Sunglasses on, toes in the sand — it must be summertime! While the hot weather sounds like a vacation for most, some business owners are feeling a bit salty about it. In fact, in a recent survey of entrepreneurs whose peak seasons are in the summer months, the biggest reported obstacle was standing out in a crowded summer market. If you’re worried customers would have more luck finding a lost grain of sand on the beach than finding your business, read on for our best summer small business management tips.
1. Consider What Your Summer Demand Looks Like
If your peak season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, you’ve got a booming summer biz. But just like a firecracker, a summer business can fizzle if it doesn’t have the right spark. In the aforementioned survey, business owners said their other major summertime concerns included hiring talent, marketing, and increased operating hours. Here are a few ways you can mitigate these challenges:
- Plan ahead. Ideally, start preparing for the next summer as soon as the current summer draws to an end. Keep notes on what worked and what didn’t, list out new ideas to test, and create a roadmap so when the time comes, you’re ready to roll.
- Widen your talent pool. Instead of hiring only seasonal employees or only long-term employees, consider a mix of both. That way, you’ll always have someone experienced on hand while also being able to hire younger, short-term employees on a budget.
- Test out new marketing strategies. Summer presents an opportunity to reach new markets, especially if you’re in an area that attracts tourists or visitors. It also gives you a chance to launch new seasonal products, which can increase demand due to their limited availability.
2. Prioritize Customer Experience
In the summer, you might serve a mix of regulars and those just passing through. But whether they’re townies, vacationers, or online visitors, you want to ensure they have an easy and frictionless customer experience that makes them want to return (and tell their friends). Here are our best small business management tips for providing a smooth summer experience:
- Create a loyalty program. Offer a limited-time summer incentive plan for your most loyal customers, with offers and freebies they won’t get any other time of year.
- Plan exclusive summer promos. This could be a limited-time sale or discount, a BOGO deal, or a summer-themed product or service.
- Make sure you have adequate staffing. To heighten customer experience, make sure you have enough employees to serve them. That could also mean offering extended hours or ramping up your customer service.
3. Manage Staffing and Scheduling
Hiring top talent is a challenge year-round, but it can be especially tough if you run a seasonal or peak summer business. The Great Resignation — an economic trend of the 2020s in which masses of workers have quit their jobs — has created a bleak situation for many small business owners. Combined with vacation and travel season, this could be a recipe for disaster if you don’t plan ahead. Here’s how real small business owners said they were going to maintain coverage while keeping employees satisfied:
- Providing incentives for meeting revenue goals
- Encouraging employees to use their time off throughout the year
- Offering a holiday pay differential
- Establishing a holiday blackout period for time off
Remember that you want to have a mix of long-term and short-term/seasonal employees on hand to maintain sufficient coverage. Look into hiring high school or college students on summer vacation, and create a process for senior employees to train and mentor newcomers. Consider offering incentives for more than meeting revenue goals, like attendance, on-the-job performance, and attitude or excellence in customer service.
4. Optimize Operations and Logistics
You want to run a tight ship when it comes to operations, especially during your busy months. But supply chain disruptions over the past few years have often made that difficult. Fortunately, survey respondents have said supply chain issues have improved since last summer, leading to fewer logistical hiccups. But of course, there are other challenges you’ll face when it comes to summer operations, including:
- Inflation. Inflation is a top challenge for all small business owners, but there are many ways to tackle it. The top method for mitigating inflation is to raise prices accordingly, but business owners may also cut low-margin items or services, or they may negotiate better contracts with vendors and suppliers.
- Competition. Make sure your business (instead of your competitors) gets found this summer by ramping up your digital marketing efforts. For most business owners, this means amplifying your social media presence, but it can also include putting your business on listings like Google My Business or utilizing search engine optimization (SEO).
- Automation. Managing your operations and logistics is time-consuming, and most business owners say they’d prefer to automate those processes whenever possible. Business operation automation can include email marketing, customer relationship management, lead generation, social media management, or abandoned cart campaigns.
5. Maintain Work-Life Balance
A busy summer usually means a successful summer, but it can often come at the expense of your mental and physical well-being. Staying balanced during peak season can sometimes feel impossible, and entrepreneurial burnout is a serious risk. But small business owners have found ways to prevent burnout and take care of themselves while still caring for their businesses, employees, and customers. Here are some of their top tips:
- Weave a strong safety net. Rely on your personal and professional support networks when you need them. That may include a community of business owners or entrepreneurs you can turn to when you need advice or guidance, but it can also be a network of family and friends who offer a listening ear or a good distraction.
- Set it and forget it. As mentioned above, automation is a way to ensure seamless operation, and it’s also a great way to avoid burnout. When you automate processes, you free up your employees to focus on more important tasks, all while freeing up your own time as well.
- Ramp up hiring. You can’t do everything yourself, and there might come a time when you need more help. Look at hiring seasonal or part-time employees to ensure daily operations are covered so you can focus on high-level management.
- Take up a hobby. Find a recreational activity you love, and build time into your schedule to enjoy it. Your hobby might be reading, perfecting a new craft, playing an instrument — anything unrelated to work.
- Get out of town. Or at least out of the office. In fact, 52% of entrepreneurs with peak summer businesses said they plan to take time off during the fall. Push through your busy months, then plan some time away to decompress and breathe before you start planning for next summer.
Take Your Summer Biz From Fizzle to Sizzle
Make your business hotter than the Fourth of July by following all these tips to plan, prepare, and navigate your way through the peak season and beyond. Once you strike the perfect balance between hiring the right talent, satisfying your customers, marketing your business, and practicing some entrepreneurial self-care, you’ll be on track to enjoying many successful summers to come.