Adapting your business so that the quiet winter months work for you
Updated: Jun 7, 2019
When business is booming in the peak season, everything is operating smoothly, and it is hard to imagine things can change. Unfortunately, winter can be a real time of pressure and heightened angst from the business being slow and profits remaining down. However, this does not need to be the case. Winter can be a time of preparation and growth, making ground in areas that you do not have the time to invest in during the peak season. We encourage you to get creative with ideas to extend your business during winter so that the peak summer months can be even more profitable.
Analyse your service
Depending on what hospitality and tourism activity or service you provide, you could brainstorm ways to create year-round income by being creative about what customers need during the winter months. For example, if you are a restaurant, you can offer and promote mulled wine or mid-winter Christmas set menus and events, which is likely a hit during the cold winter months. Perhaps you could look at partnering with other companies to offer package deals for an attraction that is in peak demand during the slow months, thereby maximising both companies’ exposure and income.
When seasonality is a factor in your business, it is difficult to maintain staff levels throughout the year. If you don’t address this issue, it can become a cause of stress and can cost the company dearly. Considering your staff levels is important which requires a close look at staff contracts and whether a proportion of your staff can be on a fixed term or casual contracts so that the business is not obligated to keep them on during the long, quiet months. With the staff that must remain in your employ during this time, it is vital to carefully draw up non-routine tasks that can extend their roles and be of enormous benefit to the company. Another key activity is using sales forecasts to determine whether expected staffing and wage costs are appropriately aligned and/or could be reduced to retain targeted wage percentages.
Considering the other side of the staffing issue, rather than employing more staff for the peak season, you could look at retaining your skeleton staff all year-round and simply outsource work during the busy months. Administration tasks such as the accounting, payables and marketing could be outsourced to an accounting firm or virtual assistant. The quieter period also provides the opportunity to investigate whether implementing new technology could automate and streamline business processes, such as ongoing accounting and reporting needs, therefore reducing the need to pay for ongoing back room support. The key is being smart about your requirements, delegating and accepting help when needed.
The financial pressure of the slow, winter months can be immense and stressful. To avoid this, it is essential to cut unnecessary costs and budget appropriately so the profitability of your peak season can sustain you when business is slow. It is a massive temptation to spend or invest when things are going well; however, if this is done without careful consideration of the whole year’s budget, it can create undue stress. It is important to ascertain all your historical incomings and outgoings so that you can assess any trends present and form an educated prediction of what the financial year will look like for your company. If you determine that your projected income will be less during the winter months, you can better plan for this.
It is difficult to have time to devote to strategic company planning and marketing when business is booming. This is a good problem to have; however, if you do not set aside adequate time for analysing and developing your business, it is impossible to grow. Use the off-season to spend time on your marketing strategy and consider the direction and goals for the company in the year to come. You can even work on marketing material so that when you schedule your campaigns to become active, you have everything you need ready to go.
It is also essential to keep up communication with your clients during the slower months through social media, your website and email so that it does not appear that the business falls away during certain times of the year. Run email campaigns and competitions so that there is no chance for customers to forget about you, and it primes them for booking your services in the peak-season.
It is difficult to deep clean your premises, conduct consumer research and maintain equipment, accommodation and chattels (if applicable) during the peak season. This also applies to things such as training staff, completing stock-counts, improving buildings and gardens, implementing new and improved software and services and clearing out any lingering clutter in offices and storage rooms. These are important tasks but are seldom achievable when it’s all go in the busy period. Therefore, it is vital to concentrate on these activities when you have the time in the off-season so that everyone is ready to put the pedal to the metal and capitalise on profitability when the peak season rolls around.