Whether you’re starting your first business or a serial entrepreneur, managing periods of unscheduled downtime is fast becoming a core skill.
What was unthinkable two years ago has now become everyday: working from home with outings only for essential groceries and exercise, and online Zoom school.
Some parts of the world have been living with various levels of restriction for more than 18 months.
While these times have undoubtedly caused challenges for business operators, there have also been many inspiring stories shared – businesses born out of job losses, pivots in business strategies that trigger growth and companies that turned adversity into opportunity.
As we find ourselves with more downtime once again, we look back to learn from those successes. Here are five ways you can make the most of any downtime you encounter now, or in future.
1. Get on top of admin
When you’re running a business, it doesn’t matter how many hours you have in the day, there always seems to be more admin that’s pushed to the bottom of your ever-growing to-do list.
Now, with a little extra time on your hands, you could tackle that admin and set your business up for success when it’s back to full steam.
Review your admin solutions, tweak your processes and implement new software to make things more automated and streamlined.
2. Review your business plan
When your business was in its infancy, you probably did things differently from the way you do them now – and your original business plan is likely out of date.
Your plan needs to adapt as the business evolves, but taking the time to review it is often pushed to the bottom of the to-do list.
Use this time to revise your business plan and reshuffle systems that might not be working so well.
3. Connect with customers
There’s no one way to feel about the pandemic or seemingly endless lockdowns, but you can bet your clients will be feeling a mix of anxiety, stress and frustration.
Although business might be slow, now’s not the time to go silent on your customers. It’s the perfect opportunity to check in with them – strengthen relationships, be a listening ear and welcome any feedback on your business.
Put up a post on social media asking how your customers are doing, or send out an e-newsletter about how you’ve been spending your time.
And don’t just leave it there – encourage people to reply, and get a conversation going with your clients through these unique times. It’ll help you stay connected with existing customers and, hopefully, reach a few new ones.
4. Review finances
It’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day of running a business. Sometimes, months can go by before you sit down and seriously examine your financial plans.
Use spare time to dig deep into your business spending to see where things could be cut back. Take a look at any commercial real estate commitments, subscriptions you no longer need or consider how reorganising your ongoing business schedules might help profits along.
5. Be pragmatic and optimistic
The last 18 months have shown us just how unpredictable life can be. But even without a global pandemic, that’s the nature of business – and there are always going to be obstacles thrown in the way of progress. The key is to think ahead with a balance of optimism and realism.
The way the world will look in another year might be quite different from what it was pre-pandemic. Your business needs to adapt to fit that new normal.
Use this time to plan what that could look like for your business (and taking contingencies into account) so when things pick up again, you can hit the ground running.
Remember to enjoy the ride
There’s only so much Netflix and baking bread can do to get us through this downtime. But it’s the perfect opportunity to focus on the parts of your business you don’t usually have time for.
Tie up those business loose ends, and keep one eye on the future – you’ll be glad you had the time to pause and reflect.