In any business, there are always peaks and valleys. Many enjoy the peaks yet panic and experience increased anxiety in the valleys. Slow times are inevitable regardless of how well we balance our operations intake. Staying motivated and focused on the future can be extremely difficult when business slows down. However, plenty of opportunities exist to use this time wisely and prepare for when business picks up again. Here are some ideas on how you can make the most out of slow times within your shop:
Don't rush to send everyone home
This may be the first thought when business slows down, but don't immediately rush to cut costs. During slow times, staff should still be on board and ready to help you with whatever tasks need to be completed, from research to training and development. Suppose we jump to send a team member home prematurely? In that case, we inevitably lose the opportunity to demonstrate and teach others within the shop that tend to get thrown into the daily cycle from workload demands when operating at full throttle.
Focus on building relationships
Take advantage of slower periods by networking and connecting with other industry professionals and potential customers or clients. If you represent any particular brand as a certified professional for your market, you must get out to make these connections. We tend to blame the dealers for not utilizing the commitments promised to us by those collecting the annual checks. If the right relationships were established at the dealerships, we could all positively impact these certified programs rather than just providing our continued criticism. Don't be afraid to reach out and introduce yourself — you never know what kind of door this could open! The more connections you make, your business will be better positioned when things start picking up again.
Get ahead on planning for the future
Spend time anticipating when slow times might occur in your market, and make sure you have a plan for handling them. The term "slow" is subjective, depending on the size of your overall operation. However, regardless of the severity of how much these times impact your bottom line, the truth is we all experience it to some degree. Therefore, we must be as proactive as possible. The entire team should share in the understanding of "if this," "then that." We bleed cash when we are often reactive and make impulse decisions by throwing money at our advertising campaigns, accept work outside our known targeted customer base, and ultimately "keep busy" rather than intentionally steering the ship through rough waters. A proactive mindset will help you avoid potential problems and keep your facility running smoothly, even during tough times.
Start cross-training your team members
This can help ensure everyone is familiar with different roles in the company, giving you more flexibility when times get busy again. It's also a great way to engage and motivate your staff during slower periods, as they'll be able to learn new skills while still being productive. As growth-oriented owners, we must invest in our training programs. Many of us claim that we "train" our people; ask yourself. Are you truly investing in them or providing them with average industry content & credential? Use this downtime to train yourself & your staff on new skills that could help you advance when things pick up again. It's cheaper to teach in the valleys because engagement will be higher due to team members having fewer distractions. Trust me, this investment will pay off in the long run, as you'll have a better-prepared team ready to take on any challenges with increased demand.
Look for specific opportunities to reduce transitional waste
The second most expensive thing in our shops, right behind the training, is excessive transitional waste. Time spent by any team member to transition to the next RO, locate the photos needed to send up, find a jump box, ask where the parts are, etc. It is killing your profits. As leaders, we are responsible for laying out and maintaining the breeding grounds for efficiency. Here's a challenge: dedicate an entire day to solely observing your team in action. Write down every opportunity to improve, precisely your transitional waste times. Work not to interrupt your production or communicate to your team what you're doing to keep everyone honest. I can assure you the results will astonish you.
These are just a few ideas on using slow times in business to your advantage. By investing in training and networking opportunities, planning for potential downturns, and cross-training team members, you can be sure your shop will stay strong even during difficult times. Use this downtime wisely and make it work to impact your operations positively. The valleys don't always have to be seen as something negative; they can also provide an opportunity to grow and prepare for success. Take the time now to use your valleys as a productive opportunity and reap the rewards later.