Seasonal Businesses: Your Pace or Mine

What about owning a small business that only operates at certain times of the year-say a tour boat line in Canada?

I saw an article recently about owning a seasonal franchise and it prompted me to put together my own list of pros and cons to owning a seasonal business that buyers should be aware of.

Being the former owner of a tour boat line in Canada I have lived through them.

Owning a seasonal business: the pros

  1. During the off season the owner can work on business planning, marketing programs, operating systems and procedures, documentation, research and so on without the pressure of managing the day-to-day operations.
  2. The off season provides time for rest, contemplation, leisure travel and activities, and to get re-acquainted with family and friends.
  3. The off season provides time for meeting with industry peers, trade associations, suppliers, strategic partners, and for traveling to research potential business improvements.
  4. The off season may allow the owner to escape unpleasant weather conditions.
  5. Recruiting and training can be done in advance of the busy season when there is time to do it well.
  6. Servicing and upgrades to systems and equipment can be done during the off season without time pressure.
  7. Some people thrive on being the hare rather than the tortoise.

Owning a seasonal business: the cons

  1. Start up at the beginning of the season requires working capital in excess of what a non-seasonal business would require.
  2. Start up requires a significant expenditure of energy is a short period of time.
  3. The resources allocated to the business are only earning a return during part of the year.
  4. A system or machinery breakdown during the busy season is more costly and thus the risk is higher.
  5. It is more difficult to retain good employees in a seasonal business.
  6. The level of activity in a seasonal business must be much higher during the season to offset the slow or down time and so may require long hours and greater endurance from the owner.
  7. The level of stress dealing with a flurry of activity during the season can be higher.
  8. In the end it is a personal choice based upon the owner’s values and what he or she enjoys.
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Gregory Kells
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