Running a seasonal business can mean dealing with the peaks and troughs of fluctuating cash flow.
However, additional insight into your financial systems can give you the control and foresight you need to properly plan for times of drought, and times of excess.
Know your peak and off-seasons
Xero’s research into small businesses found that midwinter is indeed bleak, with February being one of the worst months for cash flow. But not every business follows the same pattern.
Depending on how you run your business, what services or products you offer, or even where you are in the world, your peak season could be someone else’s off-season.
The slow season is the perfect time to prepare for your next busy season. In the quiet months, it’s vital that you remain active – or even better, proactive.
Furthermore, your peak season can be used to its full advantage when upselling to your current clients. Increasing the revenue you earn from clients in your busy season can help with the dips in sales during your off-season.
Upselling can be achieved through knowledge of your customers and good relationship management throughout the year. In the same way that upselling to current clients can lead to more business, knowledge of your customer base can also lead to business from clients within your sphere of influence.
Working hard to secure more business and customers during your peak season can set you up for the slower season. With the additional business increasing your cash reserve, you can be sure of a better financial position during the leaner months.
However, continuing to improve your offering during the off-season is essential to any seasonal business looking for longevity.
We’ve got the breakdown on the proactive ways in which you can keep afloat during even your slowest months and how you can use your peak season to its full advantage.
Improve your credit control
Late paying customers are an issue for any business. But, for companies that deal with seasonal business, bad credit control can spell disaster during the off-season.
Without working capital from late-payers, and fewer opportunities to gain additional income in quieter months, you may be unable to pay staff, rent, or that all important wifi bill.
Combating the curse of the late-payer is essential to keeping your finances on track – particularly during quieter months.
Spreading out payments to ensure you have an income in the off-season will help keep your head above water. Shortening your payment terms, and requiring deposits, are also tried-and-tested ways of encouraging timely payment.
Automated software like Chaser makes credit control easier for you. With a web-based tool to carry out your credit control for you, you’ll spend less time chasing unpaid invoices and more time working on your business plans.
Once you have your late payers under control, and the money owed to you is in the bank, you can begin to focus on your own bills and expenditure.
Which leads us neatly to our next point:
Be proactive in refining your plans
Like toddlers and puppies, businesses demand attention.
For any business, having viable, actionable plans is incredibly important. But for seasonal businesses, who so often deal with fluctuating cash flow and changeable plans, it’s even more essential.
By habitually reviewing your business strategy you will understand your business on a more granular level. Why aren’t you able to cover expenses during the off-season? Why aren’t you reaching revenue goals during the busy season?
Continually improving your business strategy, and implementing the PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) will enable you to efficiently develop your plans.
The quiet period allows you to focus on everything that needs to be improved in your business strategy. Whether the problem is with your marketing plan, your team, or your current client offering, now is the time to adjust it.
Determining the viability of your plans, and reworking them to fit your business systems is essential to the long-term success of your business.
Understand your bills and invoices
Unfortunately, bills need to be paid, and tax season waits for no one. Planning and budgeting for your recurring expenses is vital to understanding how much income you’ll need to cover them.
Predicting budgets can be easier if you’re a business that closes down altogether in the off-season because you know what (if any) expenses you’ll incur.
But understanding your exact expenditure is essential. And knowledge of the payment terms of your creditors is as vital as implementing your own. Deciding the priority of bills to pay is a huge step towards stabilising your cash flow.
For instance, it makes sense to prioritise the bills from vendors that penalise you if you pay late. Equally, if paying late won’t incur further charges then you can afford to wait a little longer to get that bill paid.
This brings us to another vital part of business planning – budgeting. This can be done in a spreadsheet but can be time-consuming.
During the off-season, it may be tempting to cut down on your expenses entirely if cash is tight. But by thinking rationally and strategically, you can continue to make the right choices for your business and save money.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t spend frivolously when you’re strapped for cash. But continuing to invest in growth is just as important. Cutting down your expenditure entirely will result in a lot of wasted time.
However, there are ways in which you can decrease your spending during the off-season. For instance, negotiating with your landlord to pay more during peak season and less during the quieter months can help to decrease your expenditure when you have less money in the bank.
Breaking down your budgets into smaller increments and tracking actual spending against them can show you exactly where your cash is coming from and going to. It allows you to see where you are spending too much, or not as much as you thought, and can help to control your spending.
How cash flow forecasting can help
By creating accurate and sensible budgets you’ll gain a deeper insight into your finances.
Using the budgets that you have created, you can build a cash flow forecast that will help you to predict the future of your finances, and help you to avoid any potential cash gaps coming your way.
Instead of showing your profitability, a cash flow forecast shows you the amount of available cash in the bank at any one time, based on your budgets vs actuals predictions of income and expenditure.
It’s a common misconception that cash flow forecasting is only for businesses in a cash crisis. But knowing what’s around the corner can help any business. The off-season may be imminent, and it might bring with it a cash shortage.
You could go a step further to scenario plan for different outcomes, such as a new hire or the loss of a client. With this information, planning for the future of your business, and factoring in different alternate scenarios, can help you to successfully ride the wave of seasonal business.
With software add-ons like Float, you can create intuitive and visual cash flow forecasts.
Float can save you an average of eight hours a month otherwise spent creating forecasts in spreadsheets.
Helping you to properly plan for your seasonal business, Float can give you the early warning you need to avoid cash shortages that may otherwise cripple your business.
Growing a business can be tough. But with insight into your financial systems gained through budgeting and cash flow forecasting, and plans put in place to tackle whatever comes your way, you can get through the leaner times.
Sign up for a free 14-day trial of Float today to get a real picture of your cash flow.
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