26/01/2016 10:30 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

We Know What These Five Small Business Owners Did Last Summer

Thomas Barwick via Getty Images
Businessman studying digital tablet in office conference room with project ideas on board rear view

One of the keys to small business success is preparation.

Small business owners need to be prepared not just for peak times; they need to be equipped for quiet periods and for all the times in between, too.

But finding the time to prepare for the future can seem more daunting to small business owners than actually sitting down to take stock of processes and marketing plans even though it’s vital, particularly in the early growth stages of the business.

Trent Innes, managing director of cloud-based accounting software provider Xero, said the start of the new year was the perfect time for small businesses to forward plan, improve inefficiencies and look to build and develop opportunities to expand.

"Small business owners are hard workers,” Innes said.

“While many larger businesses take it easy over summer, many small business owners see the period as an opportunity to diversify their market, strategise and regroup in order to start the new year competitively.

“As a small business owner, it's important to take the time and invest in planning.

“While it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day execution, it's equally valuable to step back and consider the company goals, as well as the tech tools that can be used to help the business to remain competitive moving forward.”

Here, five small business owners talk about how they spent their summer, and what changes and ideas they had to implement before they headed into 2016.

Amy Hourigan -- Amy Who Digital

For the founder of Adelaide digital marketing business, analysing her business approach was top of her to-do list over the Christmas break.

“I take the time to look back over the year, analysing what worked and what didn’t,” she said.

“I spend time reading articles about 2016 predictions -- both in my field and in business in general. I like to make decisions based on what the experts are saying, and layer that with my own intuition.”

Hourigan said she looked to outsource to grow her business.

“Social media content comes in many forms. You have to stay on your toes to respond to the market, and you have to outsource in order to grow.”

Amy Hourigan looked at what worked for her business last year, and what didn't.

Jordana Blackman -- Chicks Who Ride Bikes

Jordana Blackman found time over the summer to outline her plan for cycling group Chicks Who Ride Bikes in the coming months.

“I’m teaching myself to think two steps ahead. I’m constantly saying, ‘OK, that didn’t go to plan. How can I make sure that, next time, I get the outcome that I want, ahead of time?’” she said.

“I’ve been working with a consulting business that helps you automate your business, to work more effectively. I didn’t realise, for example, there’s a plug-in that automatically connects my PayPal to Xero.

"In my mind, it’s worth spending some money upfront to learn how efficient you can be moving forward.”

Jordana Blackman connected her Paypal to her Xero, enabling her to work more effectively.

Menucha Korik -- Menucha Korik Photography

For photographer Menucha Korik, reflecting on why she started her business in the first place was a great way for her to reinvigorate enthusiasm heading into a new year.

“Photographing newborns is my job, but it’s also my time out. I think you need an element of that to keep coming back to your business with the same vigour, day after day -- it’s easy to diversify your services to the point where you’ve lost the very thing that got you going in the first place,” she said.

“For me, capturing special moments with beautiful newborns will always keep me working hard.”

Menucha Korik reflected on why she started her business.

Michael Venn - MJV Plumbing

The holiday period was a busy time for plumber Michael Venn, who has had to embrace outsourcing to meet demand in busier times.

“Maybe you’re flat out, but that just means you have to contract trusty workers to do the job on your behalf so you can still meet that request as a business,” he said.

“For those bigger jobs -- or those times when you have nine things on at once -- you need to find people you can trust, sometimes at short notice.

“At the end of the day, if you give someone a task and they can't do it, you won’t ask them back. But you don’t want to waste time watching people -- you want people you can trust to do the job you would do.”

Looking to hire reliable staff was a priority for Michael Venn.

Christy Hynd -- Little Maggie Moo

The co-founder of children’s wear brand Little Maggie Moo is using 2016 to focus on collaborating with other small businesses.

“Over Christmas we got talking to some small creative companies that we met at an Etsy market,” she said.

“They agreed to produce beautiful matching tops or ruffle collars for our latest range and time the release for the same day.

“It reminded us how much we love meeting people and talking to our customers.

"You get excellent feedback of your existing products and a flood of ideas for new opportunities too.”

The Little Maggie Moo team decided to collaborate more in 2016.