What to do When Business Is Slow

Personal finance

As a new business owner, I find my business generation thus far to be very cyclical.  Things are always boom or bust, rather than in a happy medium.  During the boom times, I get nervous that I need to hire an employee or that I won’t be able to complete the work on time.  During the busts, I get nervous that I will never have another client and that my business is destined to fail.   I’ve written about this subject before, but I wanted to write a little bit about some action steps to take regarding what to do when business is slow.

1) Remember to Keep Your Perspective

Have you ever worked in a successful retail store?  I used to work for a movie rental chain throughout high school—back when movie rental chains were thriving.  What I noticed was that, even on a busy (rainy Saturdays in particular) Saturday night, when the business was making a killing, the customers would still come to my register in a cyclical manner.  It would be boom and then bust.  Surely more boom than bust, but still—there was a cyclical nature to the lines.

The point: don’t make rash decisions based upon the booms or busts, and don’t view your business through a microscope.  The truth is always somewhere in the middle.  As every cliche spouting professional athlete will tell you: “don’t get too high during the good times or too low during the bad times.”

That telephone likely will ring again with a new client or prospective client—and probably soon. That new customer will walk through the door, if not just this minute then eventually.  The secret is having patience, keeping perspective, and accepting that you’ll never really know where that next client or customer will come from, but, if you run a type ship good things will likely happen.

2.  Get Active

For me, if I don’t have any work to do then my job becomes finding more work.  It’s not always fun and it can indeed be at times soul-crushing, but it’s important to be active.  Maybe you can work on your marketing plan, or even do some menial jobs while you have the free time.  Write a blog post, send out a bulk mailing, contact a newspaper with a press release idea.  Just stay active and good things will likely come your way.

3. Keep Up Your Spirits 

Don’t let a little difficulty stand in your way, keep acting like the success that your company is (or will be).  Even the most famous people in the world have faced a little or a lot of adversity.  The history books aren’t lined with quitters.  For instance, most political leaders have suffered embarrassing election defeats prior to their ascendance to power.  The obituary on many a leader’s or other successes’ career has been written plenty of times.

Seth Godin’s the Dip is a great book to read if you’re concerned about whether your business is worth fighting for or not.   It states that most business owners quit just before achieving prolonged success.

4. Seek Mentors

It always helps to have the opinion of somebody who has already been through it.  Talking with a mentor (or mentors) about the problems facing you or your industry as a whole can be an invaluable way of learning and developing in your business and as a business owner.

5. Be Frugal

When times get tough, yours likely has to become a leaner business.  The important thing is to know what to cut.  If you’re cutting out client generating activities or expenses, then your frugalness will be counterintuitive.  That said, just like with your personal budget, there is always something that can afford to be cut to decrease expenses.


When business is slow, you have to pick up your pace, develop, and make the difficult choices.  Hopefully this list is a good starting place if you’re facing this kind of issues.  As always, it’s action that will achieve results.

But now if you’ll excuse me, I now I have to go follow my own words, and try and think of some new methods for finding new business.






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