Busy isn’t a badge.
Write this on a sticky note and put in on your mirror. Look at it while you brush your teeth and repeat it to yourself while you’re calming the loud frizz that won’t lie neatly on your head as you get ready to start your day.
Because it’s true: every business has a busy season, and every business has a slow season. A lull. A downward slope. Quiet. Sleepy. Off-peak. Subdued– you get it. According to Zocdoc, chiropractors and plastic surgeons experience their slower season between November and January. Conversely, sports medicine doctors and spas experience a lull after the holidays. For dentists, August and September can be especially slow with families on vacation or going back to school. You may have even heard other dentists affectionately refer to September as Sucktember.
How to Combat Slow Times in Business
As a business owner, you’re hopefully always one or two steps ahead of the quarter, and it’s likely you already have a plan and a sense of when you’re on the precipice of the dreaded slow season. We spoke with Bethany Christensen, owner of Riverside Family Dental in Salt Lake City, Utah, about just that. Here’s how her team spends their relative “down time.”
Get to know your numbers
“Ticket number one is being able to recognize patterns so you don’t freak out in the slow times,” Christensen told us. “We can expect a 20% decrease in production at the beginning of the year.” Knowing the analytics of your company’s performance offers insight into how you can predict for down and up-swings. You can also forecast trends which gives your team the information to create effective marketing campaigns accordingly. These numbers and statistics are there to help you maximize your efforts and work smarter, not harder. Use them.
Reinforce your brand
Take a look at your publications and ask: Is my brand easily recognizable? Is my brand cohesive and consistent across all platforms (such as social media, email campaigns, texts, in-office experience, etc.)? Taking a moment to see your brand from another perspective will likely tip you off to things you’d like to change or update. Do you know what clients think when they walk through your doors? How do they feel when they call your office for the first time? A quick browse of online reviews of your company will give you insight into the perspective of your customer and help you re-calibrate if necessary. If you’re not convinced, consider that more than 6 in 10 consumers, a whopping 64% to be exact, look to Google for reviews when making a decision.
Seek out continuing education or networking opportunities
Christensen advised: “Use time to invest in yourself and invest in people in your industry.” This could mean putting on a patient appreciation event, barring you have budgeted for it, or as a practice attending local events. “We go to neighborhood events and have a little table at the park. We venture out. It’s great for the community to see us there,” she told us. Those events have led to Riverside Family Dental creating new relationships and gaining new clients. Ask yourself how you, or your practice, can add value to other people’s lives–because you do have that ability. You can build a true community with a monthly meetup with other business owners, doing a referral circle, or taking someone to coffee. Make meeting others worthwhile by offering what you can and trusting you’re getting a great business relationship in return.
Seek out mentorship
Yes, it’s quite possible that you are already someone else’s mentor. But in a recent executive coaching survey from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, 80% of CEOs said they received some form of mentorship. Sage also reported that 93% of successful startups claim mentorship as their key to success. Even Jenna Kutcher, a marketing entrepreneur and podcast host, advised her listeners to seek out someone you admire to learn from them. So pay attention to people further in the journey than you and take the opportunity to learn. “It will save you hours of your time and thousands of dollars in mistakes if you go it alone,” she said.
Enjoy the moment
Christensen emphasized that she tries to enjoy the downtime the best that she can–because she knows business won’t always be slow. She told us, “It’s a good time to get some things on paper and reflect. It’s a good time to streamline your processes, roles and responsibilities, and iron everything out so that everything is more procedural. The beginning of the year we talk about goals and we’ll come up with strategies– each employee sets goals against each strategy and we make them all measurable.” Think about nailing down an efficient morning routine with your front desk staff, or take the time to write an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that your staff can reference or utilize with new hires. Or maybe you’d like to develop your own holistic version of a morning routine.
“Try to enjoy it the best you can knowing you’re going to get busy again,” Christensen shared. So, the next time your business is facing the beginning of a slow period, consider adopting a new strategy in your process. Perhaps one that Riverside Family Dental has tried and deemed to be fruitful. Who knows, it may pay off big time when your busy season picks up again.