Oh how I wish it was always smooth sailing around here. Wouldn’t it be great to know that business would stay steady and predictable, with sustainable growth that builds year over year? Wouldn’t it be a relief to smooth out the natural cadence of successes and challenges, and carry on our journeys with a smooth calm? And yet, at the same time, I have a feeling that smooth sailing would be boring, wouldn’t it?
As a coach to executives and business leaders, finding that cadence of smooth sailing is really difficult. Once you get there with your clients, and they feel the calm and consistent momentum building, something always pops up to create a wave. Crises emerge, operations speed up and slow down, key team members move on to other roles, or the looming threat of a disruption will interrupt the calm. Just as this occurs for your clients, it can also happen in your own business.
The crux of it is this—we’ve married people and business objectives together. By putting these two volatile structures together, the ability to always have smooth sailing flies out the window. So what to do?
Here are a few ways you can work with the natural ebbs and flows of your business. It certainly won’t always be smooth sailing, but being prepared for the waves that will inevitably arise will help you ride them out more effectively.
Become accustomed to the fact that your business and your people will develop a cadence. There is seasonality in every business no matter what products or services you are offering. Very rarely will you have the same sales made by the same people to the same customers. There are too simply many variables for this to happen 365 days in the year. For a consultant or coach, these variables may include a regular client losing their budget, the executive you’ve worked with for years moving to a new organization with existing consultant relationships, or a string of staff vacations delaying your client’s decision to secure your services.
Learn what that cadence or seasonality looks like for your business. You can do this by examining the last year or two of sales revenue by month, product/service sales by month, and even by looking at hires/fires/retires in your firm by month.
To be even more thorough, once you see how the months fluctuate, dig into the weeks in peak and low periods to see if you can understand patterns or trends.
- What happened that caused a spike in sales? Was it weather, business environment, new product/service launch?
- Why did three people leave your business team at the same time? Were they the right people in the wrong role, or just not a fit? How will you fix this for the future?
- Were there any lost opportunities that could be remedied with reflection and a new approach?
Leverage the seasonality or cadence in your business to optimize team results, making sure that everyone, including your clients, is in the know—explain why you’ve managed your time this way, and the benefits that everyone will gain.
For example, I have a friend who owns a restaurant, and they noticed that the first week of July is extremely slow. He also noticed that staffing levels were often a struggle in the summer, with staff making requests for time off during their busiest times. This year, he closed the entire restaurant for the first week of July, giving his regular patrons notice from the beginning of June. The team all had the same week off, went in different directions to relax, and all came back refreshed and ready to get to work. This option also eliminated the need for multiple people being off during the rest of the summer. The results were clear. Fewer time off requests (with the exception of a long weekend here and there), less staff burnout and turnaround, and happy customers.
When you leverage the cadence of your business, you can understand when it’s quieter than usual and use that space to create time to work on your business instead of only in it.
- Book time over the year to focus on strategic planning, so that it’s not an event, but becomes a ritual in the business. A time to reflect and a time to celebrate while planning (even dreaming) for the future.
- Create a timeline for your team discussions so they are always in the loop on their performance and how to improve while hitting the business objectives. If you are a solo entrepreneur, book regular time to talk through your business planning with a trusted mentor or a group of peers.
- Build in time to celebrate as an organization—new people, anniversaries, and special events all deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.
- Be ready to hit the ground running when you know peak periods are coming. Don’t neglect the essentials—exercise, quality sleep, and time for self-reflection will all help you perform at the top of your game during peak busy periods.
- Challenge yourself and the team to come up with new ideas to drive business objectives and become involved in other parts of the business that interest them—almost like an internal co-op opportunity.
Better planning and therefore, better results will come from leveraging the cadence of your business. It does take time to do this, as well as a lot of self-awareness, reflection, and trial and error, as will most things in business. You will find the cadence of your business and learn to leverage it, just as you have learned to organize your day, develop your team and meet new clients. It might not always be smooth sailing, but you’ll be better equipped to ride out the waves.