There’s no way around it — not all businesses can remain busy year-round. Maybe you’re a retail outlet whose business booms around the holidays, or maybe you landscape in a state that gets a lot of snowfall (and, as a result, a shorter operating season). Perhaps your business experiences infrequent lump sum payments with long periods of time between incoming payments. Whatever the reason, not every small business flourishes year-round, and this can make the slow weeks and off-seasons a trying time.
But it isn’t just the decrease in incoming cash flows that’s so troublesome. When working capital is stretched thin, business owners often choose to cut costs. Deciding which operations to compromise can be stressful – and it often results in losing market share, ultimately hurting your business.
However, with a little imagination (and courage), you can get by. We’re not saying off-seasons should be just as profitable as your peak times. But there are strategies that can ease the burden when business slows. So, here are a few ideas to keep business moving until things pick up again.
4 Small Business Slow Season Survival Tips:
Expand Your Range Of Products And Services For Longer Seasons
One of the most common reasons that businesses experience a slow season is selling products or services that are only useful during certain times of the year. While expanding your product line isn’t an option for every business, it’s a good way to generate extra revenue.
That landscaping business can probably get some extra customers by offering winter prep, tree and snow removal services, and routine check ups. Retail outlets can try to find more seasonal products to focus on before the hectic winter holiday season. Even food trucks can find a good place to park and offer seasonal menu items during the colder months.
For a lot of businesses, seasonality tends to boil down to the items or services being offered, and changing that up can do a lot to combat seasonal doldrums.
Extend Your Operating Season For Consistent Cash Flows
But sometimes it’s easier to extend your operating season than your product offerings.
If you’re a landscaper who doesn’t have the tools and resources to take on snow removal, perhaps restructuring your contracts is the better answer. Instead of charging clients on a per project basis, selling a retainer package can help you generate income even when there isn’t much work to be done. Instead of being “the guy who mows the lawn” you can position yourself as a trusted home-care professional with expertise in landscaping. By checking in every so often, you can earn cash flows year round, despite the majority of the hard work remaining seasonal.
But that’s not the only way to extend your operating season. Getting ahead of the curve and offering your services a little sooner than the competition may be a better idea. If your contracting business tends to get the most jobs over the summer, do more aggressive marketing during the spring and consider offering lower rates for work done earlier in the year. This way, you can lock in clients early, and you don’t have to put as much effort into marketing when you’re busy on the job site.
In essence, pursue your customers before the core operating season and you’re bound to get off to a good start —- every little bit helps with getting through the slower months.
Stay On Top Of Your Finances (This Doesn’t Mean Cutting Expenses)
You don’t need us to remind you, but the fact remains that the biggest problem with slow seasons is the lack of incoming money. For that reason, you may want to get in the habit of keeping really tight purse strings, particularly on non-essential business functions.
Staying on top of your finances does not necessarily mean cutting expenses; it means spending smarter. Sure, marketing expenses come with some uncertainty. But forgoing your promotional campaigns often means losing market share. The goal is not to downsize: it’s to maintain business continuity by eliminating unnecessary costs. Skip on the office snacks, not the marketing – your employees will thank you later.
If times get really tough, or if unexpected expenses or opportunities arise, you may need to seek outside small business financing. You’re better off borrowing capital to seize an opportunity than you are compromising your operating expenses to make it happen.It’s also much easier to pay off a lender than it is to rescale your business after downsizing.
Above All Else, Keep Carrying On (Stay Active And Positive)
Unless you truly cannot operate in the off-season (you’re not going to be selling a lot of Christmas trees in May) it’s important to stay focused and keep working towards your goals.
You can’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the idea of business slowing down. You’ll be in much better shape if you continue to show up and work like normal. The slow season is a great time to review finances and troublesome processes, look into options like new suppliers and partners, and get ahead on your marketing and administrative work.
Don’t stress! Use the downtime as an opportunity to maintain and grow your business. Stay positive, active, and focused on the big picture. Of course, you can’t overwork yourself either.