5 Tips for Getting Ready for your Busy Business Season
Here in Western New York, our “busy” indoor playground season typically starts in November and stretches through May.
That means that we are handling an increased volume of open-play customers but also an increase in birthday parties, events, classes, etc.. With the frigid weather, parents of small children are usually looking for as many indoor recreation options as possible.
While your business will naturally get busier during whatever your area’s typical “indoor play” season is, taking a few crucial steps before the busy season comes will prove instrumental in making sure you find success.
Because while profit is important— it’s not the only thing.
If your birthday parties increase by 200% in your busy months but your customer satisfaction is decreasing and you are finding yourself dealing with tons of complaints (which can also bring on a decrease in employee morale) then your business might not be able to sustain itself until the NEXT busy season— because your customer base has been “turned off” and may seek out your competitors as their “go to” hang-out.
Doing these 5 things BEFORE you find yourself in the thick of your busy season can prevent overwhelm and issues that often arise during this time. Do you have anything to add? Feel free to leave a comment!
1. Make any Repairs and Schedule Deep Cleans
During our busy winter months, we often extend our hours and increase our classes and events due to the increase in demand for indoor options for children.
This is great for revenue and for employees looking for more hours ahead of the holidays, but it can make scheduling maintenance difficult.
I, therefore, recommend completing any repairs or major deep cleans BEFORE your extended hours go into effect, or else you may be forced to pay extra fees for evening or weekend work or any work that needs to be rushed.
You will, of course, need to keep up with repairs and cleans during your busy months, but having as much scheduled in advance as possible will definitely help as you put together your calendar and will help YOU from feeling constantly overwhelmed trying to coordinate with different appointments and vendors.
2. Refresh your Employee Training
It is easy during slower months for employees to become much more “lax” with certain procedures and tasks, because they can find themselves with more time and more freedom to complete their tasks during their workday.
However, before the busy season hits is essential to make sure everyone is aware of your procedures so that everything still gets accomplished (up to standard!) even if there is less “down” time.
For example, if your team (during slower months) always wait until bathroom supplies run out to change them instead of checking them each morning and throughout the day— you may want to revisit your procedure.
When there is a line of customers and drink orders to fill, the last thing you want is a team member being pulled away— making customers wait— to do tasks like refilling napkins, sanitizer, or bathroom supplies.
Having set days and times to fill these, or times to “check” they are filled and top them off if needed will help keep your customers from having to wait and will keep your staff from running around like crazy people.
Another example is having an ordering schedule.
During our slow season we have the luxury of placing food and grocery orders “as needed” because it’s OK if we have to wait a few days for things to come in.
During our busy season, however, if we do not have a set orderding schedule (Mondays for groceries, Tuesdays for cleaning supplies, Wednesdays for cleaning products, Thursdays for party supplies, Friday for coffee supplies etc.) it is very easy for things to fall through the cracks and for you to run out of crucial supplies.
When you are busy and run out of items you will feel the impact much more than if you are in your slow season— so DON’T let yourself get behind!
3. Prepare and Automate your Marketing Strategy
One of the first things small business owners push to the side when they are feeling very busy is marketing strategy. They think, “well, I have more customers than I can handle right now— why advertise?”. However, for indoor playgrounds in particular, it’s crucial to stay top-of-mind during these times in order to continue to amplify sales.
For example, even if you are near capacity every day for open-play, there are still parents and grandparents (and aunts, uncles, cousins etc!) who are looking for birthday or holiday gift options, likely to be used throughout your less-busy months.
While keeping up with email marketing and social media marketing can seem tedious when you are feeling overwhelmed by demand, it is important for long-term sustainability.
My suggestion to small business owners it to develop a solid posting strategy and schedule BEFORE the busy season is in full swing, and to automate or delegate as much as possible.
For example, if you are feeling like you can’t keep up with Facebook and Instagram posts, use a scheduling tool such as Later of Buffer or Hootsuite and sit down and plan out and schedule your posts monthly.
It takes me about 1 hour to schedule a month’s worth of social media content. I typically schedule 3-5 Facebook posts per week and 3-5 Instagram posts per week. This leaves me with a few days with nothing scheduled where I can either do a live video instead or do a post “on the fly” or if I want to share pictures of an event or party or class we are doing that day.
Batching my social media posts for the month saves me a lot of time because I can get “into the zone” and get all of the pictures and captions written quickly, rather than having to open up social media every single day and find a picture AND dream up a caption.
This seems so simple but it takes a HUGE amount of mental strain off of your plate to not have to worry every single day about getting a post out there. It also frees up your time to answer comments and questions and engage with your audience!
I also take a look at our event calendar for the month ahead of time and schedule reminder emails to my list to purchase tickets for the events coming up that week (if they are not sold out). Not having to worry about the events selling out (thanks to social media + email marketing) is also a huge mental strain I can kick to the curb.
Again, this seems simple. But once you get it done and allow yourself to “forget” about these tasks for a month— you realize how much space these things were taking up in your brain!
4. Organize your Physical Space
One of the most important tasks on my list as I prepare for our busy season is to de-clutter all of our cabinets and drawers and organize our office and storage space. Not only do I usually find tons of party and event supplies that got buried in the clutter— but it helps us save a great deal of time having to sort and sift through things.
When we have 6 parties every weekend, set-up and clean up needs to be as streamlined as possible.
TIP: We use command hooks to organize birthday banners to keep them in-view and detangled. We also have a all of our shelves in every cabinet labeled with what is to go there so that people know they can NOT just shove things in there without regard and close the door.
This organization feels AMAZING every year. We’ve even ordered pizza before and made it a “team bonding” activity! Just get it done and you will find yourself feeling much more calm as you handle the increased volume in your business.
5. Create or Find a Support Network
Something that comes in very handy during crazy months is a network of support that I can call. What I mean by this is friends, family, and neighbors who can help me with either childcare or cafe related needs should an emergency come up.
Since our busy season happens to be in the winter and coincides with cold & flu season— we get a LOT of “call-ins” due to illness during that time. It’s not something you can avoid— so it’s best to prepare as best you can.
It’s not always financially possible to hire a ton of additional staff members (plus it’s not really fair to them if they are expecting consistent hours and you can’t offer them) so having a network of people you can call for last-minute favors will take a lot of worry and stress off your plate as the business owner.
I pay these temporary employees as 1099 contractors so that it’s still “on the books” and can be listed as a business expense come tax time.
There are SO many ways to prepare your business for a busy season— but if you complete these 5 steps thoroughly and thoughtfully you will be well on your way to a happy and healthy (physically, mentally, and financially!) busy season ahead!
Have a question or something to add? Feel free to leave a comment!