The countdown is on – my kids are in the last home stretch of school, we have awards ceremonies and themed ABCs Until Summer days – and it’s official: I’ve got three little people at home.
It’s a huge potential to become a distraction and keep me from focusing on my business. At the same time, this is a time of year that I love spending with my kids. It’s a time of year that we can make so many memories. We can go to the pool, and we can go to the beach, and we can go on little vacations.
This is the time of year that many business owners, many entrepreneurs, naturally experience the summer slowdown. Some of us start to think, “My community is off on vacation. There is nothing I can really do except wait until fall. I might as well just kick back and take a break.”
I need you to know, I am a huge fan of vacations.
We have vacations planned all summer long. Everything from a few days away, just having some time hanging out at home, a staycation at the pool. We have whole weeks blocked off, where we’re going with my family out to Chincoteague to see the Pony Penning or a week to visit my inlaws in Hilton Head..
So don’t get me wrong – we have a solid 2-3 weeks of vacation time planned for this summer.
I think this is a time of year where we can really enjoy the fruits of our labor, and I want you to enjoy that, too. I’m also a fan of embracing the natural ebbs and flows in our business so that that can work in my favor.Understanding these natural seasons of your business can really set you up for success and help you to take off running in the fall.Click To Tweet
I remember this story that I’ve read to my kids before, and you might remember it, it’s called The Ant and the Grasshopper. Remember the story?
Here’s the quick version. The grasshopper sees the ant working hard all summer to prepare for the winter ahead. He asks the ant, “Why don’t you just chill out and enjoy this beautiful summer?
Let’s just hang out and go to the beach and go to the pool.” And the ant says, “Well, I’m preparing for winter, and I suggest that you do the same thing.” The grasshopper thinks the ant is crazy to pass up this beautiful summer so he ignores the advice.
And then the seasons change, and suddenly that grasshopper is freezing his booty off and starving, while the ant is happily reaping the rewards of all of his hard work.
For many entrepreneurs, especially us working moms who are juggling kids who are off on their spring break or summer break, summer can bring a dip in new clients and revenue.
Whether we’re just juggling our own family during that time, or it’s a time of year where our own clients are off on vacation and they’re not thinking about coming in to see us or to work with us, it can feel really easy to slip into those lazy days of summer, just like that grasshopper.
I want you to know that the summer slowdown is a perfect time to build your business.
When you’re experiencing a quiet time in your business, it’s so easy to kick back and wait for things to just kind of naturally pick back up again. You might even rationalize that shutting down for a month so you can go on vacation, because all your clients are on vacation and you should just take the time off, makes sense.
But this can be a very reactive approach, and it can be one that sets you up for that feast or famine cycle because Labor Day rolls around, people are getting back into their routines, they’re home from vacation, and then you’re running around like a crazy person trying to get everything back in action, trying to build up the momentum you lost over the summer.
So I’m a huge fan of taking breaks and vacations, but not at the expense of having a sustainable business that continues to work for me, that’s continuing to generate clients and revenue and, ultimately, helping me to continue supporting my family.It's much easier to keep that momentum going through the summer than to just shut everything down and then start from scratch in the fall. Click To Tweet
Let’s go back to that parable, and say that our little ant is a farmer. Every summer he plants lots of seeds. He nurtures them into little seedlings, he fertilizes them and helps them to grow until fall, when he harvests his crop.
The little ant knows that not all the seeds will become seedlings. He knows that some of those seedlings might take a few years to bear fruit. He also knows that if he spends his summers planting and nurturing those little fruit trees, then for years and years to come he will have established trees that consistently give fruit.
This is really the journey of the entrepreneur.
Those first few years, it’s going to take more effort to build your business. Not every idea is going to take off. It might take a while for your marketing to get traction and to start sending new clients your way consistently, and you’re racing up that entrepreneurial learning curve to figure out your path to predictable profits.
Entrepreneurs who use these slower seasons in their favor, they use them as an advantage, to work on the big picture of their business and marketing, are the ones who, a year or two from now, will have a more sustainable business.
The point here is it’s all about taking advantage of those slower seasons so that you can plan ahead.
If you’re at a time when you don’t have to stress so much about being in the day-to-day of your business, now is the perfect opportunity to work on your big picture.
Here’s a few ideas for how you can get the most out of your summer slowdown, to set yourself up for success in the second half of 2019.
1:: Do a Mid-Year Review.
First, make some time for a mid-year review. It doesn’t take that long. It might take you 30 minutes to do a mid-year review, but it really will help you to see whether you are on or off track for your plans, your goals, so far this year.
This is so important because if you’re anything like me, the goals you set back in January, the plans you had mapped out, they might have completely changed. You might have a completely different game plan than you had initially drawn out at the beginning of the year.
You don’t want to sit down and do a big planning session and map out your year, and then just let that document hide somewhere and you never look at it again.
This is the time where you sit down and see, are you actually following the plan? Is the plan working? Are you on track or off track? And you need to adjust accordingly.
Mid Year Review
Are you on track to achieve your 2019 goals?
Download your free workbook to check in with a Mid-Year Review!
The goal of the workbook overall is for you to actually figure out what’s working so far this year for you.
- What offerings are selling well?
- What marketing strategies are really getting the results you hoped for?
- What’s not working?
- What did you try that just flopped completely?
You want to ask yourself are you on track or off track for your revenue goal. If your revenue goal was to make 60k this year, this far into June, are you at about 30k year-to-date in revenue?
Take Action! Download the Mid-Year Review workbook to get clarity on how your business is going so far in 2019 and look at the next half of the year.
Mid Year Review
Are you on track to achieve your 2019 goals?
Download your free workbook to check in with a Mid-Year Review!
2:: Upgrade Your Systems
Now the next thing, and this is a big priority for me in my business most summers, is upgrading your systems.
If there’s one thing that will help you to grow your business, it’s having the right systems in place so that you can more easily leverage your time and your energy. Having the right systems in place can also help you get a support team in place really easily.
If you’ve been running everything by yourself, you’ve been a one-man or a one-woman show, then having systems in place, actual documented systems walk you through step-by-step for each task or each project, will help you to hire, onboard, and really get a team member up and running in your business.
One of the things that my team will be focused on this summer is going in and doing kind of a systems audit and a systems review, making sure that everything is where it’s supposed to be, nice and clean and organized so that we can find what we need to find.Summer's a great time to either set up the system or to audit the system, clean up the system, make sure that it's all updated so that we all have the right information in front of us.Click To Tweet
What kind of systems should you put in place in your business?
Well, here’s a few that we depend on behind the scenes, here at Racheal Cook HQ.
I don’t know what we’d do without Google Apps for Work.
We use Gmail to handle all the email addresses in our business. We use Google Calendar to keep everyone on the same page. We use Google Drive & Google Docs for all of our processes, planning, and tracking.
We pay like $10 a month for the paid version. It is so, so worth it.
A tool like Asana, which is a project management tool, really helps us to keep track of all the moving parts in our business.
This is one of those things where it might be easy to think that because you’re a solo entrepreneur, you can just keep track of everything in your head or on Post-it notes, just scratch pieces of paper.
But honestly, if you ever plan to have a team, if you ever plan to collaborate with people or have a virtual assistant, you really need to have one dedicated place where you’re keeping track of all those projects and timelines, because those moving parts can get away from you really, really quickly.
I make sure that even when I’m sitting here doing my planning, which often, I’ll be honest, is a bunch of Post-it notes spread all over my desk, and notes on a calendar, a paper calendar, I will sit down and load it all into Asana so that my entire team knows what everybody is working on, we know what the timelines are for everything, and nobody is surprised.
It really helps me to stay focused and stay on track, and it helps my team to know all of the things going on in my business, so they’re not surprised when I say, “Hey, we’re focused on this now,” because it’s already been in front of them.
These days, I don’t need a huge client management app because most of my clients work with me inside my online programs and masterminds. However, there are times when people need to get on my calendar easily without a ton of back and forth.
I love Calendly because not only is it SO EASY to use, but when you upgrade, you have additional features like the ability to send text message reminders and accept payment for appointments.
My husband is currently loving Dubsado for his podcasting production business. It’s great because everything he needs – from new client inquires to scheduling to invoicing to client management is all in one app.
It streamlines so much on your end, and it helps show up for you to your client as an absolute pro. Okay, so once you’ve taken some time to upgrade your systems, then you can look at some other things.
3:: Get Ahead On Your Content Marketing
Next, upgrading your content marketing strategy.
Raise your hand if blogging, newsletter, social media is it a big part of your overall client attraction strategy? Yeah, me too. Educational-based marketing, it has been the cornerstone of how I’ve grown all my businesses over the last 10 years.
This time of year, I find, is the perfect time to plant those seeds and nurture community with amazing content. When the fall rolls around and people are back on track, they’re back into their normal routine.
When the time comes to invite them to work with me, they are excited to learn more about what I have to offer because I’ve been sharing relevant, useful content.
But the thing about this type of marketing, content marketing, educational-based marketing, is it is a commitment, and it’s not always easy to come up with ideas for what you want to write about, much less find the time to sit down and write it or to create it on a regular basis.
I’ve found, over and over again, that summer is a great time to sit down, to brainstorm all the types of content, all the podcast episodes, all the content upgrades, all the upcoming master classes. I will sit down and I will brainstorm and I will create a lot of it during the summer.
From my own experience, I know that Fall is a big transition time for my family and a huge time in my business. If I take the time now, during maybe a slower season, to create 12 weeks of content, it ensures that I don’t miss a week going into Fall because I’m overwhelmed with launching something or filling another program.
I can make sure that that part of my marketing engine in my business is already handled, and it helps me to make sure that my fall, a busy season in my business, is just that much smoother.
3:: Update Your Brand
Another thing you can look at doing in your business in the summer months is upgrading your brand.
Now, branding is much more than the colors and the logos and the design of your website. It’s just the overall message of your business. It’s the purpose, the why of what you do.
It’s how your business shows up in the world. Sometimes your brand needs a little update, needs a little makeover, needs a little refresh.
You have to remember, we all grow and evolve, and if you work with more and more and more clients, you’ll get more and more clarity about who you’re here to serve, what you really do best, what your highest value is.
Does your existing brand accurately reflect that to the rest of the world?
This is the perfect time to upgrade your messaging and upgrade your positioning to truly reflect all of the value you bring to your clients. And when you do that, then there’s no more being told that you’re too expensive because they truly know that working with you is worth every penny.
A few summers ago, I went through a huge rebranding process and it was intense.
It was a rebranding process that completely overhauled my entire website from head to toe. We had a photo shoot. We rewrote all the copy on the website. We redesigned all of my offerings from head to toe. It was huge.
This summer, I’m happy with my personal brand. I love my photos, I still love the website, but my messaging has shifted a bit. So I’m looking at things like where on my website do I need to do a few tweaks?
I already had plans for re-writing the copy on my website. I already had plans for tweaking my social media strategy.
Summer a great time to review your website, to make those tweaks, to review your social media strategy, to review everything, and make sure that you’re really presenting your best, best possible first impression to the world.
5:: Upgrade Your Offerings
And finally, another thing you can work on this summer is to upgrade your offerings.
Summer really is the perfect time to plan and create new offerings. This is the best time, I see, for people, when things are a little bit slower in your business, this is when you can actually break free from that feast or famine cycle of hourly work by creating, maybe an online program, or a group program, or productize your services, or simply upgrade your existing offerings.
The first summer that I ever offered my signature program, Sweet Spot Strategy, it was the summer of 2011. That was when my husband, who is a seventh grade English teacher, was home on his summer break, so it was the perfect time for me to really create a robust program.
I remember so many days of him handling kids. The twins were literally a year old, about a year and a half old at that point … he was managing babies, I was creating slides and creating workbooks and recording create my program.
There were many nights where the kids were finally asleep and I was recording things at night. It was just a great time to create that program because I had the support I needed behind the scenes in my business with my assistant, but also in my personal life, to make sure that I could create the program I wanted to create.
Honestly, over the last six years now, there have been at least five major updates to the program, where I’ve completely overhauled it, head to toe, completely rerecorded the entire program.
This summer, I’m doing a complete overhaul, a renovation of my signature program! It’s going to be a lot of work and I probably won’t even get it completed until it’s almost 2020 – but this summer will be a lot of the heavy lifting breaking down all the trainings and overhauling how we serve our community.Ask yourself what products, programs, or services need an upgrade to better reflect the value that you offer. Click To Tweet
While I completely plan to enjoy my four day summer work week, and I’ve planned a few vacations this summer, I have plans for my business.
I plan to be looking and reviewing all of our systems and making sure that behind the scenes everything is running as smoothly as possible.
I plan on working on my content strategy so that when I go into fall, I already have the entire next 12 weeks, or really, end of the year, from September to December, content already recorded and ready to go so that I don’t have to stress about that.
I plan to have some time to look at my website and tweak a few things, my home page, and maybe a couple other places on my website. And I plan to add some bonuses and add some upgrades to Sweet Spot Strategy, to deliver an even better experience.
That’s what I’ll be working on, to make sure that I’m setting myself up for success and setting myself up to continue to grow my business in the second half of 2019.
I’d love to hear from you.
What are you doing to keep the momentum up this summer, and to make sure that when fall hits and everybody’s back on their regular schedule?