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Going with the Ebb and Flow in Business

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Business is going well and you’re run off your feet. Then suddenly, you’re just not getting the new enquiries in. Responses to your email marketing and social media drop off, and it’s not clear where the next client will come from. But don’t panic. As with all things in life, your business has a rhythm that will cause it to ebb and flow, in and out like the tide.

Just as the tide is driven by the moon, your business is driven by the market in which you operate, determining busy times and quiet times – and these peaks and troughs can actually be good for you. They will give you a chance to focus on different areas of your business, and give you opportunities to plan better for the future, including when you should take a real break!

So how do you get a handle on that natural rhythm – and most important of all, harness the power of that ebb and flow to work for you? Here’s our plan for working IN and ON your business in line with that ebb and flow, along with a checklist of ways to feel prepared for that ebb phase when it comes along.

Stage 1 – Establish the Cause of It

The good news when you hit an ebb phase is that like everything else, “this too shall pass” – and making sense of it is the first step in responding to it, so consider the possible causes for the lull. Was it a case of poor timing – you plan an event or marketing campaign when your usual clients are on holiday, in the middle of year-end? Have you brought new people into the business when you’ve just launched a new product/service? Or perhaps a large project has just come to an end, and you need new clients to fill your order books?

Don’t worry. Whatever the cause, businesses swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other, going through different periods of growth and retreat. Becoming aware of this, building the resilience to work through it, and devising strategies that work for you, are critical to the success of your business and your wellbeing.

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Stage 2 – Plan for It

So once you’ve accepted that everything is cyclical, and that ebb and flow will happen, you can start to build it into your annual planning, your marketing strategy, milestone marking and even your to-do list. You’ve now got opportunities to bring different levels of focus to your business and to ensure that you’re working ON your business in ebb times as well as IN it during the flow:

• In flow phases, you want your business machine to be well serviced, automations to be running and processes in place so that you can fully enjoy the highs of the business.

• In ebb phases, you want to be slowing down and bringing your focus on those areas of the business that will allow the flow phase to feel good.

Think about those times of year that are likely to be quieter for you, and decide what you’ll do when they happen – whether that’s taking time for you or for an aspect of your business. Then when those more unpredictable ebbs happen, you’ll have a plan you can adapt for those times too.

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Stage 3 – Go With It

Once you’ve got your plan, you need to live it – and even if you were anticipating those ebb times, that mild feeling of panic when quieter times begin to show themselves may be inevitable. So what can you do to be aligned with your new plan?

Keep coming back to your vision, your big why. Even motivation has a rhythm to it, and sometimes you’ll find it harder than others to remain positive. If you keep reminding yourself of your reasons for doing this, you’ll ride the wave rather than be swimming against it. Here’s a checklist of what you can do to up your motivation and stay positive when times get tough.

Flow Phase
• When it gets to be really busy, accept it and know that it is only for a while that “this too shall pass”
• Remind yourself of your vision, your big why, as often as you need – daily even!
• Reserve some of that lovely cash in rainy day and tax pots.
• Measure the activity so you know exactly what happens when you’re in flow.

Ebb Phase
• When it’s really quiet, accept it and know that it is only for a while that “this too shall pass”
• Remind yourself of your vision, your big why, as often as you need – daily even!
• Review your financial position and spend your pennies wisely
• Use the data you’ve collected to make strategic plans for your next flow phase

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How to Prepare for the Ebb Phase

There are often clues to tell you that change is coming: demand begins to decline, fewer responses to your marketing, people declining due to being on holiday. If you pick up on this, it’s time to be proactive and consciously change your activities. With the extra time you can look at what new strategies might you come up with to promote the business, what areas of the business are ready to grow, plan to reach out to people you’ve not connected to for a while.

Be Visible
This is the time to look at networking, 1-1s, meeting other people in your industry, attending conferences or events and increase your visibility in the marketplace. Apart from connecting you to other opportunities, you will also increase your profile in your industry and you are building your network which will support you in both quiet and busy times. Review your website and profiles, SEO, social media marketing and plan for it to be as automated as possible so it’s not impacted by a flow phase. You still want to be marketing in a flow phase – not everyone can see how busy you are!

Be Savvy
It’s so easy to feel the relief and joy of a busy time when the cash is rolling in, now you can do more of the things you wanted to do, invest in new software, hire more staff, buy those branded pens and keyrings. If you know that there will be ebb times ahead, you can make more informed choices about what to do with your hard-earned cash, ensuring you don’t overspend and have cash when you need it. So get into the habit of creating forecasts and budgets, and make sure you keep a rainy day fund to weather those storms.

Be Measured
Keep track of when you are at your busiest and when things slow down. What does your peak time look like? How many clients, how many invoices, how many projects? Constantly check whatever Key Performance Indicators you can – including how many 1-1s have you had, how many responses have you had to your marketing – whatever you know you can measure that will help you see if you are in an ebb or flow phase.

Be Connected
Bring your full focus to any learning or development opportunities in the ebb phases of your business. Leverage your network and get it working for you. Build relationships with strategic partners and other professionals in your industry. Reconnect with past clients and remind them that you’re still here and have more you can do for them.

Remember that whether you’re in ebb or flow, you are exactly where you need to be. Embrace it, take the opportunities it offers, and remember that you need to make time for working IN your business, working ON your business, and working on your tan!