As we quickly approach the holiday season many of you with small businesses get anxious about how to handle the last quarter of the year. The holidays are great, but can be fraught with pitfalls if you don’t plan accordingly. This is especially true if your business has seasonal tendencies that coincide with the holiday period. The same can be said for those who have summer seasonal businesses, where their entire income comes from three or four months a year. Either way, you know your season is coming so be ready. Conversely, one must plan for the downtime in the yearly business cycle.
Businesses that are seasonal need to focus on seasonal cash flow management strategies which will help them to survive throughout the year and make the most of their busy periods. Keep a close eye on the following to help you in the off-season:
One of the best strategies is to create a strict budget for your business that addresses seasonality. This can eliminate the cash flow issues that seasonality can bring and ensure that all costs are accounted for. It is stated that around half of all small businesses experience some seasonality and the ones that thrive know how to manage these fluctuations.
It is also important that you do not have inventory sitting around collecting dust at the end of the season as this is essentially wasted money. Any excess inventory should be either marked down and sold or sold back to the supplier for credit against next season’s orders.
Controlling costs can also be effective for managing during the offseason. There are many effective ways to reduce costs, such as downsizing, using temp staff/outsourcing and switching to alternative energy which can deliver big savings in the long run.
Let’s take a look at the flip side of the coin and seek to better manage your business during seasonal peaks, whether it be summer or the holidays. For retailers, both online and brick and mortar, this can be challenging. In particular, shipping and customer support which have become ubiquitous. Flexible scaling is key to a successful and profitable peak season.
Can your business manage this process efficiently or would outsourcing to a fulfillment house provide you with a cost effective and flexible solution?
Here are some of the issues that you need to think about:
Will you have enough customer support staff to answer the increased number of inquiries timely and efficiently? If not, it could negatively impact your business and reputation with a possible loss of sales.
Shippers and Carriers
Will your shippers have the capacity to cope with peak season?
Do they collect later to allow you more time to process orders?
Do you have back up carrier solutions if anything goes wrong?
If peak season goes to plan or even exceeds your expectations, will you have the resources to meet your promised delivery times? Will you be able to deliver your brand promise to your consumers?
Seasonality can be tough on a small business but when you use intelligent seasonal cash flow management strategies it will help you to survive during the offseason and thrive during your busy periods. Conversely, in prime season, if you are unsure how to handle the change, then it may be a good idea to get in contact with a fulfillment house to explore the advantages of outsourcing. Fulfillment houses are experts on resource management and will have robust contingency plans put in place to respond to the peaks and troughs of seasonality.