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Stay­ing Rel­e­vant in the Offseason

Every sports fan knows there’s one day every year that’s just heart­break­ing — the day after the cham­pi­onship. If you’re a col­lege foot­ball fan, it’s the sec­ond Tues­day in Jan­u­ary; if base­ball is more your speed, it’s right around the first of Novem­ber, after a World Series cham­pi­on is crowned.

From that day, the months just stretch out in front of you, with noth­ing to do but dream about wak­ing up on the first day of spring prac­tice, or the morn­ing pitch­ers and catch­ers report to spring train­ing, the most glo­ri­ous day of the year, when the pos­si­bil­i­ties for the new sea­son are endless.

But for the teams, the work doesn’t stop. There might be a lit­tle vaca­tion, a few days or even a cou­ple weeks to regroup and reset, but then the work begins to prep for the new sea­son. Imag­ine if Tom Brady didn’t lift a sin­gle weight or spend a minute on the tread­mill from Feb­ru­ary 5 until mid-July…think he’d be play­ing in any Super Bowls?

Point being: if you aren’t spend­ing your off­sea­son get­ting ready for the next sea­son, you prob­a­bly just played your last sea­son. It’s true in sports, and it’s true in busi­ness. For con­trac­tors, that might not involve a foot­ball — deflat­ed or not — but it’s still incred­i­bly impor­tant. As some­one much smarter once said: cham­pi­onships are won in the offseason.

So what can you do to con­tend for a crown when the phone isn’t ring­ing off the hook? Here are four ideas:

Work on Yourself

If the phone isn’t ring­ing, that doesn’t mean there’s noth­ing to do. You and your team can use the time to do some per­son­al devel­op­ment. Devel­op a lit­tle library of great books to help edi­fy your employ­ees: lead­er­ship, cus­tomer ser­vice, busi­ness strate­gies, and more. Between calls, your recep­tion­ist can be read­ing about Disney’s strate­gies for pro­vid­ing great ser­vice; if he’s not spend­ing all morn­ing load­ing mate­r­i­al onto trucks, your shop man­ag­er can read up on a For­tune 500 company’s lead­er­ship team. It beats watch­ing them scroll through Insta­grams of the local humane society’s cats on com­pa­ny hours, right?

When you have a few rel­a­tive­ly unin­ter­rupt­ed days, sched­ule some time to meet with your lead­er­ship team and have a good come-to-Jesus with a SWOT analy­sis of the busi­ness. That stands for Strengths-Weak­ness­es-Oppor­tu­ni­ties-Threats, and it’s good to have a thor­ough check­up of each of these cat­e­gories on a reg­u­lar basis.

swot-analysis-diagram

Strengths and weak­ness­es are inter­nal to your com­pa­ny — things that YOU do well or could improve — and oppor­tu­ni­ties and threats are exter­nal — things that the mar­ket dic­tates or allows. Don’t be afraid to be very hon­est in this exer­cise; it’s a waste of time if you aren’t will­ing to give and receive con­struc­tive crit­i­cism. But this can also help you unearth some space to make next year your best year yet.

Find an Off­sea­son Opportunity

Your SWOT analy­sis can help point you toward an area you can focus on, exter­nal­ly, in the off­sea­son. Find­ing a ser­vice the com­mu­ni­ty needs that you can pro­vide can help keep the phone ring­ing and give you a chance to get to know the folks who can eas­i­ly become your future pre­vi­ous” customers.

For exam­ple, at White Cas­tle Roof­ing, we found that, while roof replace­ment com­pa­nies are all over the place in our area, there were very few roof repair com­pa­nies. Roof replace­ments are quite sea­son­al in nature, but repairs are a year-round busi­ness. It may not be the most prof­itable thing in the world, but by invest­ing in a few repair spe­cial­ists and mak­ing sure they’re well-trained, per­son­able, and trust­wor­thy, we have a walk­ing adver­tise­ment for our com­pa­ny that meets a need in the com­mu­ni­ty AND keeps us top-of-mind in the win­ter months when we aren’t out doing a full replace­ment. Down the road, when the home­own­ers who called us for a repair need a full replace­ment, in many cas­es we’re now their first phone call.

Ours is just one exam­ple. Maybe it’s get­ting into gut­ters or sid­ing, if you’re a home exte­ri­or com­pa­ny. If you sell heaters or air con­di­tion­ers, can you do more with ser­vic­ing your prod­ucts, or get into oth­er home main­te­nance ser­vices, like appli­ance repairs? If you do land­scap­ing, can you also do snow removal? Be cre­ative, be hon­est about what you can and can­not do (and what you are will­ing to invest in doing it), and you might find a new ser­vice you can pro­vide to expand your cus­tomer base and keep busy.

Focus on Your Online Presence

This is an area con­trac­tors often over­look, but it might be the most impor­tant thing you do all year. Have you Googled your­self late­ly? Is your web­site opti­mized for local search and mobile view­ing? Do you have a social media strat­e­gy? How do your list­ings look?

Is this Man­darin to you?

The off­sea­son is a great time to ded­i­cate some very valu­able hours to mak­ing sure you have a sol­id online pres­ence. Spend some time look­ing up oth­er busi­ness­es in your field online and in social media, and get some ideas for your own strate­gies. If you need to do a web redesign or total over­haul of your social media pages, find a pro to help you, and use the less-busy time to make sure any bugs on your site are ironed out before you have all the hits of the reg­u­lar season.

Then take a look at your list­ings. If you haven’t claimed your major list­ings pages yet (Google My Busi­ness, Yelp, Bing, and Face­book), do so imme­di­ate­ly, and start devel­op­ing those pro­files. Those will help your busi­ness show up high­er in Google list­ings, and give your poten­tial cus­tomers search­ing for a con­trac­tor a bet­ter idea of who you are. If those are well-devel­oped by the time the busy sea­son hits, you won’t need to spend as much time main­tain­ing them to stay rel­e­vant. Again, if you need a pro to help with this, it can be pricey but in the end is a real­ly worth­while investment.

Then get your­self famil­iar with your social media plat­forms and ana­lyt­ics, so post­ing becomes sec­ond nature and doesn’t take as much time in your busy days. The last thing you want to do is be super active dur­ing the off­sea­son, then dis­ap­pear in your busy sea­son — but becom­ing a pro on how to post good con­tent can help you prac­tice so it’s eas­i­er to do once you’re busier in a few months.

Get Out in The Community

Ded­i­cate your slow time to get­ting back in touch with your com­mu­ni­ty. One great use of your free hours is to vis­it sev­er­al tips and net­work­ing groups! Check with your local cham­ber of com­merce for oppor­tu­ni­ties, and look at unaf­fil­i­at­ed groups, like a region­al Cen­ter­Sphere branch, inde­pen­dent busi­ness asso­ci­a­tion, or pro­fes­sion­al net­work. Also con­sid­er ser­vice- ori­ent­ed groups like Kiwa­nis or Rotary clubs. Try out as many as you like, as their rules allow — and then select a few to stay with year-round. These are a great way to keep your name rel­e­vant and gen­er­ate some good refer­rals. Make sure you track where your cus­tomers come from — odds are you’ll start see­ing these pay dividends!

Beyond the busi­ness, when your year-round employ­ees have a lit­tle more free time dur­ing the­day, take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to build up your com­pa­ny morale AND your com­mu­ni­ty by get­ting out for some ser­vice togeth­er. Pick up lit­ter along a park trail, serve a meal togeth­er at a home­less shel­ter, vol­un­teer for a Habi­tat for Human­i­ty build project, spend an after­noon hang­ing out with the res­i­dents at a nurs­ing home… The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less! Wear com­pa­ny appar­el, and doc­u­ment your adven­tures. It’s a great way to invest in the health of your com­mu­ni­ty while doing some­thing mem­o­rable with your team.

whitecastle-roofing-habitat-for-humanity

Just because the phone is qui­et doesn’t mean the work is over. Use your off­sea­son to devel­op your employ­ees, your busi­ness, your online pres­ence, and your com­mu­ni­ty — and you’ll have a win­ning set­up when your Super Bowl sea­son comes around again.

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