Navigating the Ebb and Flow of Small Business Ownership

navigating the ebb and flow of business

Once upon a time, you imagined your small business, complete with a vision of a steady, comfortable level of activity.  Chances are, you realized that was as good as a storybook fantasy soon after you opened your doors. The truth of the matter is, there is a definite ebb and flow of small business ownership.

In the early days, you may find yourself with lots of time on your hands as you build your client base.  I remember those early days. I spent lots of time on message boards, attending business events in the community and writing for my blog.  As your list of clients grows, your schedule gets busier. You may find yourself scrambling to find the time to do the things related to your own business, like invoicing, marketing and blogging. The temptation is to put your own business on the back burner while you cater to clients, but you know it’s not the wise thing to do.

So how exactly do you wisely navigate the ebb and flow of small business ownership?

1. Prepare for the flow during the ebb. 

Use the slower times in your business to simplify your processes. 

  • Create an intake process for new clients.
  • Create automatic or templated email responses to requests for information.
  • Create an information packet to quickly and easily share information about your business.
  • Create blog posts and stockpile them for busy times.
  • Use an invoicing service like Freshbooks, which makes creating, sending and following up on invoices quick and easy.  

Simplifying the way your business runs means you’ll need less time to keep it running smoothly when the work flow gets heavier.

2. Create small ebbs during the flows.

When you’re working on several projects for different clients at the same time, you can feel overwhelmed. As difficult as it may seem, it’s important to schedule small ebbs, or down time, into your schedule. It’s not as impossible as it sounds. Never schedule a full 8 hour day with client projects and be sure to add the following to your schedule each day:

  • A short mid-morning break for grabbing a coffee, tea or a walk. 15 or 20 minutes will generally do the trick.
  • At least 30 minutes for lunch. 60 minutes if you can possibly swing it. Eat away from your desk, or at least away from your work. If you must eat at your desk, don’t eat and work. Watch a TedTalk, read a book, sit in the sunshine. 
  • Schedule phone calls.  Taking phone calls can set your schedule back tremendously.  Consider using a scheduling app of some sort so you can take calls during certain hours or even on certain days.  Set your voicemail message up to ask callers to schedule a call and then let the phone go to voicemail. Turn the ringer off if you’re the type of person who has a hard time not answering the phone when it rings.
  • Schedule time for your own business.  Be sure that you set aside an hour or two each business day for taking care of your own business needs. It doesn’t have to be the same time each day. Use that time for things like attending local business group events, attending seminars or webinars, doing invoicing, answering emails and inquiries, writing blog posts and marketing.  If you’ve been wise during the ebbs in your business, your processes will be streamlined, making just an hour or two a day plenty of time to get things done.
  • Stick to your work day hours.  Don’t be tempted to work ridiculously long hours or weekends. Getting a break from your business is an important element for success. It helps maintain the ebb and flow in your small business, even during extremely busy times.

Even though you may have fantasized about the perfect degree of activity your business would do, don’t be discouraged by the fact that reality doesn’t come with a steady level of business projects.  Rather than bouncing between feeling like you’re over your head and treading water and lying around like a fish out of water, having steps you can take during both can mean smooth sailing.  Remember, just like the tides, it’s perfectly normal to experience an ebb and flow in your small business.


Tina Marie Hilton provides online technology services to forward thinking businesses. She writes on her Tips from T.Marie business blog to share insight and information with other small businesses and entrepreneurs. It also makes her feel like that certificate in creative writing isn't going to waste completely.