How to Handle Seasonal Shifts

Nov 15, 2021
How to Handle Seasonal Shifts

Every business has a busy season and a slow season. 

At times, it can seem like feast or famine with workflow.  The attempt to control these shifts is tantamount to standing on the shore and willing the waves to stop and instead become a flat sea.  It is all too easy to attempt to overcompensate to even out the ebb or flow instead of looking at things from a high level and rolling with the overall yearly cadence.

In my early years, I recall the anxiety in both the slow and busy seasons.  In the slow times I would panic over where the money is supposed to be coming from and worrying it might not come back.  In the busy times, I would be exasperated and overwhelmed at times, beating myself up for not putting the processes in place when I had the time to do so.  

Being comfortable with this shifting is the difference between peace of mind and ripping your hair out; leveraging what you have to optimize your results versus living in frustration of trying to control that which you cannot. 

You may not be a seasoned leader able to weather these changes with an even keel so here are some tips:

  • Know your industry
    • By tracking sales you can anticipate the upcoming seasonal variations.  Pull a report of gross sales from your accountant periodically to keep the big picture in mind.
    • Ask yourself what your customers are looking for in the next month or two and get ahead of it.  Consider enticing offers or stockpiling some materials you know you might need.
    • Be patient!  Know that you can handle the changes and that the freedom of being self employed comes at a cost.
  • Leverage the ebb
    • During slow times: Remember all those things that were important but not urgent when you were slammed with work? Grind these out in the slow times.  
    • Test/research the market to see how new products or services might land.
    • Examine the business model and embrace strategic thinking.  Lay in marketing plans and trainings.  Focus on refining processes and goals.
    • Onboard new staff if needed and get them trained and optimized for the busy season.
  • Maximize the flow
    • During busy times: build cash reserves for the slow times.  Make a list of important changes that you would like to make so you have a task list to work through later.  
    • Know your lane and stick with it.  This is not the time to try out new products or services!
    • Outsource small tasks and ask for help when needed.

If your competitors are busy and you are not, maybe something else is going on as opposed to a seasonal slump.  If alarm bells are not going off in your head, they probably should be!

Experience and fortitude are learned over time so be patient with yourself.  Discussions with your bookkeeper can be quite helpful to bring color to these seasonal trends if you are not able to recognize them immediately.