Christmas is a time for relaxing and celebrating, but it's also a lot of down-time that could be put to good use. Here's how to take full advantage of the lull by teeing your business up for 2016.
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The Christmas break isn’t all about eating mince pies and watching repeat TV programmes. For many, it can be a time of contemplation and sense of renewal.
Given that the break tends to mean a shift in customer needs and patterns, and a general slowdown in everyday life and activities, it can be a really good time to re-invigorate some fresh passion and direction into a business. Here I present a day by day plan in how to use 14 days over Christmas and New Year to turn around your business.
Day one to four – Clear the decks
In the first couple of days, put out any of those tasks or things to do on that list that just require a little attention to get sorted. They could be lingering tasks you just haven’t finished, like paying the bills, finishing off the accounts but use these first four days to complete tasks that will come back to bite you if you don’t get them done in the next month or two.
The general day to day sometimes takes over so this first stage is all about clearing out so you can have the next ten days to turn around your business.
Day five –Reconnect to your purpose
Business plans are important, they help us win investment, they help us strategize but for the purpose of trying to turn around your business in a short space of time instead write a one page plan. In it set out the following
Why your business exists?
What do your customers value?
What three things could you do better?
The focus over these 14 days is to turn around your business, not grow it, so focusing on these three questions helps you to formulate your to-do list of what to focus on. If your business isn’t doing that well, there is a strong likelihood you’ve forgotten your connection with your customer. Re-ignite this and it should help you get back on track.
Are your customers happy? What could make them appreciate you more?
Day six to eight – focus on the people
Always start with people, because it's always about people. If your once-successful business is struggling, it's almost always a people-related issue. Not financing, not capital. So take a look at your employees, you as the owner and the leader.
For the owners it’s about parking the ego and asking yourself what you can do better to help your business turnaround, which decisions you made that fundamentally were mistakes. Look at each area of your business and ask yourself where have you been complacent, just plain lazy or where has your ego got in the way. As a leader, these three areas can help you quickly define where you might be going wrong.
For the employees, it’s about being open to them, talk to them and get them to share your vision and enthusiasm again for the business. One of the best ways to do this is to show them you care, by helping them understand that your commitment to turning things around is so they keep their jobs. Sometimes, it’s about pointing out the obvious that makes the biggest difference.
Day nine to eleven – breathe fresh air into your brand
Has your brand lost its core appeal and attraction? If it once had value with your customers, it can find value again. Speak to some of those customers you trust and ask them what they valued when they first came to you. Ask yourself, is it still at the heart of your business.
It could be you’ve expanded and lost that personal touch of calling people by their first name, so perhaps the solution is to think like Starbucks and write your customers first name down. At some point, people bought your goods and services, they valued something, and in most cases it’s not just the price.
Spending some time finding what’s gone astray and then reconnecting your business back again to its core value sets you back on track to winning back past customers and new ones alike.
Is your brand due a tidy-up?
Day twelve to fourteen – get your operations on track
Even when you’ve got all the above steps right, you have to remember that it’s the back end that delivers. Your task is to develop your operations so that you can meet the opportunities that await. Think about your suppliers and how you might renegotiate with them the contracts and the terms you work with them.
Explain to them what you’re trying to do and see what you can do. Look at how you can make your operations more effective, spend some time to reflect and be honest with yourself about whether you do have the right operations supporting your business. And learn to let go of some ways of doing things to let in the new.
It’s 14 days but it could be the most exciting of your entrepreneurial journey so far if you get this right. There’s nothing more fulfilling for an entrepreneur than to be able to save an ailing business, and reconnect again with the passion and drive they had when they started that business.