Or, it can turn into a nightmare rather easily if the machine has not been oiled through careful preparation in the run-up to the season.
Arnold February, regional investment manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), provides the following tips on getting ready for the peak season:
Know the numbers:
Is it going to be a bumper peak season, or a slow one? You can never really know. But what you can and must know are the intricate details of your business and its performance. Once you know the key indicators of your business health - your budget parameters, your breakeven point and your vulnerabilities to things that might suddenly change - then you are in a much better position to take advantage at whatever the season might throw your way, good or bad.
Oil those cogs:
Zoom in on your business’s vulnerabilities and constraints and work on improving them. If you can recognise a weakness in your business while things are still slow, you can be sure that it will turn into a full-blown crisis when things get busy. Staff issues, process bottlenecks and infrastructure and facility issues must be sorted out while you still have time.
Improve your own performance:
Have a careful look at your own performance, and ask yourself if you are working optimally. Are you in danger of getting bogged down by processes that you can actually delegate? In owner-managed businesses the owner must often jump in to do all sorts of jobs when things go wrong or when a sudden opportunity arises. For example, a restaurant owner must be prepared to wait on a table every now and then. The danger is when it becomes a habit rather than an exception. While things are still slow, think of every task that you do in a normal day. Will you still have time to do it when things start pumping? If not, start delegating it to your employees
Set this simple goal:
When things threaten to become overwhelming during in the peak season, it can be handy to have this one simple goal: try to increase your gross profit by only 1%. Depending on your business, it can improve your profitability by as much as 10%. Of course, in order to set this as an effective goal, you need to know your direct costs and your current gross-profit percentages, which in itself will strengthen your ability to manage your business well.
Reach out to the broader industry:
Most businesses, but especially tourism businesses, operate in tandem with complementary businesses. A guest house, for example, is to a certain extent dependent upon tour operators that bring the season’s tourists to the region. Tourism businesses that are well plugged in to their industry are much better able to position themselves to take advantage of the peak season. They are even able to benefit from a referral fee if they send overflow demand to their direct competitors. Use the quiet times to strengthen your connections to other businesses in your industry.
Prepare your staff:
Ramping up most probably means that you will be taking on extra staff members. It is very risky to leave it to the last minute. It is not only a matter of making sure that your seasonal staff are technically trained for the job. You also want to make sure that they share the same values and approach to the job as you. You need to spend some time testing them for both competency and attitude. If you have any doubts about a prospective seasonal employee, find someone else before the busy season.
Prepare your suppliers:
Everyone gets busy during the busy season, including your suppliers. If you leave your orders to the last minute, chances are that your suppliers will not be able to supply you in time. Get your orders in well in time, and cultivate relationships with alternative suppliers in case you need to place emergency last-minute orders.
Make a plan B:
Have a plan ready in case the peak season turns out to be a slow one. For example, a tourism company can be ready to offer a discounted package to locals if the seasonal influx of tourists turns out to be disappointing. Once again, you need to know the numbers of your business well in order to offer effective discounts that won’t hurt your business.
Think of the next season:
For some reason the owners of strongly seasonal businesses tend to neglect the possibilities of repeat business, perhaps because the next peak season is so far in the future. A conscious effort to ask your clients directly to consider coming back next season can prove very fruitful.