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10 Business Owners Share Their Tips for Weathering Slow Seasons

By
Mona Bushnell
,
business.com writer
| Last Modified
Sep 06, 2018
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The Business.com community is filled with people at varying stages of the entrepreneurial process.

For those just starting out, one of the biggest concerns is cash flow, and more specifically, how to predict and weather slow times.

Of course, seasonality and business trends vary drastically from industry to industry, so it's impossible to outline a year's worth of sales or service trends that apply to all businesses. To gain insight into how business owners in different industries deal with busy times, slow times, and everything in between, we reached out to entrepreneurs across the country to get their take.

Here's what 10 diverse American entrepreneurs had to say about sales planning strategies, marketing during the off season and predicting future sales.

Flooring and building materials manufacturing

Business Name:Albany Woodworks

Business Location: Tickfaw, Louisiana

Business Owner: Richard Woods 

What is the busiest season of the year and why? Spring and summer are the busiest time for us. Summer is the height of construction season for new homes and remodels. As a result, we are busy starting in early April through the summer as people make their plans and begin building. 

How do you get through the slow seasons? We typically run sales on products that have high inventory via social media and word of mouth. Luckily, we sell all over the country, so we still have enough work to keep us going through the slower months. We also take advantage of the time by completing inventory counts and necessary maintenance to the machinery. 

Do you use sales tracking software to help with predictions and trend forecasting? We have started using QuickBooks to help track what is most popular and when. We pair that with construction statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, which helps us know if the market is healthy or not in our target areas.

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Wedding DJ services

Business Name:Remixologists

Business Location: New York, New York

Business Owner: Simon Tai 

What is the busiest season of the year and why?

Our busiest time is during wedding season during the summer and fall months. We have seven DJs performing at hundreds of weddings during this time. The season is busy because of the beautiful weather for outdoor ceremonies.

How do you get through the slow seasons?

We've been DJing weddings for well over a decade, so we know what to expect for our year-round gross profit. We don't overspend during the busy season, and we do our investing during the winter months. During the holidays, winter weddings and holiday parties pop up. We also have many corporate gigs year-round.

Do you use sales tracking software to help with predictions and trend forecasting?

Yes, our CRM software helps us not only keep in touch with clients, but it also tracks sales and forecast trends. 

Retail – Gifts and crafts

Business Name:Bison Hill Stonecrafts

Business Location: Erie, Pennsylvania

Business Owner: Andrew Church

What is the busiest season of the year and why?

We make personalized gifts such as cheese boards, Christmas ornaments and coasters out of slate and marble. The Christmas season, from Nov 1 to Dec 24 to be specific, is the busiest time of the year since our products are given mainly as gifts. Daily sales are 10 to 20 times what they are during the rest of the year. Christmas is a major driver for many retail businesses, and we try to take advantage of it as much as we can. 

How do you get through the slow seasons? I try to use a flexible workforce by employing college students and retirees during the busy season, so they don't need full-time work year-round. The downtime enables us to reflect on what was popular and try to expand upon those products for the year ahead. I spent some time this past year developing other product lines that are better sellers during the summertime, such as carved house number signs and slate veneer phone cases. It definitely kept revenue coming in during the slow time, but it hasn't completely eliminated the boom and bust of the Christmas shopping season. 

Do you use sales tracking software to help with predictions and trend forecasting? We use ShipStation to track and ship our orders. It helps because it compiles all of our different platforms into one place where I can export all the orders we've ever shipped into an Excel file. From there, I use pivot tables and all of Excel's functionality to see trends, purchasing patterns and plan out the year ahead. It's been invaluable in predicting sales volume in preparation for Christmas and ordering material accordingly. 

Real estate buying and flipping

Business Name: Breyer Home Buyers

Business Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Business Owner: Shawn Breyer 

What is the busiest season of the year and why? 

Spring is the busiest time of the year for us because people are starting to sell their homes. As we begin purchasing homes, our renovation projects ramp up as inventory increases. In the spring, we juggle as many as seven flips during any month. The remainder of the year, the selling and buying frenzies subside and we average about three to four flips per month. 

How do you get through the slow seasons? 

We have cash flowing rentals that support the business if we hit super slow times. However, we usually maintain a steady pace. We use the slow months to focus on automating processes in our system that were stressed during our busy season. We take time to figure out how we let deals fall through, how we went sideways on a renovation or how we can grow as a team. 

Do you use sales tracking software to help with predictions and trend forecasting?  

We use spreadsheets that contain our team's key performance indicators. We track weekly leading indicators, such as marketing spent, the number of leads, the number of offers and profit per deal. Tracking this year over year allows us to project where we need to adjust our strategy to take full advantage of the market. 

Retail – Farm and garden

Business Name:Rita Marie's Chicken Coops

Business Location: Denton, Texas

Business Owner: Simon Trask 

What is the busiest season of the year and why?

The chicken business is all about springtime. It starts with chicks – that's prime time for growing your flock, and [buying] larger coops, [which] is the next step. For us, April and May outpace the rest of the 10 months combined, so there is extreme seasonality to our business.  

How do you get through the slow seasons?

We get through by being an online-only, lightweight business. This allows us to be flexible. We also have part-time staff that help with sales and customer service through the peak, and we handle everything personally the rest of the year (family owned and operated). 

Do you use sales tracking software to help with predictions and trend forecasting? 

No, we don't. We just know what the trends are based on past sales and how busy we are. 

Pest control and lawn care services

Business Name: Hoffer Pest Solutions

Business Location: Coral Springs, FL

Business Owner: Eric Hoffer 

What is the busiest season of the year and why?  We experience a steeper seasonal impact with our lawn care services. Demand for our services peaks in spring and fall, and we're busy delivering them spring, summer and fall. Even in Florida, winter is a slow time for us on the lawn care front. 

Pest control goes through several seasonal shifts throughout the year. From a production standpoint, we stay busy all year long because our recurring services require year-round treatment to prevent pests, but there are definite highs and lows when it comes to demand. Calls for ants, termites, roaches and other pests that swarm in spring keep our phone lines busy in April and May, and we get an influx of rodent calls every winter. 

How do you get through the slow seasons? We've made strategic decisions about the way our business operates to ensure that we're prepared to handle seasonal highs and lows. We spend a lot of time evaluating our capacity from a sales and service team perspective and a technician perspective to make sure that we're prepared, specifically, that we have enough people to get the job done during the busy season without having to lay people off when sales slow down. We also have several years of historical data on demand and sales performance, so we're prepared to capture as many leads as possible during our busy sales season. 

Do you use sales tracking software to help with predictions and trend forecasting? We use a software called PestPac to track incoming leads and sales – which makes it easy to track performance and compare to previous years. Our marketing agency also tracks data on search demand and performance in our digital channels (Google Ads, Analytics, etc.), which has been helpful as we try to match that up with our internal numbers. It gives us a lot of insight into how we're reaching customers, such as when they begin searching for specific services and how that translates to purchasing decisions. 

Insurance and financial services

Business Name: Ogletree Financial Services 

Business Location:  Auburn, Alabama

Business Owner: Doug Mitchell 

What is the busiest season of the year and why? The last quarter has always been our busiest time of the year. Summer is a very slow season, and when fall arrives, folks are finished "summering" and are ready to get back to normal life. Kids are back in school and more time is available for evaluating life insurance policies, retirement plans and investments. Since most of our sales take six weeks to three months to complete, we push hard to get everything issued before the end of the year. 

How do you get through the slow seasons? Summer is our slow season, and most folks take vacations and plan activities around the kids being out of school. This makes finding time for financial planning tough. We get through fine because we also cater to senior markets. Seniors have more time available.

Do you use sales tracking software to help with predictions and trend forecasting? We use a CRM called Vanilla Soft that allows us to track every policy we write and create reports comparing current performance to that of past periods. This is very helpful in measuring our production against prior years or periods in the same year. 

Food service

Business Name: Angry Crab Shack & BBQ

Business Location: Phoenix, Arizona

Busiest Season: Ron Lou/Andrew Diamond 

What is the busiest season of the year and why?

February [through] May. Phoenix is a destination for vacations due to weather and events such as the Phoenix Open and Spring Training. Also, the population increases with snowbirds coming in from Canada and states in the Midwest, such as Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. 

How do you get through the slow seasons?

We always budget and run the business based on cashflow. We use the slower periods for vacation as well as a time to evaluate and improve the business … testing new menu items and processes to increase operation efficiency. 

Do you use sales tracking software to help with predictions and trend forecasting?

We do have a POS system that retains our sales data, and we use that information to project future sales. We also have a cloud-based accounting system called Intacct that allows us to budget and create metrics to manage the business. We have created our own metrics and analytics, so we know how we are performing each week compared to the previous year. [We're] always looking to get better with improvements in technology; we are exploring other systems that will improve our use of metric analysis. 

Waste disposal services

Business Name: Bin There Dump That 

Business Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

Business Owners: James and Lori Spink 

What is the busiest season of the year and why?

We have a couple of busy seasons, certainly spring is a given. Once the weather breaks in mid to late March, we see business pick up 40 to 50 percent over the winter months of December, January and February. Another peak month is October as we see homeowners getting one last rush before the cold sets in. Homeowners are cleaning out their garages so they can place their cars inside for winter and are doing some last-minute exterior work before the weather gets too cold. 

How do you get through the slow seasons?

The "slow" seasons aren't as slow as they used to be as our contractors are staying busy working through the winter months. In addition to the contractors keeping us busy, we use this time to maintain our fleet of trucks and service our inventory of nearly 200 bins. 

Do you use sales tracking software to help with predictions and trend forecasting?

We keep very precise books to monitor our monthly sales and add notes for anything that may cause a surge or decline in business. As much as we'd like to think we know the pattern of business, it can change at any minute. That said, we try to stay prepared and ready for when the rush arrives. 

Specialty cleaning services

Business Name: Chem-Dry

Business Location: Serving the Nashville metro area

Business Owners: Tim and Tara Outson 

What is the busiest season of the year and why?

The holiday season of November and December is the busiest time of year for us. Families are looking to make a great first impression when hosting holiday gatherings, making it the perfect time to get their carpets cleaned. 

How do you get through the slow seasons?

Our team works closely with our commercial accounts to get through the slower season. Additionally, we provide mailings and newsletters to all our existing clients during the off season that highlight promotions and ways they can gain the most value out of our carpet cleaning services. I also try to have my long-term clients wait to clean until after the holidays. 

Do you use sales tracking software to help with predictions and trend forecasting?

The software that our team mostly relies on is called OnTrack. This tool helps our team records services that we've provided in the past by month and by ZIP code.

Mona Bushnell
Mona Bushnell
Mona Bushnell is a New York City-based staff writer for Business.com and Business News Daily. She has a Bachelor of Arts in writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College and previously worked as an IT technician, copywriter, software administrator, scheduling manager, and editorial writer. Mona began freelance writing full time in 2014 and joined Business News Daily in 2017. She covers business technology and reviews CRM systems.
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