Business tips

7 tips for managing a seasonal business.

By Jereme Sanborn on
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By definition, a seasonal business only runs for a certain part of the year. Examples include fruit stands, landscaping firms, Halloween costume shops, and Christmas tree farms. Although many aspects of running a season business are similar to managing any other company, there are specific strategies that you can adopt that will pave the way for your success.

Know what to expect.

When your business is only humming for a few months, it’s all too easy to let things slide during the parts of the year when customers are not flocking to your website or physical space. Resist the temptation to rest on last year’s laurels. Instead, pay careful attention to the following:

  • Examine your previous cash flow trends to see when things were tight and when you had a little extra. Your mobile card reader and online merchant portal will most likely be equipped with the ability to generate past income and expense reports that can provide you with this information. Once you have it, you will be in a stronger position when mapping out what your next busy season will look like.
  • Analyze when your busiest hours and days generally were during your last season. This intelligence can be vital in helping you to determine how many staff you should hire, as well as their hourly schedules.
  • Know your specific overhead costs. Many of them will not disappear during the months when your store is closed. When you know what you will be paying for rent, taxes, insurance, equipment leases, and other charges, you’ll be able to budget properly for the entire year.

By providing ongoing attention to your business even when it is not active, you can minimize your frustrations and crises during the busy times when customers need to be your top priority.

Enhance your visibility throughout the year.

While your “open” sign might blink for only a few weeks or months, you should never stop spreading the word about your seasonal business. There are a number of effective ways to remain on your customers’ radar year round:

  • Become a fixture on social media sites such as Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. That means more than just launching a page. For this type of marketing to truly work, it requires regular updating of content, and regularly engaging with your customers. Remember, the key is to cultivate a dynamic relationship with both your present and potential buyers.
  • Create rich content that will attract customers and keep their attention during your downtime. This could be a weekly blog with compelling product details or how-tos, or instructional videos that you can place on your website, or a social media platform. You could also create a newsletter that you email to everyone in your database.
  • Give some extra love to your local customers. Even if a majority of your profits come from online visitors who do not live in your geographical area, it never hurts to lavish some extra attention on consumers in your hometown. Doing so helps folks to see that you are not just some nameless corporate entity, but rather a living person who is proud to show off their stomping grounds.

In today’s ecommerce environment, customers can click away from a site in a second and forget that it ever existed. Don’t let that happen to your seasonal business, whether most of your sales are online or in-person.

Devote energy to your employees.

For any merchant, the staff who help you run your business can ultimately either make you or break you. Of course, being sure to hire competent and reliable workers who will treat your customers right is a given. However, top-shelf employee management goes much deeper than that.

  • Before you even interview the next group of seasonal candidates, break down the jobs you want them to do. During your interviews, match prospective hires with particular duties.
  • Make your expectations clear. Confusion about hours or how to perform specific tasks can lead to low morale, shoddy performance, and even early termination. Being clear about what you expect, including hands-on training if applicable, can prevent many issues before they arise.
  • Reward excellence. Even if the tasks you are asking people to do seem relatively mundane, there is not a human being in this world who does not thrive on praise. Find ways to acknowledge conscientiousness, good rapport with customers, and quality performance. By so doing, you will be creating a positive environment where people actually like to work. If you are really lucky, your best staff members might return next year.
  • Weed out toxic workers. It only takes one rotten apple to spoil the whole barrel. Never is that old saying truer than in a business. If one of your staff members is shirking their responsibilities, or contaminating coworkers with their poor attitude, assert your authority as boss right away. Let the offender know that they have not lived up to the expectations you clearly laid out, and consider finding a replacement for them. As difficult as it might be to wield this particular hammer, think of it as a way to protect your store and your other employees.

When staff members feel respected and are clear about their duties, your business will operate much more smoothly. The fact that these employees will only be working for you for part of the year only underscores the importance of creating the best possible environment for them.

Negotiate with contractors and other third parties throughout the year.

Although you may only need specific products or services while your enterprise is actually open, that does not mean you can’t keep the lines of communication open with your suppliers or other providers at other times. For instance, you might try negotiating with these third parties to make payments for goods and services after your season ends. That way, you can take advantage of the cash flow you generated during the peak selling season to pay the bills.

Develop additional revenue streams.

Speaking of that period of time during the year when your business is not up and running, you might as well make the most of it. Unless you are independently wealthy and can afford to spend the dormant season lying on the beach on a tropical island, use your resources to keep the dollars flowing into your pocket, not just out of it.

For some seasonal entrepreneurs, that can mean marketing products that somehow fit peripherally into your brand. For instance, maybe you run a stand that sells fruit and veggies during the summer. Why not market homemade jellies, jams, and salsas made out of those same yummy items throughout the year?

Upgrade your technology during the offseason.

You can also use slow or dormant times to spiff up your tech. Get your business operations in sync with your customers’ updated technological savvy. For instance, download and learn how to use that credit card payment app you’ve been considering that can help to streamline your payment process.

If you think that data breaches and other types of credit card fraud only happen to big corporations, you’re wrong. During your offseason, study up on how to enhance your company’s digital security so that both you and your customers will be protected when you are up and running again.

Ask for information and support.

Believe it or not, you don’t need to go it alone when you run a seasonal business. Both in your home area and online, there are many peers and mentors out there who are more than willing to be part of your information and support network. Although it may feel at first as if you are doing nothing but asking for assistance and learning from others, before you know it you’ll be able to contribute your own nuggets of wisdom.

Your seasonal business might only appear to be active for a small part of the year. However, you should never stop focusing on making it better and on spreading the word about your products and services. Solid planning, excellent employees, and a long-term view can help you to succeed this year and well into the future.