It’s finally spring, and for many of us, that means enjoying longer days and warmer temps. But if you run a small business that peaks in the summer months, then relaxing is likely the last thing on your mind. Instead, the dawn of spring signals the need for seasonal prep, allowing you to enter the summer upswing with your best foot forward.
How you define “prep” can vary based on the type of business you run, but generally, the following steps can help you build a solid foundation for the season.
How to Prep Your Summer Business
1. Take a Look Back and Forecast for the Future
Unless you have a crystal ball, the best indicator for future activity is a look to the past. By taking a look at performance metrics from the prior year, or from similar busy periods, you can start to build a picture of the upcoming season. This activity should include a look at revenue and expenses as well as staffing, inventory, and supplies needs.
In addition to looking back, forecasting should also include a look at upcoming events, holidays, or other occasions that may impact your traffic, for better or worse.
2. Stock up on Relevant Inventory & Supplies
Often times, inventory and supplies purchases are decreased or otherwise altered to account for slower periods. So, once you’ve completed a forecast for the summer months, it’s time to adjust your purchasing to match your expected needs.
Audit your existing inventory and compare it to your forecasted needs. Then, contact your vendors and supplies as soon as possible to make new arrangements. Waiting until the last minute to update your purchase orders can leave you scrambling, or worse, you may find that your supplier won’t be able to accommodate your request with limited notice.
That’s not to suggest that you need to make outlandishly large orders early, but you should speak with your supplies to get a feel for how much lead time makes sense and what type of availability issues, if any, you may encounter over the summer.
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3. Give Your Building and Equipment a Once Over
Wear and tear is an inevitable part of a business, but massive issues like broken or faulty equipment (coolers, HVAC units, restrooms, etc.) or structural damage can be a huge blow to your bottom line, especially if it happens during peak periods of operation.
As you start to plan for the upcoming months, go through your business and make sure everything is up and running as expected. Though the sentiment is largely driven by operational equipment concerns, it should also extend to your storefront, furniture, etc. If it can hinder the customer experience or your ability to operate, then it needs to be addressed.
4. Hire & Train Staff
It’s no secret that more foot traffic translates to increased staffing demands. That scenario may not play out for several weeks, but addressing your staffing needs should be a priority by early spring.
Inadequate staffing or staff training can create a lot of headaches for you, other team members, and for your customers. Unfortunately, that can put a real dent in your seasonal revenue. That particularly true if you operate in a highly competitive industry or saturated location.
If you have regular seasonal employees that you intend to keep on your roster, it’s time to reach out to them to make sure that they plan on returning and to gauge their availability.
If you need to hire new employees, then now is the time to polish job descriptions, advertise openings, and begin to interview. That alone may take several weeks, so time if of the essence. Once you find the right employees, you’ll also need to make time to train them and get them acclimated before business begins to boom.
5. Have a Marketing Plan in Place
For some businesses, general seasonal foot traffic goes a long way, but that doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels. Who is your target audience? Why should they visit your establishment as opposed to others in the area? Are you planning on running any special events or seasonal promotions? How do you plan to get the word out?
Answering these questions will help you identify the best marketing strategies, whether they be digitally driven, like social media, email, etc. or traditional, like radio and television ads.
Keep in mind that today’s consumers often turn to their smartphones, tablets, and computers to search for the best places to go or to simply get the most current hours of operation, menus, etc. Whatever you do, don’t forget to update your website and social media accounts
Finally, if you don’t already have your Google My Business account up and running, now is the time to do so. It’s free, easy, and will help push your business into local search results.
6. Check Your Cash Flow
Summer businesses often enjoy significant and necessary seasonal revenue boost, but the weeks or months leading up to that boost can be challenging. As a result, some business won’t have adequate working capital, making it difficult to purchase inventory, make necessary repairs, or bring on the required staff.
While all the aforementioned steps are essential to a successful summer, funding them with your existing cash flow can be difficult. Make it a point to honestly evaluate your funding needs and if you determine that you’re strapped for cash, you may need to consider a working capital loan, credit card, or another type of short-term financing option. The right type of funding can help bridge the gap between essential expenses and the much-anticipated summer revenue boost.
If you have a summer business, then now is the time to make sure that you’re ready to accommodate the seasonal rush. Taking the time and the effort to prep can help you meet or exceed your revenue goals, but a failure to do so can put your business in jeopardy. By completing the steps above, you can increase the chances that you’ll have a stellar summer season.
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