Why running a seasonal business is different than any other kind of business
In an ever-changing global economy, entrepreneurs are seeking out more creative ways to find business success while balancing work with life. Opening a seasonal business is one such strategy. It’s especially viable for the entrepreneur who likes to work (and play) hard. There are two main types of seasonal businesses: those that close completely during the “off” season, and those that stay open year round but see the majority of their sales during a particular time of year. Whether you’re operating a summer lawn service, kids’ rock climbing camp, a holiday retail shop or a tour bus, here’s a closer look at the pros and cons of running a seasonal business, and what you can realistically expect.
Pro: You can innovate while you hibernate
The off-season is full of possibilities, from attending trade shows to networking at conferences. Without having to attend to daily business operations, your time is truly your own. Here are some of the best ways to use the off-season to grow business:
- Streamline your hiring process. Now’s the time to get your hiring process down in writing. From writing job descriptions to preparing interview questions, ensure you hire the best workers. Spend time developing a solid process for you and your managers or co-owners to follow.
- Seek professional development. Read books and take online or in-person courses to brush up on industry skills and knowledge. Visit your competitors for ideas about how to improve your business.
- Upgrade technology and systems. Unlike year-round businesses, you don’t have to work in system upgrades at odd hours of the night to avoid harming mission-critical applications. Instead, you can upgrade hardware and software at your leisure.
- If your business operates during holidays, consider your inventory suppliers. If your suppliers shut down during holidays, you’ll need to order well in advance.
Pro: You have the flexibility to change course
Maybe your ice cream truck would do better in a warmer climate. Or you realized too late that you rented space for your costume store from an unethical owner. Instead of being stuck with it, because your business is seasonal, you can change course once the season is over. Converting a taco truck into a creperie, your bus tour guide service into a hiking tour, or your Christmas store into a Halloween shop could only require some imagination and planning. You can also take the time to revamp your physical space. A new paint job or decor can work wonders for business.
Pro: You can spend more time creating meaningful connections with customers
During the off-season, up your marketing game by discovering new ways to engage with customers in addition to conventional advertising.
- Plan a kickoff event. Meet your customers face to face at a kickoff event, held shortly before you open your doors. Offer food, prizes, and coupons to generate excitement about your business.
- Spend time on your online presence. Update your website, create e-newsletters, and engage with your customers on social media to stay in the forefront of their minds.
- Offer pre-registration or pre-booking for services. Not only will pre-registration help you make a better estimate of cash flow, but it will generate buzz in the community.
Pro: You can (and should) rest
Escape unfavorable weather, see friends and family,or check some destinations off your travel list. One of the perks of having a seasonal business is having the freedom and flexibility to take time for yourself during the off season. Plus, resting will renew your vigor when business is up and running again.
Con: Financial strains are common
In addition to higher startup capital required, a seasonal business only allows you a small window of time for turning a profit. Permits, licenses, and real estate costs can add up quickly, so it’s essential to prepare for the worst.
- Analyze your business cycle. Determine how much cash you need to operate business over a set period of time –– it could be weekly, monthly, or even every two or three months. From there, you can estimate how much income you will receive, and how much cash you can keep in reserve.
- Avoid overtrading. Buy only as much stock as you need, and don’t hire extra employees under the assumption you’ll make up for it. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with suppliers, as well.
- Consult your accountant. If you have trouble projecting your cash flow, work with an accountant or use a spreadsheet with built-in formulas to help you.
Con: Stress is higher
The weather, a sick employee, a broken dishwasher, a popular festival on the other side of town. Every potential drawback hits your business harder when you’re only in operation for a few months out of the year. You may wind up working longer hours or requiring more responsibility of your employees than you initially expected.
- Check the climate history in your region so you can make accurate estimates of what mother nature will throw your way.
- Have a business savings account for emergencies.
- Prepare yourself mentally and physically for the possibility of having to work around the clock to keep business going.
Con: Temporary employees can pose risk
There are both pros and cons to working with temporary employees. However, t’s important to prepare yourself for the unique challenges of employing these types of workers.
The excellent worker you hire this season may seek out other opportunities during the off-season. That could make it impossible for him or her to return to your company next season.
If you have a mix of regular staffers and seasonal employees be aware of morale. It can suffer if temps don’t receive the same benefits as full-timers.
In addition, you need to take the time to recruit and train employees during the off-season. If you don’t, you may wind up spending extra time and money on last-minute training.
- Combat turnover by having hiring procedures, with incentives, in place before you set up shop.
- Start recruiting at least two months before business opens
- Recognize that your temporary staff’s stress levels may be higher in this job compared to others. That is due to booming seasonal business. Offer extra training to empower them, and be flexible to their scheduling needs –– especially during the holidays
- Work with a reputable temp agency. Choose an agency that specializes in your industry, and check their reputation via online reviews. Building a relationship with a temp agency that understands your business needs can provide a talent pipeline for years to come.
There’s no denying that a seasonal business comes with an array of unique demands. But with the right combination of business smarts and fortitude, a seasonal business can be a profitable, and pleasurable, endeavor for the determined entrepreneur.