(As appeared in Forbes.)
When developing a business plan and projecting financials, startups usually have a nice straight line showing slightly inclined income as time passes. Most people don’t forecast steep spikes and dips in income, but it’s more often the reality.
In particular, if you’re trying to scale your business by selling to enterprise companies, you’ll encounter ready buyers who may take months to sign your contract. They’ll tell you it will just be a few more days, but it could likely be a quarter out.
If your business finds itself in a seasonal deadzone or the Summer slump, here are three things to do to keep your momentum even though your profit & loss statement won’t show it.
One: Do Pro Bono Engagements That Enhance Your Products, Services & Relationships.
Startups are accustomed to finding beta customers for offerings. Even if your product is commercialized and you may no longer need beta customers, but you likely have a target customer list. I hope you have a target customer list.
During a slump when transactions or productivity is low—and your costs for labor are likely fixed—make sure you invest people’s time in something that will pay off. Approach a target account and offer to do a free engagement that will enable you to enhance your product or establish an important new relationship.
Approach a target account and offer to do a free engagement that will enable you to enhance your product or establish an important new relationship. Or, approach an existing key account and offer to enhance what you are doing for them.
Two: Do Charity Work For Your Best Customer’s Charity Of Choice.
When my business was in its infancy, we had a major customer with a very active social responsibility agenda. During slower periods, rather than just talking about all the good work they do, we got in there and helped them with it.
Along side our customer, we developed two websites profiling their social impact programs. We helped develop videos that told their social responsibility story. We did onsite mentoring of a youth group that was a community of interest for them. These efforts built a bond beyond the exchange of cash for services.
When it was time to recognize the company, our firm completed the application for CEO of the Year for the Corporate Responsibility Association. When the executive won, the people that matter knew we were a part of elevating the platform and helping them get recognition.
Three: Stretch Your Team’s Skills.
When activity and productivity drop, your team’s morale suffers and they stare at you wondering, “Now what?” This is a great time to develop your own innovation lab.
This is a great time to develop your own innovation lab. If the team is hungry to produce, but underutilized, pick off one of your most ambitious goals. It could be an offering you have been wanting to develop. It could be a feature that could transform your products or how your customers engage with you.
Any of these three strategies will leave your company better off for the effort. Your team will have an increased sense of purpose and mission in a time they would otherwise be tapping their fingers.
People, particularly entrepreneurs, are always wishing they had more time. More time to be strategic, more time to organize and more time to enjoy growth.
There is a quote by Gordon Hinckley about the irreplaceable asset of productive labor. “It is the process by which dreams become realities. It is the process by which idle visions become dynamic achievements.”
Take that half empty glass of business activity and turn it into a glass half full of possibilities you weren’t making the time for. Dynamic achievements are ahead.
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