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10 Tips for Managing a Seasonal Business
10to8 works with appointment-based businesses, from piano tuners to osteopaths, music teachers to driving instructors. Businesses like these, that take bookings, can be greatly affected by seasonality and the resulting inconsistent income.
Small businesses know that seasonal fluctuations can seriously impact them and need to build resilience into their business model. We talked to our customers and researched various business experts to see how they cope with such significant changes. Here are their top tips:
- Research what’s expected in your industry
Before you start out, you should have some idea of expected income and done research into seasonal fluctuations. Most businesses are affected by seasonality to an extent, whereas some need to entirely scale back operations like ski resorts, holiday rentals, lawn care services, snow removal (Inc.com).
Talk to other businesses in your sector and ask them how they’ve been impacted. What level of fluctuation can you expect? How do they cope with it? Carry out some preliminary online research or ask your sector’s membership body or guild.
- Build what you’ve learned into your business model
Movie theatres don’t shut down in quiet seasons like some other seasonal businesses, but they hire extra employees for their two busiest seasons (summer and winter) and create budgets to reflect that increased income.
Wedding planners, photographers and caterers know they’ll thrive in the summer months. Use your cash flow projections to accurately assign money in the quiet months so have a realistic sense of how much money you’ll have at the end of the year.
- Maximise your downtime
Catch up on other business tasks you can’t do when you’re busy, like taxes or planning your next newsletter. Schedule social media posts or draft an email campaign, so it’s all just ready to go when bookings pick up and you haven’t got the time.
- Save at busy times
Retail companies know that November and December are usually when they make the most profit (up to +15%) with holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, etc. They’ll save substantial amounts of money to use in quieter months that follow, like January and February (-30% dip in sales).
- Watch what your competitors are doing
As in most aspects of business… keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. How is your local competition coping? And what about competitors further afield or indirect competition? Get inspiration where you can get it, and see if anything’s applicable to your business.
- Get creative
What low-cost solutions can you implement to get more clients through the door? 10to8 customer, Bridget Bath of Greenacres Chiropractic, offers a post-Christmas slump free gift promo and mid-season discount, to get people in the door. Other businesses do referral schemes (free appointments for customers who bring in 2 new friends) or create a buzz on social media by asking existing customers to share their posts. This generates more likes and followers, who you can then advertise to in the next low period, and they’re more likely to convert than completely unrelated clients.
- Diversify your income
Food trucks generally expect to lose 50% of their business during the winter months (entrepreneur.com), so move to catering in winter. It might not be as fulfilling, but it allows them to live their business dream for the rest of the year.
- Embrace the reality & manage your stress levels
Seasonal fluctuation is just one of the many stress-factors of running your own business. Acknowledging that might help – it’s something that most businesses deal with. Think of other ways to manage your stress during low periods; either through some self-care and taking a well-deserved break during quiet times, or planning ahead using the other tips here.
- Create an event & content marketing calendar for your industry
Each month has different awareness or national events you can harness. For example, January is a good month for health club memberships and self-help books and programs, whereas February is generally the slowest month of the year but it does feature Valentine’s Day, which triggers a great deal of seasonal business (Inc.com).
- Manage your employees’ expectations
Once you know your seasonal fluctuations, let employees and new hires know. That way you can manage expectations and encourage them to take holiday in the quieter times. Lots of businesses contract students who are free in the summer for example, to help out with busier times- a win-win for everyone
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