Business profitability moves in a cyclical pattern. Typically, the first quarter of the New Year is the slowest, and is often the most difficult to survive, particularly for small businesses. It’s natural that sales taper off during this time of year – customers are recovering from their holiday spending, they’re preparing to pay Uncle Sam what they owe and the winter doldrums have set in as well. However, there are a few things that you can do to help ensure that you keep your business moving forward.

Set Goals

Goal setting is an important consideration for any business in any industry. However, it’s important that you go about setting your goals in the right way. Use the SMART method, and you’ll have a significant advantage over the competition.

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Each goal you set should follow these criteria. Moreover, you should set your goals as early as feasible, so you can have a plan in place to work toward during the slow months. Often, action translates to momentum, though you’ll need to be prepared for a different sort of momentum than what you experience during busy sales periods.

Goals keep your company moving forward, even if you’re not experiencing a high level of foot traffic or your website sales have slumped. However, your goals during this time of year should differ from those you set during busier months. Focus on business improvement, refinement, new project planning and the like instead.

Determine Needed Improvements

Often, keeping a business moving isn’t all about actual selling. Sometimes, it’s about finding things within your business to improve. The slower months of the year are the ideal time to dig deep and identify what you can do better and how you can change it. This can apply to any area of your business, from shipping and receiving to marketing and promotion – you might find new software that streamlines your receiving process, or perhaps you’ll work on creating a marketing campaign directed at current customers from your existing database rather than focusing on bringing in new ones. Now is the time to take stock of your business, identify areas where change is needed and then make those changes.

Advertising Still Matters

Just because you’re stuck in the doldrums of the dreaded first quarter, it doesn’t mean that you should stop your advertising. However, it’s the perfect time to investigate new marketing methods that you might have wanted to check out but lacked the time, earlier in the year. For instance, if you’ve been considering social media marketing but lacked the time, get started. Maybe you’ve have considered starting a newsletter to keep your customers informed, or you want to conduct surveys to gather vital data. Now is the time. You’ll also find that because the season is slower for pretty much all businesses, your own marketing messages will get more traction.

Plan New Projects

Because these months are slow, you’ll have time on your hands that can be put to good use in the area of project or product planning. If you’ve been thinking about starting a new project, offering a new service or releasing a new product, this is the perfect time of year to get started with the process. You’ll find that the productivity and energy your new planning generates spills over to other aspects of your business as well.

Keeping a business moving forward during slow periods is a challenge for every business owner and CEO. Have patience, set goals, improve your company, try new things and that momentum will continue.

Don Elfrink is the owner and operator of, a company selling auto mats throughout the nation. Before AutoMatStore, Elfrink was the operator of an automotive production site. AutoMatStore focuses on logo, carpeted, molded and all weather floor mats.