If you own a seasonal business, then you are well aware of the challenges of managing cash flow. It does not matter if you run a pool cleaning service in the summer or a ski resort in the winter. The seasonal nature of your business means the challenges you face differ from those of year-round businesses. Especially how you balance cash flow, as it impacts your ability to retain staff and to have the inventory and supplies you need for peak season operations. With that in mind, I wanted to review six creative cash tips which can help your seasonal business.
- Start Managing Your Cash Flow Now
The biggest mistake seasonal businesses make is failing to manage their cash flow. Most owners of seasonal businesses have another job or another business. As such, they treat the business like a hobby. Don’t let this happen to you. If you want to get a grip on your cash flow you need to track it year round, not just in ‘peak season’.
While part of this is better bookkeeping, an added benefit of managed cashflow is that you will have a plan to make sure you have the inventory and supplies you need at the right time. This may create the opportunity to purchase supplies at a discount in the offseason – something which could save you money.
- Control Costs As If Your Life Depended on it
During the peak season, customers are coming at you from all directions and it seems like you never have enough time to yourself. While this good, as the cash register (literally or figuratively, depending on your business) is working overtime, it also means you need to focus on controlling costs.
This starts by assuming the good times won’t last forever and having a target for every line on your P&L. You see, cost control helps to ensure that you are not wasting cash on unnecessary expenses. This could be excess inventory, supplies, or even labor costs. It’s your business and you need to make sure that you are managing your costs as if your life depended on it – because it does. Every penny wasted today is one less dollar in your retirement account or your daughter’s college fund.
- Rainy Day Fund
It might sound simple, but having a rainy-day fund could be the difference maker for your seasonal business. This approach builds on the previous ideas – mainly tracking your cash flow and controlling your costs. This will allow you to get a surplus from your business, which you can then keep in an interest-bearing account.
Remember, these funds should be kept in a separate account from the general account of your business. Instead, the money in your rainy-day fund is for special situations such as an unexpected slowdown or an emergency – not a first-class vacation in Europe.
- Work with a Lender Who Understands Your Business
Most banks don’t understand seasonal businesses. They look at the annual cash flow and all they see are the risks. As such you need find a lender who specializes in merchant cash advance for seasonal companies. These are small loans which should be repaid within your peak season and can be used to purchase inventory or supplies. The loans allow you to get the most out of your working capital. Just remember short-term loans should be for short-term needs.
- Make it Easy to Get Paid
Give your customers several options to pay. Sure, cash is king, but also offer services like PayPal or Square along with credit cards. What you will find is that your customers will come back more often and they will spend more when they visit if they can pay easily.
- Look for Year-Round Opportunities
Depending on what you are offering, you might want to set up an online presence which can offer some of your products on a year-round basis. Amazon and Etsy are great options for small businesses looking to reach a larger audience online. If you are primarily a summer business, then look for opportunities to conduct events during the holidays. These might help to generate some extra income and maybe get some new customers in the process.