Has your business ever experienced a time when sales were down, sluggish or perhaps even non existent for a period of time? Most businesses have been there at one time or another, some due to predictable business cycles and some due to unexpected events. However, the more important question is do you have an action plan to execute if you do experience downtime? If not, here are a few action items you can put into place immediately to make that downtime more productive.

1. Build and Fortify Relationships.

Coffee is cheap. Get out and meet with colleagues and previous clients to talk about business, their business – but also remind them that you are a part of their business network, i.e. colleagues helping colleagues. An informal 45 minute meeting over a cup of coffee focused on their business will always get you at least one good idea you can use. Maybe even a referral.

2. Invest in Yourself.

Research shows that highly successful business owners and top executives all share a common characteristic. They’re life-long learners always studying, researching, and investigating new and better ways to run their businesses. Life-long learners invest in themselves by attending workshops and seminars, enrolling in business and self improvement programs, and by engaging advisors and coaches. There’s not a better time than now to assess your needs and goals and make an investment in yourself. Can you afford not to?

3. Try Something New or Different.

I guess we all know Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If what you’re doing isn’t producing the results you want maybe it’s time to try something new. It doesn’t have to be large or expensive. It doesn’t have to be strategically perfect. But try a new approach to a problem or perhaps add a new technique to your marketing plan. And yes, try something out of your comfort zone. Most importantly follow through with it and resolve to learn from it whether it’s a huge success or a complete failure. Keep trying new things and you’ll be sure to discover what works for you.

4. Do Something For Someone Else.

If your business is down don’t get rusty. Find the right company, perhaps a small one or a non profit, and offer your services pro bono. If you produce a product donate a small amount to a worthy recipient. Be sure to put your full expertise, and your heart, into the effort. Your customer will feel great and so will you. You’ll also get a terrific testimonial and maybe even some free publicity as well.

5. Stop Making Excuses

Business may be down but it’s never, ever completely out of your control. You may not have all the resources you’d like to have to respond to a downturn in business, few companies do. However, you do have particular strengths, capabilities, insight and knowledge that indeed are your proven resources. Deploying them one strategic step at a time, one day at a time – even if progress is incremental – is what you can do. So don’t become immobilized in your business. Go ahead and execute.