Making the most of the seasonal ups and downs
"Strike while the iron is hot" - it's an old adage, but holds a lot of truth. So, how do you make the most of the ups of seasonal business? And what can you do during the down times to set you up for peak success?
Know what's coming
For anyone who's been in business for more than a year, your seasonal fluctuations shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. So, analyse the data, look at what happened last year and get ready to take full advantage.
"It's important to be looking at any business and predict when you're going to have a stronger cash flow," says Milton Collins, a Victoria-based business coach.
"Understanding the ups and downs of your cash flow, and the impact of your cash flow on your business and your staff, whether they are full-time employed, casual or part-time, is vital.
"Once you understand those peaks and troughs, and are comfortable with that, you can take full advantage of the ups and put your down-time to good use too."
Whether summer is buzz-time or down-time for your small business, here's some ways you can make the most of this time of year:
Smarten up your premises
One of the first things to focus on, says Collins, is the appearance of your premises. After all, first impressions count, and if you have a flood of new potential customers visiting the area, you want to make the best impression possible.
"If you're a cafe, for example, make sure the exterior of your building either has plants or tables and chairs that are really attractive. It attracts people. If you're a retailer, how are your window displays?
"You need the right signage too. And it's always got to be clean. So you need to make sure you step back and walk through your door every day as a customer sees it.
"Whatever you do, you've got to do it with a bit of style and, whenever possible, keep freshening it up. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money, but continual investment in your premises is vital. It makes a big difference."
Consider a pop-up
If you're located in an area that has an influx of holiday trade, how could you extend your reach and raise your profile?
Pop-up stores are a great and cost-effective way to do this. Maybe there's a festival or event you could take your offering to, and get a whole host of new customers along the way?
"Look at the opportunities out there," says Collins. "See what else you could be doing in your business that could either complement what you're doing or provide an additional service.
"For example, if you're running a cafe, explore doing outside catering. Do some research."
Some tasks in any business are done in a certain way because, well, they've always been done like that. Use any quiet time to look at the tasks you can automate or systematise, whether through technology or a change of process.
"Improving your efficiency can make great improvements to your business. Some examples can be templating standard email responses – you'll be amazed how much time this simple action saves," says Collins.
Review your staffing plan – and your opening hours
Busy times call for more hands-on deck. Have you got enough people to help guarantee no potential customer is left unattended? Invest in your team to ensure no one leaves disappointed – after all, new customers walking out with a less-than-fantastic experience will likely never be seen again.
An extended staff roster will also enable you to trade for longer than you usually do – something which could make all the difference in peak season.
"Most businesses will already have hired their summer casuals," says Collins. "But you do also have the advantage of school exams and university finishing for the year, as well as many people looking to pick up extra work over summer. Therefore, the supply of workers (especially unskilled) is high.
"Consider bringing in some assistance for the more menial, process-driven tasks to free you up for the more difficult work.
For retailers, new stock – and plenty of it – is essential for maximising seasonal trade.
"Look for new products," says Collins. "Ask yourself ‘What else can I add? What are the lines that will be complementary to what I'm currently selling? What new labels can I get in?' Don't become complacent.
And knowing when the peaks are going to come means you can better forecast stock volumes.
From a position of strength
Want to set up your business to take advantage of seasonal fluctuations? Talk with your broker today about how they can help you be ready to go when the opportunity arises.
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