I was at a day spa last week. It was early in the morning and I was the only customer so far. The owner was working with me and became was very distracted by his staff who were chatting and giggling and playing in the absence of customers. I asked him if he had a plan for no customers and he angrily replied: “Of course not. I expect customers all the time. Why would I plan for none?” I explained to him that holding an image in his head of 100% capacity custom is a great big infatuation and fantasy.
All of us in business subscribe to the same fantasy at times so he is definitely not alone. I mean, without a whopping big fantasy for inspiration, none of us would be in business in the first place right? However, with a clear plan and simple easy steps to take and follow, that dream can be converted to a viable set of business goals that can be achieved and managed.
In business, as in life, there is an ebb and flow and seasons and cycles. There WILL be times when the phone will NOT ring and the shop WILL be empty. There will be times when equipment will break down or power or internet will be unavailable. There will be times when your team all get sick or worse still – YOU do.
John F Kennedy said: “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”
Create a schedule of activities for your staff for down time.
• This may be a time to clean out the store cupboard, desks, and staff kitchen or conference room.
• Catch up on filing; conduct an inventory for office stores or office files.
• Refresh Staff Training.
• Get on the phone and start marketing.
• Commence work on project development
• Get some research done for the proposals that you want to make to new customers
This list can be endless. Start with all the round tuits. You know – all those annoying little jobs that you never get around to. Start with them. Plan the time to sit down and make a long list of every possible activity that could be done when there are no customers.
That is the first step.
The next step is to ensure you have resources already set up for the staff to use in these activities.
• Ensure your Training Manuals are up to date and that you have one team member fully trained and able to take the rest of the team through the information.
• Have a marketing script ready to go with product and service lists, client activation database list and a campaign approach always on hand.
• Create a filing, storage and inventory map so that your staff know where everything needs to go.
• Establish a cleaning list and make sure you have all the equipment and cleaning detergents ready to go.
Someone has to be prepared for this in advance and that someone may be the office or store manager or the owner of the small business. This can be easily delegated and checked as part of your regular routine. I know, when you are busy and stressed and exhausted, the last thing you want to do is MORE work.
Think of this as like making a commitment to yourself for a health and fitness regime. You recognize the need to feel a little healthier so you decide to join the gym and cut carbs and increase protein. As part of your new regime, you KNOW that you will fall off the wagon so you identify the possible circumstances when you are taken outside of your regular routine (going out to dinner, working late, travelling, sickness etc) and you consider and include the management of these circumstances into your health and fitness plan. So that when you get invited to cousin Julie’s wedding, you have a plan to stay on track.
Well, planning ahead in your business is exactly the same. By valuing your business enough to plan in advance, you can value your cost of staff by ensuring that they are productive regardless of the circumstance.
Planning for no customers becomes a critical aspect of your business planning activity.