It’s dark outside when you leave for work and it’s dark outside when you get home. Even if you work out of a home office, in the winter you may barely see the light of day. As most of the U.S. faced the recent Polar Vortex in November, winter came in like a lion.
Now it's back.
Ahhh...winter. Not the holiday season, but thereafter each year can be daunting for some small business owners. In fact, for many, surviving the winter months is more challenging than buttoning up your coat or digging out your hat and gloves. It's about getting traffic and customers through the door, or trying to keep your seasonal business alive to thrive after the off season. It's about your bottom line - and ultimately your long-term survival.
Whatever your challenge, here are 7 tips to winterize your business.
Begin with winter in mind - Whether it is a harsh winter or a mild one, you know winter is coming each year. If your business plan is solid and your revenue stream is growing, entrepreneurs, like you, should plan for the funds required to operate in the slow months as well as the demand required for the busy season. Understanding your industry's ups and downs and preparing for them is vital. Plan the work and then work the plan. But most importantly, treat your plan as a living breathing roadmap. Tweak as required.
Manage your cash flow — As cash flow fluctuates, you must understand the timing cash in and cash out. Anticipating cash flow is very important. And building cash reserves will help your business to survive the off seasons. Actively managing your budget and cash is key to your long-term viability.
Invest in marketing - While your network is crucial for your business, eventually it will be tapped out. To cast a wider net, SBOs who need to winterize businesses will likely need to promote products and services. Local media coverage, online advertising, social media marketing and a mobile-optimized website will expand your reach and awareness.
Develop partnerships. Partner potential partners that sell goods or services that are similar but do not compete with your business. These businesses will often have comparable client lists or conduct related outreach efforts. Seek out businesses that will benefit from cross-promotion or even have different seasonal challenges. Determine goals and measure strategic partnerships as you go.
Cultivate customer relationships all year. Entrepreneurs need to think about building loyal customers year around, and finding ways to reach out to them in the off season. Satisfied customers will share messages, promotions and become ambassadors no matter what the temperature. Reach out to customers through communications channels, finds ways to recognize and appreciate them.
Find and support your employees. SBOs do not face winter alone. Winter is a challenge for all employees - especially seasonal ones. Communication of seasonal operations will help your employees plan for their lives as well. Do not leave employees in the dark. If operations are going to close early or shifts will be reduced due to seasonal impacts, honesty is the best policy. For seasonal specific jobs, think about recruiting students or retirees who may be able to sustain the cyclical work.
Remember, most businesses recognize the ebb and flow in business and try to prepare for the ups and downs. Maybe your business is slower in the summer or spring, but no matter when your business hits the down cycle, your preparation will help you navigate the storm.