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Tips on managing a seasonal business

Many small businesses experience the bulk of their annual sales during a short season or cycle. For many retailers it’s the holidays. For fitness centers, January new years’ resolutions typically bump up new business only to dissipate in the summer months. Some businesses do amazingly well when the weather gets warmer, while others depend upon the cold and the snow. The wedding season, tourist season, tax time… these are all examples of the endless variations that shape a seasonal business. For many business owners, it’s critical that you catch the right wave at the right time.

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While all businesses realize sales cycles, truly seasonal businesses fall into two primary categories: those that can shut down during the off-season and those in which the owners must find other ways to maintain cash flow during the remainder of the year. In both cases, the challenges are similar and must be addressed in order to keep your business flourishing throughout its ebbs and flows.

Budgeting and cash planning are critical for any seasonal business. Vigilance and a clear strategy in this area can alleviate many of the potential problems and create a path to solvency and success, even if you never attempt any of the strategies to grow your business beyond its seasonal barriers.

Strategies for Managing Businesses During the Off-Season

Can you dedicate the entire year to your business, paying the business expenses along with your personal ones? If so, use the off-season to perform necessary maintenance and repairs, take on new projects or work on your marketing systems. If you have the luxury to perform strategic business development while little or no tactical work is occurring; you have an advantage that most businesses don’t. Create a plan now for making best use of this down time. 

An essential part of your strategic development should be exploring ways to even out revenue and keep cash flowing during the off-season. Can the sales side of the business take place during the off-season for operations? Can off-season registration generate income prior to opening operations? If you consider the possibilities creatively, you may come up with successful methods of spreading your cash flow throughout the year.

Some seasonal business owners can afford to take off large amounts of time, while others need to scramble and find alternative plans to get through the off-season. If this is your situation, see if you can find compatible substitutes for your product or service. Landscapers hanging holiday decorations, snow removal operators doing landscape work, a Christmas store extending its open months by taking on other holidays are all examples. By carefully examining the possibilities, you may discover a similar low-cost strategy that brings in cash during your primary off-season. Another strategy is transforming your seasonal business into a year-round enterprise., for example, took on pool, ping pong and foosball tables, as well as bar, barstools and bar tables and chairs in order to get out of their summer season niche.   

Turning Seasonal Challenges into Opportunities

While running a seasonal business has its challenges, as we all know, behind every challenge is an opportunity. By asking key questions and looking at your business strategically, you can create new opportunities and develop your business in extraordinary ways that lead to previously unexplored avenues of growth and profit.

Consider the following: 

  1. Diversify. Multiply your options through diversification. Can you expand on your business in some fashion? Can you follow the lead of and countless other businesses that took a seasonal niche and expanded it through the entire calendar year?
  2. Explore new markets. Are there customers you’re not currently reaching? Is there a way to shift your product offering to find new markets?
  3. Sell during the off-season. Through mailings and special incentives to book now, you can stay close to your customer base and find ways to make it easy for them to commit during the off-season.
  4. Talk with your customers. Ask them what new services or products you could provide. Talk with your suppliers or vendors about new business possibilities. Listen carefully to what your customers are saying about your product. Engaging in a dialogue now pays off big time when you’re working around the clock during peak season.
  5. Create customers for life. A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of them all. To win new customers ask, what’s the unmet need? To keep them for life, “ask how are we doing”?, and “what can we do better”? Follow-up each purchase with a phone call or letter and ask these two critical questions.
  6. Find the balance. Sometimes the best way to off set your seasonal business is to set up a second business that takes advantage of the skills and/or resources you already have on hand. In some cases, you can even serve the same customer base with both businesses. Consider a snow plow operator who took to repairing boats during the summer vacation season. How about a summer camp owner who turns his facility into a retreat center during the off-season, or the home builder who becomes a remodeler during winter, or the outdoor painter who paints indoors when it’s stormy. The possibilities are just about endless; so if you really do want to even out your business, dig in here and find the right product/service mix to make both winter and summer a success.

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EMyth Team

Written by EMyth Team

We share free resources and stories from our clients, Coaches and team members about how to build a business that serves your life. Our posts will give you updates on our business insights and free educational content.