When you run your own small business, income is rarely steady. Depending on your industry, you may find yourself struggling to make ends meet in June and July, while December brings more income than you could ever possibly need.
Ebb and flow is a way of life for almost every small-business owner, but you don’t have to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches four months out of the year. Here are a few ways to ensure you can still pay the bills when your customers temporarily disappear.
The first step to long-term solvency is to have a full-time awareness of your business’s expenses. Numerous software programs are available that can automate this process, tracking your expenditures, and delivering back information about your money. You may be surprised to learn where the majority of your income is going.
Set Money Aside
This may seem more than a little obvious, but it’s easier said than done. Set a cutoff on the amount of money you leave in the account you use to pay expenses. Any time you see extra money in that account, move it over into a separate account—preferably one that draws interest while still being accessible—and don’t touch it unless you need it.
Before committing to a plush office space with a full suite of employees, consider much less expensive alternatives, like working out of your home, or renting a coworking space. You may also be able to outsource individual jobs or tasks, rather than committing to hiring a full-time employee. Use lean business principles to review each process in your organization, to ensure it is beneficial to the customer. An idle fax machine, for instance, could be replaced with scan-to-email to save on your monthly phone bill.
Try Something New
Consider ways you can lure business in during those lean months. If your business is located in a tourist area, find ways to reach out to locals to improve customer flow year-round. For a business that reaches out to clients, consider vamping up your networking during those lean times. You’ll have more time to attend local events and meet other business owners that may be looking for a business that does exactly what you do.
Always Seek New Customers
During those frantic months, business owners are often too busy to search for new business. But it’s important to plan in advance for those lean months. Set aside an hour each day, solely dedicated to looking for new opportunities. At worst, you’ll have to bring on a new worker to help handle the extra workload.
As painful as it may be, sometimes small-business owners must make painful choices in order to save a business. As you grow your business, hiring contractors instead of full-time employees may be a way to handle heavy workload without having an office full of workers idly waiting for work to come in. If you do have full-time employees, however, consider putting them to work helping you find work during those lean months. You’ll have more time to network while they will be grateful to be contributing to the success of the business.
Photo Credit: ignatius decky, Flickr.