What Have Pancakes to Do with Forward Planning?

The last day of February this year is Shrove Tuesday, popularly known as Pancake Day. It’s a movable feast, sometimes in February and sometimes in March depending on the date of Easter, and traditionally marks the last day of indulgence before the fasting of Lent begins. 

In Britain, we rather quaintly mark Shrove Tuesday by eating pancakes, a tradition arising from using up ingredients forbidden during Lent. Elsewhere, the French Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) and the Italian Carnivale (Farewell to Meat) tend to be celebrated more boisterously, but the principle’s the same — one last fling before the lean times start.

Lean Times 

Set periods of fasting, such as Lent or Ramadan, are easy to plan for, but lean times in business are harder. And make no mistake, they will happen, even to the most successful company. Ultimately, we have no choice but to depend on other people for our income. We can be proactive in winning business and ensuring we get paid, of course, but it’s always someone else, private customer or company, who has to say yes. 

Our business may be subject to seasonal fluctuations. Obviously, if we concentrate on something like Christmas gifts, this is only to be expected, but many businesses have traditional low periods during the year, often due to customers’ fluctuating cashflow. 

We can also be subject to wider and longer-term issues. Any company connected to the construction industry, for example, will be affected by the housing market, which in turn will be affected by mortgage interest rates and ultimately by the overall state of the economy. 

Planning for Lean Times 

With the exception of choosing a naturally seasonal market, none of these are factors we can control. It’s obviously vital not to blow our entire boom-time budget, but to keep some of it back for when leaner times come. 

Just as important is a marketing strategy that allows for lean times as well as good times. When business is rolling in, it’s very tempting to feel we don’t have time for marketing activities, whether networking, Google Ads or chasing leads, but this is looking at marketing the wrong way. 

Whether times are good or bad, we’re marketing not for now but for the future. Of course, we may get lucky — a lead we chase could offer a contract on the spot, or we may run into someone at a networking event just when they need our service. Generally speaking, though, the fruits of marketing belong to the future — perhaps to the lean times. And that’s just when we need them. Enjoy your pancakes!


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