Every business has its ups and downs. Sometimes business is booming, but it doesn’t last forever. Certain industries are susceptible to regular seasonal slowdowns, often during the summer or holiday season. Others will experience a performance-related downturn from time to time, and of course, circumstances that are completely outside of your control can lead to times of uncertainly like the coronavirus.
Without question, business slowdowns are stressful. They create unknowns at every level of the organization — regardless of how well-established and successful your business might be.
But they also present unique opportunities, if you know where to look. By taking control of the situation, you can mitigate the anxiety your employees are feeling and maybe even use the slow period to your advantage.
Five proactive steps you can take when business is slow.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. When business is slow, your employees need to hear from you. Avoid the temptation to sugar-coat the situation; instead, be as direct and transparent as possible about what’s causing the slowdown and the steps you’re taking in response. Schedule periodic check-ins at the company level and equip managers with messaging to share at their regular meetings with direct reports. Giving employees a voice is also important, so consider conducting a quick survey to find out how your workforce is feeling and what they need from you.
2. Keep employee satisfaction top-of-mind. Some employees may view a temporary slowdown as a sign they should be looking elsewhere — especially if your slow period comes at a time when jobs are plentiful. Fortunately, there are plenty of low-cost ways to increase employee engagement and boost morale. If you don’t already, consider offering a casual dress code or work-from-home options. These are among the most popular benefits, according to our 2019 Job Seeker Nation Report, and they won’t cost you a dime. Other low-cost perks include flexible work hours, on-site or off-site charitable activities, company swag, and the occasional free lunch.
3. Audit your internal processes and systems. If your company is like most, there’s never enough time for in-depth analysis of your processes and systems. When business is slow, take advantage of the extra time to reflect, refine, and revamp your operations to run better and more efficiently when things return to normal. Chances are, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for improvement. Implementation may have to wait, as this probably isn’t the time to invest in new equipment or technology (see #5 below). But it’s the perfect time to put in the work to find the right solutions, so you’re ready to move forward when the slowdown has passed.
4. Focus on improving cash flow. The most obvious way to do this is by cutting costs, but you have plenty of other options. First, take a look at any overdue invoices that may be outstanding. Unpaid accounts represent money you could be using to run your business, so be diligent about collecting payment. Revisit your company’s vendor relationships and other contracts, to see if there’s an opportunity to negotiate better rates or other favorable terms. If you determine that cutting back is necessary, look for ways to do it with the least amount of disruption — for example, consider delaying major purchases until business picks up, sub-letting unused office space, or implementing a temporary freeze on business travel.
5. Re-evaluate your business goals. Depending on the cause of your business slowdown, it may not be possible to simply return to “business as usual” when the crisis is over. As you consider the future of your business, take time to strategize with your business leaders and align on your path forward. This may involve major adjustments to your business goals and priorities or small shifts in your tactics. Invest time in competitive research to see if there’s anything you can learn from other companies in your space. Recognize that any fundamental change will take time to execute, so bring your workforce into the loop as soon as it’s feasible. This will both give you the time you need to get things right and reassure your employees that you’re taking a proactive approach to your company’s future.
You don’t have to approach change alone.
Like it or not, slow periods are a fact of life for most businesses. Your company’s response to changing conditions can be the difference between success and failure for your organization.
Many companies have been forced to make difficult choices to help their businesses during this unprecedented crisis, and if a remote workforce is one of those decisions your organization is navigating, download our Guide to Remote Recruiting. It covers everything from communicating with a remote team to recruiting and hiring from afar.
And if you have any other questions about supporting your employees and talent teams, reach out to us today!