Running a seasonal business can be a lot of fun. Whether you own a ski resort on a beautiful mountain, bed and breakfast in a popular summer destination, or run a holiday boutique in your hometown, it’s exciting to provide customers with an experience they won’t forget and see all the new faces when each new season comes around.
It can also be a lot of work, though, and it might feel like you won’t survive at times. If you’re considering starting a seasonal business or already own and operate a business in the seasonal industry, here is a survival guide to help you make it through.
1. Set realistic forecasts about money. While managing the expenses of any business is tricky, it is even more difficult when there is a large cash flow discrepancy from season to season. This calls for upfront organization and realistic forecasting. Let’s say you’re hoping to open a small restaurant in a ski town that receives most of its traffic between the months of December and April. This means that you’ll need to account for your operating costs during your off season ahead of time to ensure that you have enough funds left over from the lush season to still manage rent, property utilities, repairs/upgrades, and some staffing costs.
2. Create an emergency fund. When it comes to running a business, mistakes happen and accidents occur more frequently than most entrepreneurs would like. In addition to the inconvenience of managing an unexpected problem, you also have to be prepared to make a (potentially) sizable monetary investment should your equipment fizzle out mid-season. Rather than taking the “let’s cross that bridge when we get there” mentality, you are better off setting aside an emergency reserve that will help your venture stay afloat should the worst unexpectedly occur.
3. Pay attention to variable expenses. Even in the midst of your busy and slow seasons, the cost of maintaining a business can fluctuate from month-to-month. For example, you may owe employees three paychecks in one month instead of two, or perhaps you’ll need to make an additional tax payment one month and not the next. Staying ahead of when variable payments are likely to hit will ensure that you are financially prepared to handle extra expenses.
4. Make the most of your off-season. The off-season not only gives you a chance to recalibrate, but also to save and get your finances in order. Using the off-season to assess your equipment needs and property damage will give you better insight into the investments you must make to have a fruitful busy season down the line. Additionally, if there are things you can live without during the off-season, do it. For example, you likely just need half as many employees when your numbers dwindle, so being up-front with job candidates about the seasonal conditions of their positions will save you headaches and cash.
5. Find unexpected ways to make extra funds during the off-season. Are there areas on your business property that you can rent out for extra cash? Perhaps you can use this time to strategize and finalize next season’s marketing campaigns so that you can avoid ramp-up times. You could even use the off-season productively to test and market new offerings to attract local customers; running a seasonal business does not require hibernation.
If you’d like to discuss additional ways to create financial seasonal business plans, don’t hesitate to contact the Currency team for guidance.