Shauna Madsen, Madsen Ave, Edmonton, AB, CYBF Mentor

Many can sing the lyrics from the ‘60’s hit song by the Byrds and it speaks to me when I consider the topic of seasonality in business.

A time to plant, a time to reap….

From the hundreds of businesses I have worked with, each one experiences varying degrees of seasonality, dependent on everything from weather and the four seasons, to customer buying habits.

When I owned a flower shop, the profitability of any given year weighed heavily on Valentines Day and Mother’s Day, with Christmas topping up the bottom line. Christmas in the flower business begins in the summer months when supply orders are placed. We would preorder our Christmas flowers in September and October for the upcoming season and benefit from our suppliers’ preorder pricing.

The retail side of our shop carried original pottery and art created by local artists. Christmas was our time to reap, which we planned for. Our clientele knew they could count on us to be open for their last minute gifts on Christmas Eve. Our special brand of customer service, as one client called it, focused on the buying habits and needs of the customer.

Every business experiences seasonality and for small businesses, understanding the trends in their industry is vital.

As small business planning advisors, we work with new businesses to determine their seasonality during the business planning process.  When it comes to cash flow, seasonal clarity will allow for proper budgetary practices while creating a marketing plan that capitalizes on the slower periods. Being unprepared for busy times can be as detrimental as not having the cash flow to carry the business through slow periods.

Industry awareness gives the small business owner the advantage of planning ahead and to be proactive in all four quadrants of their business. When business is booming, do you relax your marketing efforts or maintain them? Many small business owners think that if they are busy, they can relax their marketing efforts.  Actually, this is the best time to focus on the retention side of your marketing activities. When sales slow you want to stay top of mind with those you have been working with during busy times. You never stop marketing, ever!

Networking is also important when times are slow. Find a like-minded ‘Meetup’ group and attend regular meetings. Familiarity breeds confidence and when people get to know you, and like you, they will do business with you. I have scheduled networking lunches written into my marketing plan weekly. Having a referral-based business requires that I meet with people, speak at events and learn about others’ businesses. I do this during peak times and slow times.

For ‘Meetup’ groups in your area, go to Meetup.com and if they don’t offer anything in your area, why not start your own meet up group and utilize your social media contacts to participate. Happy planning!