The following column was written by Patti Tomczak, a volunteer business mentor with SCORE’s Tip of the Mitt chapter.
Owning and operating any business under the best circumstances takes a great idea, product and/or concept, commitment and a lot of hard work. Even so, our current climate of Covid, the economy, fuel prices and workforce shortages with low motivation to rejoin has left business owners experiencing extreme difficulties that may seem insurmountable at times. The National Federation of Independent Business concludes one of six businesses has a seasonal component. For example, destination vacations and rentals, restaurants in tourist communities, wineries and farm markets make the most of their revenue during the summer and fall.
With seasonal businesses, there is a small window of opportunity to turn a profit and you need to leverage your off-season to help achieve that goal. This list of 7 tips to help a business owner stay on top of their game all year round may be the “food for thought” for your seasonal businesses success:
You’ve done the research and have a vision! You decided on a business and product that aligns with your dreams and goals. Stay the course of your vision, your dream. Many businesses fail when they go off in too many directions and forget who they are. If it doesn’t feel right, re-evaluate and decide if you need to add something, eliminate something or stay the course. Does it coincide you’re your mission statement — your vision?
Staffing is the number one challenge for today’s business owners. Great staff will want to have a part in your success and have pride in where they work.
Businesses have to get creative how they attract and retain quality staffing:
A) Ask for feedback from your staff. They are the front line for your customer base. They will feel appreciated and you will keep your finger on the pulse of your business.
B) Adequate training. Take the time to train them in new skills so that they will be motivated to come to work and have a sense of satisfaction.
C) Thank your staff for all their efforts … they will feel important and appreciated.
D) Offer part-time, flexible hours, custom work schedules.
E) Sign on bonus.
F) Implement a bonus program for staff that complete the entire season. Details can be determined at the time of hire, how many weeks they will be employed and based on a percentage of their weekly wages.
G) Develop incentives to return the following season.
Cash flow issues can crop up quickly. Having budgets in place will help keep you on track. Evaluate throughout the season to make certain you are hitting your sales goals and have a handle on your expenses. Be on top of your finances to be ready to make any necessary changes along the way … unknown expense that may crop up or temporary slump in sales.
Use social media to share interesting and educational information with your followers that relate to your business. Keep the conversation going with customers through e-mail newsletters, hosting events on social media, sharing photos and comments by your loyal followers.
Ask for customer feedback. What new item(s) would they like to purchase at your business? Have them submit online or in-person and tie it into a drawing for product or services.
At the close of every season, evaluate every aspect of the business and every department. What did really well? What did not perform as you thought and need to replace with a new idea, product or service? Formulating projections based on the data of the previous season is invaluable. Revisit your business plan. This will help you “stay the course”.
Get involved in your local community. Volunteer, donate product and/or services, and participate in events hosted by the chamber of cCommerce or other organizations. Networking in your community is vital to your businesses success. Having a presence has far reaching benefits: referrals from customers, attracting local staff, increase in the frequency of shopping your store or requiring your services and getting to know a diverse group of people in your community.
We all get caught up in the details of running a busy seasonal business. Give yourself permission to sit back and really take in what you have created! Give yourself credit for a job well done … even if it’s only for a fleeting moment. See what IS instead of what needs to be accomplished. This will give you a sense of balance to enjoy your dream as it progresses.
To talk more about any aspect of your business, contact Tip of the Mitt SCORE to set up a free and confidential appointment with a team of business mentors.
To request SCORE’s free and confidential mentoring services for small businesses, call (231) 347-4150 in the Petoskey area or (989) 731-0287 in the Gaylord area.


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