Seasonal Businesses

What about owning a 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 pro’s

  • 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.
  • The off season provides time for rest, contemplation, leisure travel and activities, and to get re-acquainted with family and friends.
  • The off season provides time for meeting with industry peers, trade associations, suppliers, strategic partners, and travel to research potential business improvements.
  • The off season may allow the owner to escape unpleasant weather conditions.
  • Recruiting and training can be done in advance of the busy season when there is time to do it well.
  • Servicing and upgrades to systems and equipment can be done during the off season without time pressure.
  • Some people thrive on being the hare rather than the tortoise.

Owning a seasonal business: the cons

  • Start up at the beginning of the season requires working capital in excess of what a non-seasonal business would require.
  • Start up requires a significant expenditure of energy is a short period of time.
  • The resources allocated to the business are only earning a return during part of the year.
  • A system or machinery breakdown during the busy season is more costly and thus the risk is higher.
  • It is more difficult to retain good employees in a seasonal business.
  • 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.
  • The level of stress dealing with a flurry of activity during the season can be higher.

In the end it is a personal choice based upon the owner’s values and what he or she enjoys.

How about you? Have you operated a seasonal business? What did you like best about it?