It can be quite the hassle as a seasonable business. No matter how well you plan the year, you always seem to be struggling a while after the profitable season ends. Cash flow is somehow always a problem, but it's not impossible to manage. Sure, it'll take some effort and organization on your part, but it's nothing that a dedicated business owner can't handle.
There are a number of seasonal businesses, from farming to tourism and all the way to event planning. Although the nature of these trades is different, managing cash flow will be similar because of their seasonal characteristic. Here is what you have to do.
Know Your Seasons
You may think this is basic knowledge for any seasonal business owner. However, in a majority of cases, business owners horribly overestimate their peak season. Moreover, they underestimate the costs of operating during off-seasons. When you know the exact timings of your season, you're able to derive accurate conclusions that set apart fact from fiction.
If you run a new business, you'll have to start taking detailed notes from year one. Conduct research based on other seasonal companies but if you're established, it's time to bring out the records. Once you figure out your business' periods of maximum revenue and expenditure and vice versa, you can plan on a forecasting strategy.
Forecast Your Business
By forecasting your cash flow throughout the year, you're able to evaluate how much funding you have, in response to the costs. You should analyze your records to form a plan with regard to spending and sales, and how much cash flow you can retain after peak season.
You should form an analysis of sales and spending forecasts based on the factors that drive it. This includes product lines, channels, and units. Then, you should check whether your evaluation matches the accounting records.
When you're forecasting cash flow for your business, ensure that it manages any references to sales on account, inventory management, asset replenishment and repayment of debts, which are sensitive to cash flow. When you keep track of all these things together, you won't have to think about why unknown costs keep popping up despite the effort.
Maintain Forecasts with Concentration and Money
Making a record of forecasts once isn't enough and never will be. The market and economy can shift within a second, so you must not fail to keep the changes reviewed and revised. This theory of development ensures that you know what's happening, so you can adopt a new strategy next time.
Know the Expected Expenses
In a business, there are always some recurring expenses that remain fairly constant over time. You should account for these so that you can accurately forecast expenses during off-peak seasons. These costs include the price of utilities and rent but some that won't come to mind. To know those, you'll need to break into the account books.
In the end, you'll be left with a somewhat expected figure as to how much you'll have to pay in quarterly taxes and business insurance premiums. You should add these to your forecast because planning for them will be helpful during seasons with low business.
Sometimes, it's enough to simply know when your business becomes vulnerable. Even if you can't manage things yourself, you can still ask for some help. Instead of worrying about what terrors the off-season can bring to your business, think about what you can do to calmly face the inevitable. Surely, you'll run out of capital no matter how well you manage cash flow so what does one do? You take a loan.
Think of it this way, taking an emergency loan just days before making your employees' payroll will be very different from applying for a bridge loan months before off-season starts. For starters, you'll get a good interest rate, and you'll develop a good relationship with the bank.
A misconception is that well-run seasonal businesses shouldn't need loans to generate cash flow during the off-season but this isn't true. It's much more achievable for a seasonal business to anticipate extra costs beforehand and take a special loan as one sees fit. Investors and bankers will show a positive response to good planning and anticipation so you shouldn't forget to tell them about your business' seasonality.
Restructure Some Expenses
As a seasonal business, you'll need to pull some strings here and there to make sure that you get through coffee with espresso the rest of the year until you're back in peak season. One of the things you can do is to structure certain expenses in a way that they match the revenue you have in the current season.
For instance, if you make handcrafted products and deal with vendors for materials, you can form an agreement with them so they demand bigger payments in peak season while making off-season payments smaller.