I asked three business owners—Zeeshan Ali, CEO of screen printing company The Zee Group in Chicago; Bryanne Lawless, managing partner of PR firm BLND in Los Angeles; and Michael Mogill, CEO of Crisp Video Group in Atlanta—about how they turn historically slow seasons into growth periods.
What are the ebbs and flows of your business in a typical year?
Ali: Typically, the start of the school year and the end of the year—as we are ramping up for trade show season—are our busiest times of the year. We have focused on diversifying our portfolio of clients this year, so the wavelength is a bit different than in past years.
Lawless: The beginning of the year is always the craziest since businesses want to re-market themselves, update their branding or expand their social media presence. The slowest time is usually the third quarter because companies are running out of budget for marketing and PR efforts. Luckily for us, almost every business needs PR to compete and be seen as an expert in its industry.
Mogill: The slower times of the year are the early part of Q1 and Q4. Starting the year, our sales pick up stride as we get into March and are very strong through Q2 and Q3. In Q4, things start to slow near Thanksgiving, not just because of the holidays but also because clients are going out of town.
Can you predict when activity will slow down? How do you prepare for slow seasons?
Mogill: Absolutely, since we have tracked activity data over several years. Because we are able to anticipate them, we can ramp up marketing significantly during slow periods to ensure that we are still able to be productive and hit our goals. Also, we frontload our goals through the early part of the year rather than spreading them evenly over 12 months.
Lawless: When our pipeline slows down, that’s a signal that everything else will follow. It’s important to focus on the clients we have, but we also have to make sure there are always clients ready to sign and hit the ground running.
Ali: We use the reporting feature in our CRM and in QuickBooks to monitor slow and peak periods of activity. This information dictates how we should manage our expenses and allows us to accurately forecast each month.
For the rest of the interview, head over to the AMEX Open Forum.