Ah, summer! It’s finally in sight, after long winter months in many parts of the country. The change in seasons to summer usually means changing conditions for small businesses. And what those changes are depends on a number of variables, including: What kind of business is it? Where is it located? How many employees are there?
Some businesses experience an annual summer slow-down. If you’re selling school clothes and school supplies, for example, you probably have a couple of slower months coming up. On the other hand, if you sell mementos and souvenirs on Cape Cod, you’re gearing up for some of your best months of the year. (There’s probably a third category, too, those whose business isn’t influenced much by season or geography and stays more or less steady throughout the year.)
How you prepare for the summer months—and how you spend that time—depends on which group you fall into. If you’re typically slow during the summer, it’s a great time to re-group in all kinds of ways, as well as to take advantage of some R&R:
- Physical surroundings. If you’re brick and mortar, paint, freshen up your landscape, redecorate the inside of your store.
- Cash flow. Forecast now for less cash flow. Investigate and prepare the paperwork for a small business loan that will keep your cash flowing until fall, when sales pick up again.
- Analytics. Finally, you’ve got time to go back and review the reports you’re creating every month. Are you using them? Are they the right ones? Look into some alternatives.
- Staffing. You’ve been meaning to hire another person. Time to reassess: Is the need still there? If so, it’s a good time to write a job description and involve some of your employees in the process.
- Training. You could never manage to fit it into everyone’s busy schedules before. But slower, summer months are perfect for some training. Be creative, and make it fun.
- Planning. It may seem light-years away, but back-to-school and the holidays are really only a few short months away. And in retail terms, they’re even closer! Review and fine-tune your plans, including inventory, promotions, customer service.
- Online presence. Does your website need updating? Been meaning to add some new products to your online store? Do it over the summer! And be sure to monitor things like your checkout navigation, to make sure everything’s working well and is as easy as possible for customers.
- Social media. Take inventory of what social channels you’re using and how you’re using them. Do some reading; take an online course if you need to. Now’s the time to make your social media presence more robust in anticipation of fall.
- Competition. There’s never enough time, it seems, to check out (and visit!) competitors. Summer is a great time to do some competitive recognizance. Ask employees to participate, too.
- Customers. Whether informal chats by phone, engaging on social media channels or having more formal research done, the summer months are a good time to check in with customers and get some feedback and insights from them. You could also use this time to put a regular process in place for doing this.
- Vacation. Small business owners are notorious for not taking vacations. Resolve to do it this summer! And encourage your employees to follow suit. They deserve—and need—some time away, too! Think about instituting some summer hours, too.
- Security. Along with slower months and fewer people around can come the greater possibility of crime. Test your alarm(s), and review your security procedures. During slower months, it’s easy to be lax in even the basics, like keeping doors open or having just one person in the store during long lunch hours. Keep your security tight, especially when it’s warm!
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