July 18, 2023

Make Your Seasonal Business a Year-Round Success

In theory, a seasonal business owner should look forward to the off-season. With the hustle of those busy peak months behind you, what better time to focus on long-term projects like renovations or a new website. Or maybe you'll finally let work be damned and knock the great pyramids off your bucket list of travel destinations.

But no business runs perfectly, especially when gross revenues are down 50 percent from in-season receipts. So instead of visiting Machu Picchu or remodeling the store, you'll find yourself figuring out how to cover the cost of next season's inventory, new ways to retain your best and brightest workers, and how to keep the lights on through those lean months.

It's not easy. Though if you're willing to put in the extra work and keep an open mind, you can go from being an off-season worry wort to a four-season superstar.

Consider these tactics.

  1. Expand your goods and/or services lineup. Selling related products or services builds customer relationships and keeps you in mind twelve months a year. If you're a landscaper or a pool installer, can you plow driveways and shovel snow for your customers in the winter months? Or if you run a tutoring service that slows to a crawl when students are away for the summer, consider adding ESL or GED classes to your offerings.

  2. Go digital: Extending the option to purchase your products and services online can expand your audience and overcome hurdles of geography and culture. Sure, your hand-knitted cashmere sweaters may not fly off the shelves in Vermont this summer, but how about Buenos Aires, where winter is in full swing?

  3. Deepen your marketing program. You don't need to provide related off-season services to keep the dialogue going between you and your customers. Newsletters are a great way to remind patrons that you're thinking about them. Or consider cross-promotions with complementary local businesses. Your boardwalk candy store on the New Jersey shore surely shares patrons with the local year-round escape room and video arcade. Collaborating with other businesses in related fields can maximize year-round marketing and promotional potential.

  4. Set realistic budget projections: It may sound like a no-brainer, yet many business owners don't adjust the books for totally predictable downturns.

  5. Manage debt: Leverage credit to your seasonal advantage. By ensuring that your credit lines are clear by the end of your boom season, you're building a safety net — as long those lines are used judiciously. Also consider seeking specifically targeted financing for small businesses in the off-season.

  6. Create year-round payment plans (if applicable). Just like you might pay your electric utility a flat rate based on estimated usage, you could offer your customers a monthly payment option, whether you're renting snowmobiles or beach bungalows. It helps them budget more effectively, while you maintain cashflow. Similarly, you can do early- or partial pre-pay promotions – like a discount for swimming pool installations booked by Thanksgiving.

The rewards of running a seasonal business are all the greater once you've taken the time to plan for the doldrums. By taking some or all these tips into account, you may find yourself at Machu Picchu after all, while your office gets a facelift back home.

Since 2008, Fora Financial has distributed $4 billion to 55,000 businesses. Click here or call (877) 419-3568 for more information on how Fora Financial's working capital solutions can help your business thrive.