Small Biz Advice: Making Down Time Productive



Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.

Want valuable insight into how to grow your business?  Holly hosts FREE 30 minute strategy sessions at The Yard in Williamsburg.  Email her to set up a time or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.

Dear Holly,

Now that it’s summertime, I’m having a hard time staying focused. My retail business tends to slow down this time of year, and I tend to slack off. I’d like to make things different this time and really use this opportunity to get ahead and set myself up for when things pick up in the fall. What can I be doing now in order to make the most of this down time?


Summer Slacker

Dear Summer,

I can definitely relate to wanting to slack off when things are slow but, the secret to success is using this time to prepare yourself for your busiest times of the year. When things pick up you will know exactly where you’re headed and what you want to achieve. Anyone who has been in business long enough to know their seasonality should definitely take advantage of downtime to get ahead in business.

I’ve worked with plenty of entrepreneurs who assume that the calendar year should serve as their business year as well, but this isn’t so. I always recommend using your slowest time of year to do your annual business planning and to see this as the start of your new year regardless if it’s June or January.

Since now is your time, here are three things you can do now to ensure that your upcoming year is a success.

Start by setting your financial goals for the next 12 months. Create financial projections and ask yourself the following questions: How much can you increase your sales? What profit margin are you aiming to achieve? Are there any expenses you can decrease?

Once your financial goals are set, consider the strategic goals you need to put in place to achieve them. Do you need to make any changes in personnel such as increasing or decreasing staffing?Are there any new opportunities for business development that you’re interested in pursuing? And most importantly, what marketing program do you need to put in place in order to increase your revenues and grow your business? The key here is to stretch yourself, but don’t set too many goals that nothing becomes achievable. A few simple commitments can make all the difference in your business.

Finally, take time off when your business is slow. Know the difference between slacking off and actually taking a break and recharging. If you use your time wisely, you can finish all of your planning and use the rest of your downtime to regenerate yourself. That’s one of the most valuable things you can do before business picks up again in the fall and you need to be ready to go.

Good luck with your planning! Make a point of scheduling this time into your yearly calendar so you can get the most out of all of your downtime. You’ll be so grateful you did when you’re back in the swing of things this fall!


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