Seasonal-business owners have a short window to earn money, and those funds have to last them all year. You might be wondering how these businesses make that work, but successful seasonal-business owners have tricks that ensure their seasonal businesses earn money all year long.
Whether you're gearing up for your holiday season peak or slowing down after your summertime rush, here's how you can keep your business profitable throughout the year.
Minimize and manage off-season expenses
The first and most important step in managing your finances is getting a good understanding of your expenses in the off-season and then thinking of ways to minimize them, said David Goldin, president and CEO of business financing provider Capify.
Goldin advised reducing your business hours and days, lowering your staffing requirements, and cutting back your marketing and ad budgets to save money. You can also renegotiate some of your vendor contracts and recurring services, to see where you can scale back, he said.
Find natural ways to repurpose your equipment
Gary Fouts, owner of multiple seasonal small businesses, said the best way to keep a seasonal business profitable is to operate two or more businesses whose off-seasons complement each other, and that can share equipment. For example, Fouts runs a landscape management company, an outdoor lighting company and a Christmas lighting add-on service, all of which drive referrals for one another.
"Another way to extend billing and revenue is to set up multimonth payment cycles to clients, and encourage early bookings through incentives," Fouts said.
Fouts also noted that his Christmas décor business has many other purposes outside of the holiday season, which helps carry his success throughout the year.
"Several weddings use twinkle lights in their décor," he said.
Seek out opportunities with businesses that have longer seasons
Toffer Grant, founder and CEO of prepaid business Visa provider PEX Card, recommended looking through your inventory at the end of your peak season to see if anything can be sold off.
"A business has to determine [if] it is worth keeping money tied up in gear and supplies that sit around until the following season," Grant said. "Recoup some of the money by selling materials for what was paid, or even at a small loss [to] cash out those items."
Fouts said his objective is to get the inventory as close to zero as possible before the end of the season.
"We'll run a special on whatever color or type of lights we have in excess, sell off inventory to franchisees in the network or other companies," Fouts said. "If, at the end of the season, there is still an excess of a certain color or type of lights, we'll store them during the off-season."
Experiment with new product offerings
To extend the season of your seasonal business, you might want to consider switching up your offerings in an effort to bring in new business. Kona Ice, a gourmet shaved-ice company, began selling Kona Cocoa and coffee at some of its franchises during the winter months as a way to continue relationships with customers throughout the year.
"Introduce the product as a seasonal special, [such as] coffee shops that sell limited-time pumpkin-spice lattes, said Tony Lamb, found and CEO of Kona Ice. "It allows a brand to experiment, but people don't start accepting that as [standard]. See what catches on."
"You don't want to go all in; you want to test," Goldin added. "Tread lightly and experiment to see if you can increase business. If it works, expand it next year. You may be pleasantly surprised."
Additional reporting by Nicole Taylor. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.