We started Brent Ozar Unlimited back in 2011, and we had plenty of surprises along the way. We’d worked for consulting companies before, but we’d never run one.
Our first surprise came in August 2011: incoming business simply stopped.
We were terrified. What had we done wrong? Were customers just not that into us? Did we need to revamp our strategies? There were moments where we really doubted ourselves and the business we were trying to build.
Fortunately, work started coming back in September, so we didn’t have too much time to freak out.
Then it happened again in 2012 – the incoming calls just stopped dead in August. We didn’t connect the dots at first – we just utterly freaked out. We called our existing clients, and begged our way into quick projects to keep the bills paid.
At some point in the following months, we guessed there might be a pattern, and that our target customers just didn’t want to start new SQL Server consulting projects in August. We lined up longer-term projects to carry ourselves through August, and when the lulls hit, we weren’t caught so off guard.
This year (2015), we made a gamble and planned ahead.
About a year ago, we said to ourselves, “What if we completely fill up our August dance card with non-billable work ahead of time?” It was a gamble: if client work came pouring in, we’d be leaving money on the table.
We took a deep breath and scheduled a bunch of stuff ahead of time:
- Two weeks of training classes in Portland – because we correctly guessed that while consulting revenue might drop, training class attendance probably wouldn’t
- One week company retreat – which we used to do in February because it’s a great time for a vacation, but we switched it up to August to minimize revenue loss because we’re usually busy in February
- Dell DBA Days – a week in Round Rock doing webcasts and experiments
- A personal Alaskan vacation, plus a trip to see my sister in Texas
Thankfully, the gamble paid off. We had our usual August lull, but we didn’t mind because we had so many things planned ahead of time.
So now it’s time to plan for 2016.
When you know the timing of the tides, you can be more effective. As I look at next August, now is the time to start planning ahead. The training classes worked well, so we’re running those in Portland again. We’ll likely do the company retreat in August again as well.
Then, what else? Vacation? Longer-term, lower-rate client work? Take a training class on some new technology? What would you do to invest in yourself and keep moving yourself forward during downtime?