For many small businesses, summertime presents a major challenge. Regular customers have other priorities -- kids are not in school, vacations disrupt day-to-day schedules, and summer activities like trips to the beach or pool take up much of the remaining time.
That can lead to big slowdowns for small businesses. Ideally, you've already budgeted for that, but there are things you can do to both increase business and set your company up well for the rest of the year. These ideas won't turn the summer into the holiday season, but they're still smart moves to make.
1. Lean into it
If things are going to be slow, use the summer months to take care of business. This is the perfect opportunity to make major changes, revamp your physical location, and work on fine-tuning marketing efforts for your busier season.
This is also a period when you should encourage your staff to take time off. If you had a really good year, consider shutting down for a week or having a rolling shutdown where you operate with a skeleton crew to offer your team some extra time off this summer.
2. Fill seasonal needs
When I ran a giant toy store, we boosted summer business by running half-day events where parents could leave their children with us. We hired a school teacher who led art classes, model building, and Lego events, giving parents a necessary break during the long summer.
Your business may not have such an obvious fit, but look at what the market needs and try to deliver it. Be clever by trying new things at a time of year when it's less risky to experiment.
3. Build up to an event
At the toy store, we held a summer sidewalk sale coupled with a customer appreciation barbecue. It was a fun event that felt appropriate for summer. It drew a pretty big crowd and our only promotions about the event were to our email and social media list.
Understand that your business may not command your customers' attention all summer, but that doesn't mean they don't like you. Don't try to take a lot of their time. Instead, find a way to remain connected and drive some business during summer months when people often have other things on their mind.
If you know you're not going to be as busy as usual, take some chances. Try out new ideas -- if they fail, it won't be that big a deal. This is a season to put in the work to grow your business for the rest of the year. That can mean a lot of things. Attend community events to raise awareness of your existence, or focus on building a bigger social media presence.
Whatever you do, focus on longer-term goals. You may not be able to make huge gains during the summer, but you might be able to set yourself up to make them once the season changes to fall.