Summer has arrived. June is in the rear-view mirror, and hot and steamy July is here while August awaits. When children are away at camp and vacations are underway, we sometimes default to the summer lazy/hazy mode. Is that true for you? Could it be that this is when you plan for fall? Or is summer your busy season?
Depending on your business, summer could see a huge uptick in sales — think ice cream, outdoor activities, swimming pools, sports lessons, boating, fishing and ubiquitous barbecue grills. Or summer may be when your business takes a seasonal dip, offering the good news of additional time to think about coming seasons and 2018. In any case, why not ask yourself, “What should I be doing to help my business this summer?”
Yes, we have some answers. Why not conduct a thorough “environmental scan” of your industry? Simply put, this is a careful review to identify trends and capture fresh ideas and concepts that are occurring industrywide. For instance, in the restaurant and hospitality sector, the idea of “fast casual” is a hot concept that offers table service, tasty food and affordable prices. Panera Bread is an example. If that’s your arena, are you ahead of the curve?
For any business, here are some ideas to consider as you do your scan:
1. Google your field key words, products, services and competitors. Conduct a full internet review.
2. Gather up those industry trade journals stacked under your desk and start reading.
3. Peruse business publications such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.
4. Talk to your certified public accountant about what he/she sees on the horizon.
5. Attend a couple of industry conferences. The industry conference is a place to meet other business owners and hear their take on future trends, concerns and ideas. And be geographically adventurous! While location may drive some business actions (a business owner in Montana, Maine or Minnesota must worry about chilly weather, ice and snow from October to April), strategies in other areas can identify actions that those business owners take that could be applicable to you, things you may not have considered or thought about. Always something to learn from someone else’s radar screen.
6. Peruse your key suppliers list and talk to them. Ask them about what they are seeing. These conversations become brainstorming sessions and frequently uncover needs that you may not have identified or recognized.
7. Do the same with customers. Customer interviews outside of business transactions help you gain a greater appreciation of the buy side perspective. Now is the time to examine that point of view and consider how to address customer needs in ways that improve and secure strong business relationships.
8. Review your social media strategy. Social media reach an enormous range of customers. Are you including action verbiage, visuals, photos and videos? Multimedia energy, especially video, adds a high WOW factor and beats drab, dreary text any day.
9. Enlist the help of a summer intern. No, it’s not too late for a college intern to jump in for the remaining eight weeks of summer. Investing in an intern will vastly improve your social media skills and proficiency while extending valuable industry experience to the intern. In fact, depending on your business, this could be the initial step toward finding a future young employee.
I know. It’s not exactly an exotic summer vacation bucket list, but for business owners who want to sow the seed of success, these nine summer planning nuggets can yield fertile results in the fall and winter seasons.
Joe Michels is a principal at Solomon Bruce Consulting LLC in Fort Worth. http://solomonbruce.com