Seasonal businesses live by the adage, "Make hay while the sun shines." When your location or your product is only valuable to a customer for a certain portion of the year, maximizing earning potential during the months of your busy season is an absolute necessity.
Preparing for the season is a huge undertaking, and with so much on the line, it can be overwhelming. But remember this: No one knows your business better than you do, and you already have all the tools at hand to create a successful season for you and your team. If just the thought of gearing up for the season ahead has your brain in a fog, follow these steps to get yourself back in the game.
Take a Look Back
Your business's history is no mystery. Remember, you've done this before! Reflecting on what happened last year will allow you to anticipate your needs for this year. Were there certain days of the week or times of day that were busiest? Certain goods or products that were most popular? Did your staffing plan adequately cover you throughout the season?
Review any sales logs you have on hand and talk to staffers from past years to form a comprehensive plan for the season ahead. Of course, you can and should set bigger, better goals for 2017. If you decide you want to strive for, say, a 10% increase in revenue this season, allow for that in your planning.
Anticipate Your Staffing Needs
A well-trained staff is essential to achieving all your goals during the busy season, but good teams can be hard to find. The first step is to look within--do you already have team members who are great at their jobs? If so, promote that current staff. Rewarding them for their hard work will incentivize those team members to stay, and having them in leadership roles will serve as a strong example for your new hires.
Once you're ready to bring in some new folks, putting a plan in place for hiring and training will be key. Allow yourself enough time to search for the appropriate number of staff so that you're able to hire the best and brightest, not just the first available. Set yourself up with a concrete training program in place--making use of your more seasoned and newly promoted veterans--to make sure that new hires know their role inside and out before the busy season is in full swing.
Round Out Your Inventory
There's nothing more frustrating than preparing yourself and your staff for the busy season, only to run out of inventory before you reach the end. It eats into your earning potential and leaves your seasonal customers with no choice but to go to your competitors. Looking back at inventory logs from prior years will help you get a sense of where you most need to stock up.
It's also important to be aware of trends and fads in your industry and how that might affect your sales. If you own a bakery, think about whipping up your very own cronut recipe. If you're in the toy business, find this year's Furby and stock up!
Get the Word Out
You know your business is special, but you need to make sure the seasonal crowd knows it, too. There are a lot of great ways to promote your company online: Yelp, OpenTable, and Google for business are three tried and true, easy web-based marketing options for small businesses. Creating and hosting your own website through Weebly or Wix, who have sleek templates available for those without much experience in graphic design, is a breeze. Services like Vistaprint and Moo.com can help you create customized printed material like business cards, postcards, and stickers that will showcase your company's unique brand. And partnerships with nearby businesses, hotels, and rental properties, offering special discounts for their clients or guests, puts you top-of-mind with visitors and allows you to build a relationship with other business owners in the community.
Seek Financing to Maximize Profit
All of this planning comes with a cost, meaning you may need funds upfront to buy inventory, hire staff, and cover your advertising efforts. If you're confident about your earning models and projected revenue, a short-term business loan can be a great way to finance the costs you'll incur as you prepare for your upcoming season. With easy application processes and short decision times, you can apply online and have the cash you need to place your first inventory orders in as little as two days. But, fast cash is expensive cash, so make sure you have a clear plan on how you'll pay back this financing.
The busy season is an exciting time--one where you get to connect with new clients and make a stellar, lasting impression that will keep them coming back season after season. By doing your prep work up front and having a clear plan in place, you will set your company up for success not just for this year, but for many years to come.