Autumn – at least in the farming world – is associated with harvesting, with reaping the rewards of sowing the seeds in Spring and looking after them and cultivating them in Summer. Generally speaking, that is.
It’s a time for cooler weather, for leaves to change colour and for the warmer clothes to be taken out of storage and prepped for the cold months ahead.
It’s a time for spiced Chai Lattes, pumpkin pie and – if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere – Halloween.
For some, it’s a signal to start hunkering down.
And this need for warmth and comfort, got us thinking. As human beings we’re affected by the world around us. By the red and orange leaves on the trees and the promise of colder nights in front of the fires that lay ahead.
But does this need for comfort extend to our businesses too? How does the changing of the seasons, specifically Autumn affect business operations?
What’s the situation?
Business operations during Autumn
With Autumn months far ahead of those in the Southern Hemisphere but just around the corner for those in the Northern Hemisphere, it doesn’t hurt to properly plan ahead.
So, in preparation for the changing leaves, try these suggestions on for size –
Know exactly who your clients are
Perhaps the most obvious, yet most important, aspect of any business is having all the information about your clients in one easy-to-use and easy-to-find location.
Whether you develop a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for your business or utilise the packages from legal accounting and practice management tools, such as those offered by AJS, where client information is uploaded to your practice management system either upon migration to the system or as you sign on a new client and complete your KYC process.
Your database should seek to contain the names, titles, companies, and contact information for all of your essential business contacts, including clients and prospective clients.
One place for all your data.
It’s important to set up a touch base
Again, this may seem like an obvious thing to do, but it’s worth mentioning.
It’s one story being in touch with your clients via email, on Teams calls or the odd phone chat but if you can, you should set up a touch base with your clients where you meet face to face every now and again.
Connecting with your clients personally adds huge value to your relationship. But in addition to strengthening your relationship, meeting face-to-face also opens opportunities to perhaps let your clients know what’s going on with your business, whether you have any new service offerings, other titbits they may be interested in. It gives you an opportunity to expand on what you currently offer that specific client.
As Lagerquist set out –
“Use this time to refresh them on the opportunities they can pursue by partnering with you, as well as updating them on your own capabilities and services. Consider putting together a brochure or data sheet with key points about your firm such as a list of your capabilities; names of key customers (if you’re in the B2B market); and information on your ‘best fit’ prospect profile”.
It’s also an important time to perhaps connect with your suppliers. They are important business partners to stay on top of. Chat to them about the services they supply you, whether there have been any hiccups recently and whether there are any invoices that have gone unpaid. The last thing you want is a disgruntled service supplier when you need them the most.
It’s also a good idea to get in touch with your referral sources who can potentially refer you to new business and crucially, a chance to meet with prospective clients reminding them who you are and why they should do business with you.
A little charm, honesty and frank chat goes a long way to develop the type of long-lasting business relationships you should seek to build.
So, get out there!
Sharpen your focus
We understand the allure of getting your finger in many pies.
We all want to ensure a steady and growing revenue stream. We also want to beat our competitors come financial end.
But the problem with this is – an unfocused growth strategy is no strategy at all.
In order to properly focus your attention on where it needs to be – like signing on the correct new clients – your focus is everywhere else. And that won’t serve you. Not in the long run.
How do you go about this? Well, according to Lagerquist –
“a lack of focus makes it harder to close new sales, because prospective customers have a harder time believing that you are an expert in meeting their particular needs. That’s why you should use this time during the summer to really hone in on your best possible strategies for growth. If you’ve been historically offering ‘any service the customer asks for’, consider narrowing your offerings down to a set that makes sense and is most profitable. Other ways to sharpen your focus including narrowing your target geography, zeroing in on a specific demographic, or developing a new product or service that meets very specific needs”.
Concentrate on conserving your energy and your resources
As much as possible.
According to Forbes you should aim to –
“keep 10% of your turnover available in liquid cash. You have to go into a recession with cash reserves. A solid financial cushion will give you the breathing space to make decisions with a clear head when winter rolls around”.
It’s almost like animals in the Northern Hemisphere storing food in preparation for the lean Winter months ahead.
But it’s a sound financial strategy. Saving a little of your turnover for the rainy days (that you cannot always plan for) allows you to be more strategic without having to worry about cash flows.
It also gives you more breathing room if you need to face unexpected world events like COVID.
This shouldn’t just be a strategy during Autumn. This should be a regular practice – saving cash so that you don’t have money problems thereby ensuring you are always cash happy.
Evaluate your service offering
While we believe that evaluating your service offerings is an ongoing thing, meaning you should be looking into this throughout the year, it’s something that you can give a little more attention to during Autumn.
According to Forbes by evaluating your service offering and identifying all the ways you differ from your competitors you can get a better competitive edge. And you can do this by asking yourself the following questions –
Ø What unique service or product do you offer?
Ø What value do you provide customers?
Ø How do you stand out?
And if you can’t figure out an answer to any of the above questions, it’s best to head back to the drawing board so that the answer to these questions becomes a whole lot easier in the future.
As Forbes sets out “joining the race to the bottom is a surefire way to go broke”. And no one wants that!
Consider attending seminars or exhibitions pertinent to your focus area
Often the largest source of new clients, including our largest clients, comes from referral sources or acquaintances we meet at industry conferences. Exhibitions bring together a host of highly targeted clients in one place. Most of those prospective clients are looking for new solutions and are especially open to hearing about your product or service offerings.
There’s an exhibition and seminar for every single industry – and there’s most certainly an exhibition or trade show that is attended by your target clients – the specific or specialised focus area of your practice. Take the Mining Indaba as one example. And there are plenty more where that’s concerned.
Show up and reap the rewards – whilst also learning something new. It’s almost like a two for one deal!
Taking action — almost any action — helps re-motivate you. Again, this isn’t something we believe you should only consider during Autumn. The aim here is for continuous action. Because no one achieved anything by sitting back on their haunches.
If you do only one thing, we have set out above. Do that one thing.
Call one new prospect or set up a touch base with one existing client. Fix one business issue. Book one conference/trade show/exhibition/seminar.
But do one thing. And then the next day, do one more thing. Before you know it, you will notice improvements in all aspects of your business because you are constantly working on it.
If anything, consistency will always play a crucial role. Regardless of season.
While we look ahead, let’s remember that with every season there is a lesson to be learnt. With each season there’s a plan that needs to be made. Just as seasons are cyclical, so too is your business. And the important thing to remember is that your business may not necessarily follow the normal seasons. Perhaps your business is in a Spring state during Summer. Perhaps you should be making Winter plans while you’re in Summer. This will depend on where you are and what’s happening in your business’s life cycle.
It’s therefore important to get to know all four seasons of your business and what each has to offer you. Specifically. Strengthen and grow your business in Spring and Summer, whilst you sustain and endure your financial foundations in Autumn and Winter.
It’s all about proper planning. In any season. Preparing for what could be. For ensuring your vision meets that of the actual requirements of your business. It’s about seeing patterns (just like we know when the rainy season will start) and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise.
If you have any questions regarding the information we have set out above or if you have any queries relating to legal tech and how you can incorporate it into your practice, get-in-touch and let’s see how we can take your software solution from good to phenomenal.
If you don’t have any software supporting your legal practice yet, it’s not a problem. We are here to help you from scratch too.
AJS – as always – has your back!