Operating a seasonal business can be a polarising prospect, presenting myriad benefits but several drawbacks too. Running a business that naturally peaks and troughs over the course of each year does provide a structured annual calendar and definitive goals to aim for. But things can also get stressful during both the busiest and the quietest periods.
However, speaking as the owner of a highly seasonal business, I can safely say that the pros far outweigh the cons. there’s no reason why a seasonal enterprise can’t be just as successful as those that remain equally busy all year round.
In fact, with time, effort and determination, seasonal businesses have the potential to be even more lucrative than a standard operation – if you’re prepared to put the work in.
There’s no business like snow business
As the owner of Travel Booker, a company specialising in Andorran ski holiday packages, my business naturally revolves around the annual skiing season.
Our primary source of income is the sale of extras like lift passes and skiing lessons. However, due to the highly seasonal nature of this industry, the majority of these sales arrive in a concentrated cluster at a specific time of year.
At Travel Booker, we conduct the vast majority of our business between August and March. Sales peak in January, with a dormant spring/summer period stretching from April to July.
Since we’re out of season for roughly a third of each year, we know very well how important it is to budget wisely in order to carry our company through the financial dry spell of the off-season.
This lesson isn’t just restricted to the ski trade either. It rings true for all manner of businesses that operate on a cyclical basis.
If you happen to run a seasonal business like ours, preparation is one of the most vital aspects of the overall business model. It’ll help you minimise issues, cut costs and effectively solve problems before they occur. When done well, effective pre-planning and organisation will not only ensure the survival of your business during the off-season but also allow you to perform at a higher standard when your busy period comes around again.
Here are a few top tips to keep your business afloat during quiet periods and firing on all cylinders when things get hectic:
1. Review after each busy period
Seasonal businesses typically experience an intense blast of activity followed by a prolonged quiet spell – that is the very nature of the seasonal beast.
Such an intense schedule of work during the peak periods can leave you trudging towards the finish line, in need of a well-earned break by the time the season comes to a close.
However, just because the busy period has finished doesn’t mean you should take your foot off the gas altogether. In fact, utilising your down time wisely can be hugely beneficial and help you prepare for the following season ahead.
During those slower months of relative inactivity, why not take the time to conduct a post-season review? Digging into what worked and what didn’t can help you streamline your business ahead of the following year.
Assessing what worked and what didn’t can provide helpful information and shape your strategy going forward, indicating where to cut costs, where to reinvest and what new areas are worth exploring further.
2. Manage your budget
When it comes to financing the off-season, managing your budget is perhaps the most vital aspect of your entire annual business strategy.
With the lion’s share of your income arriving during the peak business months, effectively curbing your expenditure to sensibly manage cashflow isn’t just a smart thing to do, it can be the difference between remaining in credit and falling into the red. That being said, there will undoubtedly be times where particular purchases and expenses are bound to occur at certain times of the year, whether it’s the cost of taking on additional staff, marketing campaigns or something else.
A great way to help stretch your budget through these periods and manage cashflow across the length and breadth of the year is to arrange extended payment terms for such necessary expenses.
This can be a godsend during periods where multiple expenses occur at once.
Whether this is done via a lengthy payment deadline or through a 50/50 payment split (half payment up-front and the remainder after delivery), this can help spread the cost across the year without leaving a gaping hole in your funds at any one time.
This can be particularly effective and helpful when it comes to paying for big-ticket items, lofty purchases or high-priced third-party services you require.
3. Stay social
Seasonal businesses naturally lose their relevance once the peak season ends – just ask the staff at your local Christmas shop!
However, while interest in your products, services and brand may wane during the off-season, it’s still important to maintain a strong social media presence during this time. An inactive social media account sends negative messages to those that follow your page and can be seen by new visitors as a warning sign that your business isn’t legit and is, therefore, untrustworthy as a result. Worse still, a lack of social media posting can even give the impression that your company is no longer in business and actively lead to a dip in followers as a result.
Avoid prolonged periods of inactivity on social media to ensure your customers and followers remain engaged in your brand during the down period, ensuring you reap the rewards once the high-season returns.
Blog written by Steve Hull. Steve is the Managing Director of Travel Booker, a Cardiff-based company selling ski extras.