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Utilizing Time Productively in the Off-Season

You are finally done with the craziness of your busy season. Now what? You’ve become so accustomed to running at full-throttle, you may be unsure of what to do first. There are a million projects you can dig into so, how do you decide what the best use of your time is?

FIRST THINGS, FIRST!

The most important thing to do after a busy period is to take time off. As entrepreneurs, you’re running at 100mph. To make your off-season most effective, make it a priority to slow down, rest and recuperate. And, by ‘time off’ I mean no computers, no email on your phone. Turn it all off for several days.

The off-season is as essential as your busy season because it’s time to take care of the ‘other stuff’ in your business. The only way to face it with full capacity is to rest. When you have decompressed, you’ll be ready to make an impact during your slow season.

Now, let’s dig in!

Your off-season is a time to work ON the business, not IN the business. While taking care of clients’ needs will continue even during the slow times, this is a great time to prioritize your needs. It’s impossible to grow your creative business if you aren’t taking time to focus on the strategy side too.

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I like to approach strategy with the four cornerstones of business planning in mind. Tackling each one of these areas in your off-season will help create a stronger, more well rounded company:

• The company vision and goals
• Marketing strategy
• Operational structure
• Financial plan

Be a #GOALDIGGER.

Start with your over-arching core philosophy when setting new goals. Why are you in business? What are the things that matter to you? What does your #bestlife look like? This is a time to refocus on your priorities and think forward to the next 12 months. What do you want your life and business to be like? Set goals (both personal and business-related) that help you create that life.

Your remaining three pillars of business: marketing, operation, and finances should move you towards achieving those goals. A goal is only words on paper unless you create a plan (or a project) to make it.

Marketing = Selling + Selling + Selling

Reexamine your marketing strategy. What’s working? What isn’t? Specifically, you want to examine the following:

• Your products and services and how they are priced
• Your ideal client and whether you’re attracting them
• How you market and sell your products and services

Set some sales goals and determine how to get to those goals. How will you market your products and/or services?

If your marketing strategy requires time more than money, such as networking or social media, your off-season is the perfect occasion to begin investing in these things. Select a weekly networking event, visit with collaborators, and create a social media calendar for the upcoming quarter.

Systematize it!

The off-season is a time to examine your processes, refine your systems, and document how you do things. What hiccups does your service process have? If you create a product, explore every step of production and distribution. How can you make things easier on your staff, vendors, and clients? How can you create a seamless service experience for your customers?

Creating, refining, and documenting systems is a long and arduous process. But, it doesn’t need to be done overnight. Start with one procedure; I would suggest starting with your most critical. This will likely be your sales process, service process, or production process. Start at the beginning creating a list of every single little task that happens during that chain of events.

As you’re documenting your process, look to see if there is software that can streamline that workflow such as client onboarding tools like Honeybook, or is there a better way to do things in general. Were there any significant snags you hit during your busy season that you want to fix? Now is the time to do it.

Make a money plan.

The off-season is the PERFECT time to reflect on your earnings. Does this business provide an income that you’re happy with? Create a financial plan to help you achieve the next 12-months of money goals. You’ll want to incorporate your sales goals from your marketing plan. Tie them to an expense budget. Look at the upcoming 12 months of sales minus expenses, and you’ll begin to see what your earning potential is. Tweak the levers of sales goals and expense budget until you get to an earnings goal you’re happy with.

Remember, when you create a financial plan, you’re working with estimates. Typically, you base these estimates on the prior year results. Take into account changes you’re making in your marketing strategy for your sales goals, and changes in your operations for your expense budget. Every year that you create a financial plan, you’ll get better at making these projections.

The off-season is strategy-season!

If you approach each off-season is a time to dig into your business strategy, you’ll find that this time of year is GOLDEN. Break down your downtime into these four business-planning components: vision, marketing, operations, and finances. Tackle each one little by little. And, you’ll find that the slow times are just as important as the busy times.

Michelle Loretta

Founder | Sage Wedding Pros

Michelle Loretta is a business consultant and financial strategist for wedding and event professionals. As founder of Sage Wedding Pros she blends her past as an accountant for Deloitte, a sales and marketing manager for DDLA, a merchandiser for Coach, and a stationery entrepreneur to strengthen wedding businesses worldwide. Sage Wedding Pros is the creator of the hiring toolbox for wedding professionals: The People Plan. Michelle has been asked to speak at a number of industry conferences, including NACE Experience, Biz Bash Live, and The Special Event.