While it’s still important you take a well-earned break to recharge and refuel this holiday season, there are plenty of things you can also use the quiet time for, such as improving business processes, researching new markets or nurturing fresh business ideas.

We spoke with some Aussie small business experts to get their advice on how to make the most of your downtime.

1. Explore possible new products or services

Evan Goodman, who runs a business that coaches and mentors other business owners, says the holiday period can be the ideal time to think about expanding with a new product or service, especially with the Government’s current instant asset write-off scheme in play (read more about this scheme here).

If you are thinking of creating a new product or service, Goodman encourages you to first ask “Does the world need this?”

“If it does, start researching. When small business owners come up with a new product, many are so excited about the idea that they [often] kick it off without doing enough research. Then, if the product doesn’t take off straight away, they lose confidence.”

It’s easier to follow through your new idea with confidence when it’s backed up by research. Next, you want to test your product on a select audience.

“Design your product, through prototyping and testing it with an objective group of people. Then re-design and iterate until enough people agree that your product is exactly the way they want it,” he says.

You might not have downtime again until the same time next year. So, dust off those ideas that have been in the back of your mind, and get to work on stress-testing them and bringing them to life.

2. Reset your marketing strategy

It’s always a good idea to reassess and optimise your marketing strategy on a regular basis – even when things seem to be bubbling along nicely. This is even more pertinent in 2020 when consumer behaviours and expectations have often shifted dramatically.

With this in mind, you might use your EOY downtime to revisit your marketing plan and goals to ensure you’re getting in front of the right people, with the right message in 2021.

As we’ve previously shared on the Prospa Blog, that could include focusing on brand building rather than just product/service promotion, i.e. taking the time to tell your business’s story to ensure you remain front of mind for consumers when they’re ready to start spending again.

“2020 has been a huge year, full of lessons on how things can be done differently. This summer, think about how those lessons might help you [in 2021].” – Jess Pollard, business director at mwah

“Spend a lot of time working out where your customer is, what they need and how your product can meet their needs,” says Goodman.

While you’re at it, you might want to think about how your customers want to interact with you in 2021.

There has been a massive uptake in online shopping, for example, and if that’s relevant to your business, this summer could be a good time to hone your digital presence by upgrading your website, investing in online content production or paying for the expertise of a digital marketing whiz who can help your brand to stand out from the pack.

3. Catch up on your admin

When times are busy, things can fall through the tracks,” says Jess Pollard, business director at Making Work Absolutely Human (Mwah), an HR consultancy.

“A bit of breathing space over summer might give you the chance to check in and make sure you’re still compliant. This might sound a bit dull, but ticking the mandatory boxes is fundamental for a sustainable and successful business.”

Make sure all your records are filed and in order, including your accounting and bookkeeping, bank statements, contracts, correspondence and insurance policies, she adds.

Then there are legal requirements. The laws governing small business changes regularly, and Pollard says it’s important to keep up with any shifts – from fair trading, privacy, marketing and intellectual property, to employment and workplace health and safety.

4. Learn something new (in a relaxing way)

Kathy Wilson, owner of Tattoo Makeup Concealer, which creates high-quality concealers to temporarily cover tattoos, is a self-proclaimed podcast lover. She often takes the lessons learned from them and applies them to her business.

A personal favourite of hers is The Tim Ferriss Show, which has been ranked as the #1 business podcast on Apple Podcasts in the past. For her, it spreads the critical message that all business owners need to hear once in a while: everyone is human and you don’t have to be perfect.

“Everyone started somewhere long before they were superstars and everyone you think of as a success has failed before, often spectacularly and often more than once,” she says.

“I really enjoyed his interview with Elizabeth Gilbert [author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic].

“I take Gilbert’s thoughts and don’t wait for inspiration but instead ‘work like a farmer’. When inspiration strikes, that’s nice but I don’t wait around for it anymore.”

5. Put mental health frameworks in place

Whether several people run the show – or just one (you) – prioritising mental health is key to ensuring the longevity of your business in 2021, says Pollard.

Use this down time to put some healthy routines in place. Make it part of your New Year’s resolutions and consider it as critical as other aspects of your business strategy.

Pollard recommends adopting daily and weekly activities, such as setting a tech-free hour (or day), getting into nature, doing something you’ve never done before and scheduling in weekly check-ins with the people who matter to you (in and out of your business).

Importantly, get to know your warning signs – personal, social and financial – that you’re not doing well and, if they come up, pay attention to them, she adds.

“2020 has been a huge year, full of lessons on how things can be done differently. This summer, think about how those lessons might help you [in 2021].”