Handling Seasonal Slowdowns

Ugh, those seasonal ups and downs! Take the holidays, for example. For some of you—trainers in particular—they usually mean heading into a seasonal slowdown. And for others—pet sitters and boarding facilities come to mind—they mean gearing up for a big ride. Then, after the holidays, trainers get the post-holiday calls as dog guardians decide that jumping on elderly aunts is a no-no and the Christmas puppies start to seem less cute. And sitters and boarding facilities face their own post-holiday slump.

Whenever your slowdown occurs, use the time productively to lessen the impact of the next one.

Market, market, market
The trick is to market consistently year-round. But if that hasn’t happened, use your unwanted free time to jump on it for next year. Choose marketing projects and begin working on them.

When things start to pick up, set aside time each week to continue your progress. It’s a mistake to let your marketing fall off when you’re flush with work—almost a guarantee that there will be a next slowdown.

Some seasonal slumps are predictable. For example, trainers should start marketing holiday-based services in the fall, around October. Offer private holiday prep packages or classes that focus on polite greeting of guests, going to your bed to stay while the ham is cooked and eaten, and counter surfing tips to avoid the turkey going to the dogs. Or perhaps board and train for that new Christmas puppy to get him out from underfoot during the holiday festivities.

Hit the reset button
A slow period is a great time to review and revise. Are your policies and procedures serving you as well as they should? Are your rates just right? And what about your schedule? Are you happy with how your time is being allotted? A periodic review of these things is part of keeping any business healthy.

Catch up
When you own a business there’s no such thing as being caught up; there’s always something to be done. But actually being behind—on paperwork, accounting, client and potential client follow-ups, cleaning and organizing, professional reading—causes stress, inefficiency, and lost revenue and opportunities.

It’s common to wish for time to get caught up when we’re busy. And though it’s far from ideal to get that time because of a slow business period, why not take advantage?

While things are quiet do some thinking about what you’re offering. Are there new or additional services, or improvements to existing ones, that might serve your clients better? Are there services that might even reduce the severity of your next slowdown?

For example, dog walkers in cold areas can reduce winter business losses by offering indoor activity services consisting of games and puzzle toys and work-to-eat programs. Pet sitters might add daily dog walking to create a steady, reliable source of income underneath the seasonal nature of sitting. Trainers might add convenient holiday and summer board-and-train or day-training programs.

In short, what can you do for clients to fill a need that’s not currently being met?

Enjoy some downtime
Yep. Take it while it’s there. Use your downtime productively, but give yourself permission to sneak off to the movies, too. You’ll be that much more ready to step into the fray when things get busy again.