Summer! As much as I will absolutely whinge about the unbearable heat at some point, I love summer. The weather is prime for being in the garden, picnicking in a park, or lazing by the beach. And the food is just incredible! Mangos, prawns, fresh salads. YUM! The air is filled with the wafts of afternoon BBQs, tropical flowers and fruits blossoming, and the buzz of excitement as everyone plans summer holidays and Christmas adventures.
Summer in business is very similar, albeit, often without the BBQs and prawns. There’s the same energy in the air, with everyone nurturing and then reaping the seeds they’ve sown in spring. And there’s celebrations too, whether it be Christmas parties, awards events, or simply celebrating milestones come to fruition.
But there’s also another element of summer that business shares with life, and that’s the storms and intense heat of the season. The flip side of the busyness can be burnout or chaos, or perhaps there’s a blind spot that leads to collapse of a whole section of the business. While not all storms can be prevented, there are many ways to weather the summer rains and, perhaps, use them to make your harvest even more bountiful.
Let’s have a look at how you can make your business summer feel less like an insurance advertisement and more like a cocktail by the beach.
So, you’ve come up with an amazing idea. You’ve done months of research and development, business modeling, budgeting, and creation. Now you’re ready to see your hard work come to fruition…except suddenly everything goes wrong.
Whether it’s a website error that shuts down the online store, a customer complaint that gets out of hand, or family illness, all businesses will eventually face unexpected problems. While all risks come with stress, prior planning for these events will make weathering the storms much simpler.
The most important planning a business can do is thorough planning, documentation, and risk assessment. While risk assessment and documentation can seem pointless, especially in a sole-trader business, you will find having set processes and plans invaluable during periods of high stress. Even a style guide for naming digital files has become invaluable in times where I’ve been under pressure.
The documents and plans created will, to some extent, depend on your business, but should include, at minimum:
Some of you will be surprised to learn that many small businesses don’t start with a written business plan. While the immediate need is minimal, especially if you’re in control, as you size-up there will be a need to share your business’s vision with potential investors, grant and loan officers, and new staff or collaborators. A well-written business plan, even a simple strategic one-pager, also offers the visual story of your brand, to remind you of your goals on the tough days.
Risk Management Plan
Knowing the risks your business may encounter means you can prepare for them before you have to deal with them. This reduces the likelihood of impact to business and allows you to monitor potential problems for prevention before they even occur. From a simple SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), to more complicated risk matrices and plans, your risk management plan can—and should—cover all facets of your business and related risks. For help creating a thorough risk management plan, check out the free advice on Business.gov. You can also find endless free web resources and templates, and chat to other businesses to see what they found useful.
Detailed Business Procedures Documentation
Business documentation is an ongoing administrative task, but should be built on a foundation of documents, including standard operating procedures, task processes, and plans for marketing, administration, and finance. Having clear tasking procedures ensures a unified approach to actions, simplicity in job-sharing, and prevents risks associated with miscommunication, misunderstanding, or simply different ways of doing something. Plans for marketing and finance will also be beneficial for reporting and tracking your business growth, allowing simple access to data for grant and loan applications, awards, and upscaling.
It may seem that the risk management side of your business is the most important for reducing risk. However, implementing process and procedure documents, and having a clear business plan available creates clarity of direction for staff, colleagues and collaborators, allowing prevention of many diagnosable risks before they even occur.
As summer in business comes, you start to get increasingly busy, trying to nurture the seeds you’ve planted in spring, and even starting to harvest some of the first fruits. This can be so rewarding, as you complete projects, see sales rise, or simply get kudos from an admired colleague. But with success in business also often comes an increase in busy-ness. Sometimes, unexpectedly so, if suddenly you become the brand in your field.
Success isn’t a bad thing, but success that isn’t planned for can cause stress and chaos, and ultimately lead to you failing to live up to your own awesomeness. This is the perfect time to take the leap and invest in help in areas of your business you don’t excel at, enjoy, or simply don’t need to do yourself.
This goes for almost any area of your business, even sometimes the stuff you can do but just simply don’t have time to do, or time to do well. As an example, things in my business that I outsource or get help with include:
- IT and website design (even though I have a degree in graphic design)
- Marketing and social media
- Bookkeeping and finance
- Administrations functions
- Editing and filing
- Studio support during sessions
While releasing control can be difficult, especially if you’re a perfectionist like me, it will reduce your stress, and put time back into your calendar to do the bits of the business you love…which is likely the whole reason you started the business in the first place.
I personally let go of bookkeeping first and Kylie from Highfields Bookkeeping has been awesome at keeping my sanity. I was literally spending about 4-6hrs per month trying to work it out not to mention the number of swear words I would use when I couldn’t get things to add up. Trust me 1+1 sometimes equalled 3 rrrr. Next was the updating and management of security for my websites, as well as the odd add a banner or pop up or blog etc…this is certainly not my niche so Vigour Graphics provide an awesome maintenance program and I sleep so soundly knowing its backed up and up to date. Other areas like the mechanics of setting up my email automations which is technical and if not done right can mean a poor customer experience…something that is so important to me so this I outsourced to Hydra Business Solutions. By letting go of the things that a: I dont enjoy and b: take me away from my core genius…I have more capacity to increase my client base and productivity.
Learn When to Call Time
As an entrepreneur, you probably have a million ideas buzzing around your head. New ideas for products, new projects to test, new ways to promote the business. They’re all there and you’re probably working on two or three at any one time. But what if I asked you how they benefit your overall business vision?
This year I discovered one of my passion projects, my cooking workshops, were no longer needed. While I still loved planning the workshops and was still getting great feedback, I could see the local community had developed various other similar concepts that were filling the need I originally created my workshops to fill. Thus, the bitter-sweet decision to call time on my workshops, which had succeeded in creating room for cooking classes in the region and had, therefore, made themselves redundant.
In your business, sometimes you’ll find a project’s success is its very reason for being canned. You might also have some projects that just never get off the ground and others you realise just aren’t worth continuing. It’s so important as a small business to know when to keep pushing with a concept and when to have the courage to just not complete it. It’s also important to not think of these incomplete projects as failures. Instead, think of it like Marie Kondo for business—keep what brings joy (or success) to your business, and let go of that which doesn’t.
While I was sad to see the end of my workshops, I was so excited to see the foodie growth and support for other workshops in the region. Calling time on the cooking workshops has also given me time to pursue other passion projects, including an incredible collaboration with a local non-profit which I can’t wait to share with you all.
Okay, so you’ve got the plans, you’ve relinquished control of a few things, and you’ve KonMari-ed your business sock drawer…but you’re still finding summer chaos a little bit much. I totally get it, because I’ve been there as well.
Can I ask you a question? How’s your balance?
Business owners, especially sole traders, aren’t exactly known for our work-life balance, are we? If you spend more time promising friends a “catch up soon” than you do actually catching up, then your business summer is likely to become a “catch up never” space, unless you start instigating some work-life love.
I’m not suggesting anything too crazy or militant here–I’m the first to admit my business baby needs me at the occasional inopportune time. There’s so many simple ways to create balance, or simply make time for life within your business:
- Schedule a dedicated block every day for down time from work
- Set ‘business hours’ and stick to them, even if they’re different every day, or not standard
- Be discerning with your ‘extracurriculars’. You don’t need to attend every networking function in town—find the ones that benefit your current space best
- Set business goals that help achieve life goals—next year I’m attending more expos, but I’m also earmarking them as mini-breaks, so get to work and play
- Create downtime within your business by scheduling working lunches, car-pooling with like-minded colleagues, or yoga mornings with a collab partner
Making these changes doesn’t have to leave your business wanting, either. We’ve just talked about created processes to allow others to step in and support your business. These are also great tools to allow you space to step away comfortably, knowing your brand and vision are in safe hands. Creating balance between your work and your home life will also likely reinvigorate your business space and help you to rediscover the intense passion you had when you started out with just a dream.
Speaking of passion, be a passionate supporter of your own successes. Your business summer is bound to coincide with some big achievements, whether that be a new product release, project completion, or an award win. Celebrate this, both in-house and socially. I’m not suggesting bragging about a win. Sharing your success and thanking those who helped you achieve it not only makes you feel vindicated in your efforts, it strengthens business relationships and celebrates other businesses you are aligned with. Which kinda makes it a win-win-win, right?!
Finally, remember this, too, shall pass. The chaos of summer will end eventually…or at least lessen, because summer is merely a season with a beginning and an end. Your business will continue, and you’ll soon be getting ready for fall…a season you’ll need a last burst of energy to get through…but that’s a topic for the future…
Enjoy the crazy, hazy days of your business summer. If you have everything in place it will be a busy, but exciting season in your business. Nurture and grow all the seeds you’ve sown in spring, allowing yourself balance, so you’re ready for the rush of harvest that merges the Summer to Autumn, and the closing of the business season cycle.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…can you relate? How do you navigate the seasons of business?