you’d like to put in place for them to hit the ground running.

Create Content For Your Social Media Accounts

It’s 2014, millennials now make up the majority of the population and they use technology and social media for everything – even choosing where to shop and eat. So, it’s a no-brainer that there is much to be gained from having a social media presence for your small business. If you’re the average small business owner, you’ve probably already set up several of these social media profiles. The common problem however, is most small business owners don’t take the time to update them consistently. What good is social media if you’re not offering your customers anything from it? Well, your slow season is that time to brainstorm with your employees – what you would like to offer on it, and perhaps even task them with creating cool and valuable content. You never know what they may come up with. For advice on maximizing your social media presence and offering great content for your customers, check out both our Small Business Guide to Social Media and Small Business Guide to Content Marketing.

Continued Training For Your Employees

There’s always something new that you can help train your employees on, and your slow season is essentially the only time that you can do this the right way. Whether you review some of your current processes and clean them up, or help your employees develop some new skills, they will benefit and appreciate you for it. Be careful not to bore them to death though, keep it interesting and interactive. Train them on other responsibilities that they may be interested in outside of their current role. This will benefit you in several ways: they will feel more valued, and in the event that one of your employees leaves or moves into a different role, you will have someone ready to fill right in.

Brainstorm New Ideas & Consider Launching New Programs

Your slow period is the time that you can sit back and think about all of the programs and cool ideas that you’ve been meaning to add to your business, but simply haven’t had the time to. Solicit suggestions and feedback from your employees when doing this. Again, they will feel much more valuable to your business and you will likely garner more ideas with more people involved in the brainstorm. If you own a restaurant, perhaps reconsider your menu. Think about where can you close your sales gaps and where you have room to experiment with changes. If you have a retail shop, think about new loyalty programs and promotions, or experiment with your product displays. There are limitless possibilities that you may discover if you use this time wisely.

About the Author

Paul Nugent is a small business advocate, and Head of Marketing at ShopKeep point of sale’s UK headquarters. Paul uses his background in the startup space, along with his POS system expertise, to allow small business owners to make informed decisions within their specific budgets.