Ideas from Small Business Owners and Business Professionals on Planning for Your Slow Season

When is the "slow season" for your business, and how do you plan for it in advance?  That question is one that many small businesses have to grapple with and should plan for.  The answer really depends on what kind of business you have, but the key “take-away” from this column is “how do you plan for it?”

To help business leaders plan for the “slow season,” Brett Farmiloe, Founder & CEO of Marketers, a digital marketing company that connects small businesses to customers through organic search. He asked small business owners and business professionals this question for their best tips and shared them on SCORE’s website recently as one of our content partners.  They provided some good ideas and I share some of them with readers today.

Get Approvals Before Big Trips. 

Summer can be a slow time for our business because we have so many of our high-end clients go on extended vacations. Before clients leave on trips, we ensure that we have designs approved and furniture ordered to make sure there isn’t too much pending while they are away. We set lots of design meetings in the spring to plan for the slower summer months. Because working with a client to design a luxury custom home spans the time of several months, we try to plan accordingly! -Alisha Taylor, Alisha Taylor Interiors

Plan to Offer Season Specials. 

Although the weather in Sedona is beautiful year-round, we still tend to see a slow down towards the end of the year when it gets a little chilly. We plan for it by offering different types of retreats and specials during that time of the year! It is perfect for individuals or couples looking to travel around the holidays and allows for some new experiences internally as well.            -Gregory Drambour, Sedona Retreats

Test Out New Strategies

Seasonality is a huge factor for us. The hospitality industry ebbs and flows at different times, depending on what city you’re talking about. For example, in Phoenix, business slows down when the weather heats up. In New York, the slowdown happens in the cold winter months. Fortunately, when one city is slow another one is busy as hospitality is never 100% dormant. While breaking into a new city isn’t feasible for every small business during a slow season, testing new strategies in your current market is. Take advantage of the slower flow of business to take a look at your existing processes, pinpoint opportunities for improvement, and use the slower months to build new things.       -Zack McCarty, Qwick

Focus on Client Retention

After the summer season burns out into fall, we typically experience a lull in business. We plan for this by leaning into customer retention. The ability to retain and expand existing customers helps us when we can't depend on significant new business during slow seasons. We look into data and find customers who can potentially expand their contract with.-Nik Sharma, Sharma Brands

Set Aside Funds and Stay Active

The slow season of our business (residential real estate investing) is the winter months, specifically December through February. We plan in advance by capitalizing on the active, fast-paced months for the rest of the year. We set aside the same percentage of money from every transaction even in the months when our income is much higher than the slow season. We have also found that our slow season for making money is a great time to capitalize on growing our business. Many people in our industry take time off around the holidays, but we choose to work a few hours per day to network and keep our website and socials active. This sets us up for success once the slow season passes.-Andy Kolodgie, The House Guys

Build Relationships

If you often refuse lunch invitations from colleagues, now is the time to agree. When you are not busy, you can connect by eating lunch and drinking coffee together. By establishing friendship in this way, you can accumulate your contacts and prepare for more cooperation in the future.  -Abby Ha, WellPCB

Pivot Your Client Focus.  

Our slow season normally comes after tax season ends. For the first three weeks or so after individuals and businesses have filed their taxes and submitted their returns, we hardly get any new clients. To effectively plan for this, we pivot our services to other possible clientele outside of our main target audience--coaching businesses. For instance, we offer our services to schools and nonprofit organizations during and shortly after tax season. In exchange for a small, heavily discounted commission, we develop and implement highly effective marketing strategies/campaigns for local schools and nonprofit organizations. We also provide career guidance services to the students in these academic institutions and the communities that the NGOs serve. By pivoting our services, we are still getting paid, albeit much less, and we are increasing our brand’s visibility in niche market segments.-Sai Blackbyrn, Coach Foundation

About the Author(s)

Dean Swanson

Dean is a Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE Chapter Chair, District Director, and Regional Vice President for the North West Region, and has developed and managed many businesses. The Rochester Post Bulletin publishes his weekly article on a topic geared toward the small business community. The articles here are printed in their entirety.

Certified SCORE Mentor for the Southeast Minnesota Chapter
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