While many people view summer as the perfect time to scoot out of town to an area better fit for long walks on the beach, business owners often see it differently.
If your business experiences seasonality, chances are that summer is a time of the year when you are either busting your butt to meet the demand for a steep rise in business, or preparing yourself for the steep fall now and subsequent rise that will come later in the year. So what can you do to prepare for this change in business while maintaining morale (or in some cases, sanity) across your company?
While every business is different, here are a few ideas that can help prepare you for that massive influx of customers coming your way, or keep cash flow consistent while business wanes.
Preparing for the Summer Rush
1. Have cash on hand
With the summer rush comes an added cost, whether it be the need to buy more inventory or hire more help. But you won’t want to miss out on other opportunities that may come across your desk—if you score a lucrative contract job or a great deal on inventory for your business, you may need to have extra cash on hand to fund that opportunity.
“Whether you have a line of credit, cash on hand or other source of capital, cash is king and as the CEO of a small business you need to always have dry powder on hand so you maintain leverage and can focus on the business… not the money,” says Nick Braun of PetInsuranceQuotes.com.
2. Build inventory prior to the rush
This may seem obvious, but as a business owner it’s easy to get sucked into working on other aspects of the business and let this fall through the cracks.
If demand for your business hasn’t quite reached the height of the rush, try to start building up your inventory now. If your business’s sales history has proved time and time again that the summer rush will occur, consider using a line of credit to fund the extra inventory, or ask your vendors for better trade terms.
3. Market margin-rich items
Maybe it’s too late to get a head start ramping up production to build your inventory, but it’s not too late to prepare for your down season.
“Work on ways to sell your most margin-rich items in up times,” suggests Meg Meyer, co-founder and CEO of dog treat company The Bear & The Rat. This allows you to focus on the quick cash items in down times without stressing about the higher margin items.
Preparing for the Summer Slump
1. Run a sale
“During our off-season, when business wanes we often run a once-a-year sale to stimulate cash flow,” says Steve of Fitpacking Weight Loss Backpacking Adventures. “It has the intended effect of bringing in much needed capital during a traditional down time.”
Groupon could be a good outlet for many businesses, including service businesses, restaurants, and retail businesses. Or try sending an email out to your current customers about a promotion you’re running over the summer.
2. Negotiate vendor agreements
“The way we handle our seasonal cash flow is by negotiating our vendor agreements to accept payment during the spikes of cash flow throughout the year, and to defer payment during the slow times of the year,” says Bryan Clayton, CEO of lawn care company GreenPal.
If you’ve been working with your vendors for a while and have consistently made on-time payments, there’s no harm in asking for deferred payments—ask for enough time (net-30, net-60) so that you can comfortably make the payments within the deadline and, if you end up with wiggle room, submit early payments to make your vendors happy and build your business credit scores.
3. Cut unnecessary expenses
“I deal with seasonal fluctuations by limiting costs during times with limited businesses,” says AJ Saleem of tutoring company Suprex Learning.
If you work in the type of business where you are able to hire temporary employees during the seasonal uptick in business, try cutting back your workforce during the downtimes. “I usually reduce my workforce by around 50% and work with the bare minimum to continue operations,” mentions Saleem.
4. Take a vacation
We all need a break every so often, and if you’re in a position to take one, then now is the time. A vacation can be great for your business, even if you’re not completely unplugged from work. As Meg of The Bear & The Rat suggests, “stimulating yourself with a new environment is a great way to recharge for the upcoming busy season.”
More answers to pressing questions:
This article was originally written on June 8, 2016 and updated on February 2, 2021.