The slow season is usually viewed as a lean time of the year for contractors — projects are fewer and further between, staff size may drop, etc. But you can use this extra time to your advantage. This guide will help you make the most of your slow season and prepare you for what’s on the other side of it.
When is the Slow Season for Contractors?
The slow season varies between trades and locations, but the least busy time of the year for contractors is winter. At the beginning of the cold season (Thanksgiving and Christmas), people are usually busy traveling, preparing to host guests, or spending money on different things. And in the latter part of the season, it’s cold and snowy — not great for roof installs or tree trimming.
Now that I got that little bit of SEO business out of the way, let’s get into the guide.
The most successful sports teams have great playbooks and processes in place to keep everything running like clockwork. But something we talk about at CompanyCam is how we can’t entirely rely on what got us to where we are to get us to where we want to go.
You’ve got to add in some new plays and refresh the successful ones. That’s why it’s essential to do a periodic review of your processes.
Standardize Operating Procedures
Efficient, repeatable, and thorough processes save time and cover butts (sounds like someone else we know). That’s why you should dedicate some of your downtime to review your SOPs.
To start, list out everything an employee needs to do or know on a job site. Try to get everything out of your head — it can’t be standardized if it’s not on paper. Then think of the things that make up those tasks and how long each one will take.
Checklists are excellent for organizing your thoughts once you’ve listed them out. Then, build your checklist in CompanyCam to ensure you cover everything you need to do on every job site. Soon, we’re releasing standardized, trade-specific checklist templates to give you a head start.
Check Your Tech
The slow season is prime time to check in on software and subscription services you’re using for your business and research new ones.
List out all services you’re using, along with who’s connected to those accounts. If you find inactive users on the platforms, like subcontractors from a one-off job, remove them. In CompanyCam, you can view user activity and upload dates to help determine who is and isn’t active.
Next, integrate your tech stack to get the most out of each platform you’re using. The more your software talks to each other, the more efficient your operations, sales, and marketing will be. We firmly believe in software integrations, which is why we play nicely with the leading CRMs in the general construction industry.
If you hired seasonal help or have to downsize, make sure you have processes in place to offboard and retain your employees.
Schedule reviews and exit interviews with all of your employees. Ask them about their experiences and get their opinions on things like:
- Their views of the work and your business
- The relationships with co-workers and managers
- Their overall impression of the workplace culture
These conversations not only make employees feel valued, but they can also reveal insights into what you’re doing right (or what could use a little work).
Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to share your feedback on their performance and discuss whether they’d like to return once business picks up.
Manage Your Marketing
You might think with fewer projects on your plate, you should lighten marketing efforts. But doing that is the same as parking your truck in the garage in December and expecting it to fire right up in March. You need to lay out your marketing—for both the slow season and the rest of the year, so it can run smoothly in the background while you’re busy with work.
Audit Your Online Presence
First, you should audit your Google My Business listing, social media accounts, and website.
- Google My Business. Make sure all your contact information and service offerings are accurate and optimized so customers can easily find you.
- Social Media. Ensure your social channels are consistently named and branded (and have fresh content). We’ll get into more on #content below.
- Website. Along with business info, make sure you add photos of recent projects to your website. Better yet, install CompanyCam showcases.
For a more in-depth guide on auditing your online presence, check out this guest blog from our friends at Webrunner Media.
Plan Promos & Offers
Seasonal offers are a great way to get more jobs during the slow parts of the year and start booking your busy season.
A great place to start is by offering referral bonuses or % off coupons to your past customers. If they had a great experience with you the first time, they’re going to hire you again — especially if you sweeten the deal.
Monopolize Your Market’s blog has a few more slow-season contractor marketing ideas.
Create #Content With CoCam
CompanyCam users sit on a gold mine of ready-to-use content for web and social media. The pictures you take already tell a great story. All you need to do is fill it in with specifics.
The most popular and engaging content you can make from your photos are before and after home renovation projects — I mean, there are multiple TV channels dedicated to this. We have the aptly named Before and After feature in the app, which has tons of layouts to show the beginning and end photos, along with your company logo. Contractors also like to share project timelines.
We recently released showcases, a game-changer for showing off projects on your website. Contractors who’ve installed showcases on their website have told us they’ve seen increased site visits and have had smoother sales conversations.
Relationships are crucial to success in both our personal and professional lives. It’s not what, but who… you know the rest. Here are some people on the professional side of things to check in with during this time:
When projects are fewer and far between, check in with the people who have hired you in the past. A quick phone call or handwritten letter (who doesn’t love to receive mail that’s not a bill or a credit card offer?!) can make a positive impact.
Make sure you have a game plan, though. Outline what you’d like to cover in the communication:
- Ask them how the finished project is working for them
- Share with them that their completed project is highlighted on your site
- Tell them about any new services you’re offering
- Communicate offers for referral or repeat business
- Request they leave an honest review of your work
That list is pretty cut and dried, so be sure to add in your personality throughout.
Referrals from insurance agents are one of the easiest ways to grow your business sustainably. Leads from agents usually close at higher rates than traditional marketing efforts. But developing these relationships can be challenging if you’re new to the game.
Above all else, insurance agents value consistent processes, clear communication, and thorough documentation. Since you have already reviewed and updated your SOPs, you should be good to go there.
For more tips on building referral relationships with agents, check out this whitepaper by Matt Danskin, owner and creator of Restoration Referral System.
This time of year is also a great time to network with other construction pros in your area. You’re probably like, “What? They’re my competitor, CompanyCam blog author. Every dollar they get is a dollar taken from me.”
Maybe. But if we learned anything from Monsters University, it’s that we all have our unique strengths and weaknesses. And the better we pair these with others, the more we all benefit.
Instead of thinking, “General Contractor X has never installed level cabinets in their life.” Think, “I’m hella good at cabinet installs and can help them out. GCX has forgotten more about bathroom tiling than I’ll ever learn, so I’ll sub them on this job.”
These trusting, reciprocal relationships benefit both of your bottom lines because customers will be happier with the work, making them more likely to refer business to you.
Prepare to Get Busy
Now that you’ve taken a look under the hood of your processes and marketing — and have built some great relationships — the busy season is probably right around the corner. It’s time to get down to business.
Hire & Train Employees
Whether you reduced staff or have a lot of projects ready to go, you’ll need to make a plan to find help — which is easier said than done. Last year, we had Boris Altman of Premier Claims on our podcast to discuss this very topic.
Luckily, you have already properly offboarded your seasonal crew, and they should be ready to come back to join you. And you refined your SOPs and built them out in CompanyCam Checklists, so you’re ahead of the game.
But First, Take a Break
This is as important as any of the things above. You and your crews have been grinding throughout the year, and it’s essential to take time off to celebrate your successes and spend time away from the job site.
Burnout is often overlooked for small business owners — especially those in the trades. That’s why it’s important to take some time to recharge, research your interests, and spend some time out in the community.
And, if you’re feeling up to it, consider learning a new skill or volunteering.
Learn Something New
There are tons of free and lower-cost sites where you can learn a new skill. Coursera and LinkedIn Learning have a range of classes on trade-specific topics and soft skills, like leadership and building workplace culture.
If you’re interested in honing your marketing skills, check out Google Digital Garage and Facebook Blueprint. Both offer free classes designed for small business owners.
Give Back To Your Community
The slow season is a great time to use your talents to give back to your community. Your local Habitat for Humanity could use assistance on projects or donations at their ReStore locations.
Or find a cause you’re interested in outside of your day-to-day duties. Volunteering not only feels good, but it’s also a great way to meet new people in your trade and community.
And there you have it: The incomplete and ever-evolving contractor’s guide to the slow season. Is there something you do in the offseason that’s worked for you? Let us know on social media.
CompanyCam has a few opportunities you can take advantage of during the slow (and busy) seasons to help you earn exclusive gear, early access to new app features, and cold hard cash:
- CompanyCam Closers. Closers is our referral program open to all CoCam users. Send your link out to your friends, and when they sign up, you earn CASH.
- CompanyCam Champions. If you have a significant following, really love CompanyCam, and are really good at selling it to your network of followers, this program is for you.
Let’s make this offseason the best one yet, so that the busy season is busier (and more efficient) than ever.