Most business owners are affected by seasonality to some degree, whether you’re a retailer who sees a spike in business before the holidays or the owner of a beachside bed and breakfast who sees an increase in bookings during the summer months, your business is likely going to see an ebb and flow based on the time of year.
While most business owners hate to see a slowdown, if you plan accordingly you can leverage the fluctuations in your business to your advantage.
1. Build Seasonality Into the Plan
You may have a general, common sense idea of when your business will decrease (i.e. an ice cream store will likely be slower in the winter), but you should be collecting data points year-round to get a concrete handle on how seasonality affects your business. You can use your spare time during slower months to analyze this data and then build your marketing, staffing, and broader business plan around the peaks and valleys that are specific to your business.
2. Diversify Your Offerings
Just because there’s a time that’s slower for your industry doesn’t mean it needs to be a slow time for you. Think about how you can expand your business to increase the scope of what you do and generate income during those sluggish months.
If you own a landscaping business, consider offering snow plowing services during the winter. Your expansion should be something logical that’s easy to manage with your existing resources and is a good or service that your current customer base will want to take advantage of; you don’t want to expand in a way that diverts your efforts and resources from your original business idea.
3. Use Marketing to Your Advantage
There is plenty of behind-the-scenes work that can be done on the marketing front during slow months to strengthen your business for the peak season. Take time to update your website, redesign your logo or business cards, or attend trade shows where you can network with those in your industry and gain valuable knowledge about your profession.
Creating the content for email marketing, social media, and local newspaper or television advertising campaigns during the slow season means that you won’t be scrambling during the busy season and can design your advertising, driving customers into your store ahead of your competitors.
4. Update Your Systems
Once you’ve wrapped up the busy season, you and your staff should take some time to debrief and assess all of your current systems and processes. Does your point of sale platform allow your staff to process customer’s payments quickly and efficiently? Has your inventory grown to a volume that now necessitates a specific software solution?
If there’s a system that can be updated, make the necessary changes. If it’s time to look for a new solution, do your research to find the platform or service that will best suit your business’s needs.
5. Strengthen Your Staff
Seasonal businesses are often reliant on some seasonal hires, but for the staff that works with you year-round, take the slower months to thank them for their hard work during the busy season, engage in teambuilding activities, spearhead strategy sessions, and re-train those who may have underperformed during the prior busy season.
Tackling these projects during the slower months will allow your staff to focus solely on keeping up with demand during the busy season and will lessen the likelihood of burnout during those hectic months.
6. Manage Your Financial Health
All businesses should be calculating their projected cash flow for the year, but seasonal businesses have an advantage here because they know their earnings will be high during their season and will be much lower (or nonexistent if the business closes) during the off-season.
As the owner of a seasonal business, you can plan ahead.
For example, ask your landlord for lower rent during the slow seasons and pay the bulk of the rent during the busy months. Or, you can also consider opening up a line of credit to keep up with the operating expenses during the slow period, which you can then repay once business picks up again.
It’s easy to understand why business owners who work in a seasonal industry dread the slow season. But it’s possible to use that seasonality to your advantage and find opportunities to strengthen your business during the slower months, setting you up to have the most profitable busy season possible.