Smooth Out Your Seasonal Sales Bumps
If you operate a seasonal business and are starting to wonder if the uneven revenue streams and stress-filled crunch times are worth all the hassle, take heart. Millions of small businesses post the bulk of their annual sales during a short season or cycle.
For many retailers the holidays are boom time. Fitness centers soar in January and sag with the summer exodus. Some businesses sell more when the weather warms, the tax or wedding season arrives or tourists travel.
Others thrive on cold or times when kids are in school. No matter what type of seasonal business it is, the common thread is that you must succeed in a short time. Issues such as cash flow, burnout and seasonal help are magnified.
To help smooth the bumps it will be important to create a tight budget and stick to it throughout the year. Create a special cash reserve account for use only in leaner months. Set money aside whenever you can. Creating a cash flow forecast will help you identify patterns and see what you are up against. Include a worst-case plan to anticipate any nasty shocks.
Operating a seasonal business also requires that you plan and use your time more efficiently than other business owners. Some periods may call for only 25-hour workweeks, while others go far beyond that. To make sure everything gets done and also avoid burnout, you’ll need to schedule your time carefully.
Put slower times to good use by using them to update your Web site, catch up on maintenance, strengthen customer relationships or write marketing plans. You may want to employ only a small core of permanent workers and use temps or interns to fill in. Consider offering off-season sales or rates, and look for ways to generate revenue during quieter periods.
CAPlines seasonal lines of credit are SBA-guaranteed short-term loans that help small businesses survive sales ups and downs due to seasonal changes. To qualify, your business must have established a definite pattern of seasonal activity. You’ll find complete details and information on these credit lines in the Special Purpose Loan Programs section at www.sba.gov/financing.
For additional planning help for your small business, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. Call (570) 851.1608 or visit www.scorescranton.org to contact the Greater Scranton Area SCORE Chapter.