Five tips for running a seasonal business
Run a part time training business? Charlotte Baldwin has tips to stay busy.
Being at the helm of a seasonal business tends to be a mixed blessing: you seem to spend as much time responding to high demand and customer satisfaction as you do watching tumbleweed blow by and wondering why you ever bothered. Do not despair.
Seasonal businesses can be successful all year round, but managers have to get a handle on making the most of uptime, and putting downtime to good use. Here are five top tips for keeping your seasonal business going twelve months of the year:
Understand the industry
Regardless of your chosen industry and its seasonality, any person setting out in business must familiarise themselves with the field they are entering. A common scenario for business newcomers is to feel enthused and motivated by an initial surge in sales and interest, and make overambitious projections for the future before experiencing a disappointing - and unexpected - decline.
Taking notes from the business experiences of others is a strong way to prepare yourself for the reality of the situation, and turn out projections that more closely correlate with the trade you experience.
At this point, money is often running low and everybody is operating in panic mode. By gaining a true understanding of the industry, it is easier to make more accurate projections and better plan for the dips in trade that go as part of the package.
Planning makes perfect
Putting a lot of research and effort into planning can save you time and hassle later on. Taking notes from the business experiences of others is a strong way to prepare yourself for the reality of the situation, and turn out projections that more closely correlate with the trade you experience.
When forecasting your business, look six months ahead at a minimum, and don’t limit your plans to finances alone. What stock will you need, and how many staff? It is also wise to avoid tying up cash during the quiet times, and to use these periods for preparation for your next peak time. If you can manage it, put some money away during peak times, in case the need for it arises while things are quiet.
Being the manager of your own business is already a considerable task, so this tip can feel like too much to take on, but it is very worthwhile, and can be given plenty of thought during your more quiet periods. Whatever kind of business you are running, you can almost certainly come up with a way to use the tools and skills you already have at your disposal to create a second income for the business.
Not only will this help to produce a steadier income over the long-term, but keeps the business alive and interacting with its customer base.
Make it known that you are not a manager who spends their downtime on holiday abroad - as long as customers know you’re there, they will come to you, so make sure to promote yourself year-round (especially if your competitors get lazy after peak season - pip them to the post!)
A successful seasonal business will have its recruitment in good order. As with any company, having a team of highly-skilled and reliable staff is essential, but in seasonal business, the type of employment you can offer your staff can vary, often coming down to temporary short-term contracts.
This suits some better than others, and of course, people have bills to pay regardless of how many hours you can offer them, so it is important that you be open and honest with colleagues and prospective recruits about exactly what working patterns are available, taking care not to create any misunderstandings.
Depending on circumstances, some staff may be happy to keep coming back to work for you season after season, while others just do it once. As long as everything is on the level, and you are on top of legal minimum wage and regulations surrounding temporary employment, you should be able to put a dream team together.
Select funding partners wisely
Finally, your position as a seasonal business can be strengthened by aligning yourself with funding partners experienced in seasonal trade. They can provide you with their professional knowledge of the industry and help you better plan and project for the future.
This will help in every facet of the business, from budgeting and capital investment to recruitment and stock. A lot of businesses experience some sort of regular downtime, so it is best to learn as much as you can from every day of operations, and put it to good use moving forward.
About the author
Charlotte Baldwin is operations manager at IQ Cards. IQ Cards is a fundraising company that provide schools and establishments with the necessary tools to fundraise via selling high-quality and unique gifts designed by pupils.
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