Like many contracting companies The Brothers that just do Gutters aren’t immune to winters onset of slow business. However, over the past few years we’ve managed to survive this brutal season by making a few changes to the quintessential contracting business model. Businesses and financial advisors are always amazed at our progress, asking us how we do it, so we’ve finally decided to share a few of our secrets. The trick is to take advantage of your off season. Most contractors turn off their business and turn off their brain. They’ll go away for a few months during slow season and come back when it gets busy again, never changing anything in their business. The slow season is an awesome opportunity to meet with your staff. Take the time to look at everything that went well, everything that went wrong and what you can do better. Basically it’s our Year in Review. We take an exorbitant amount of time to plan for the upcoming year. We write a new vision statement, and adjust our goals to mirror our company progress.
Use this time to make financial projections. This is when doing the numbers and doing the math are highly important. I cannot stress this enough. In this industry it’s about knowing your company numbers. Ask yourself, when do we generate the most revenue, and when does revenue start to decline? Look back on past years and do the math to figure out future goals. Make major business decisions and connect with employees. It’s the only time during the year where you have enough time to truly work on your business. Make a plan during your slow season and it will set the tone for the rest of the year.
A great way to draw up work at little to no cost is to reconnect with existing clients. Your biggest market tends to be people that have already used your business because they typically know you, like you, and trust you. This is great for businesses that offer multiple services, like remodelers. If your client asked you to remodel their bathroom in the summer, maybe they need someone to fix their cabinets in the winter.
This tactic can be a little bit tougher for niche businesses. For instance, not too many people are going to sign up for awnings during the winter. To combat this, do your numbers and come up with a good deal. Have an “inventory reduction sale” and reconnect with people you met at a home show. Start with existing clientele and then go back to estimates you didn’t get. In our line of work we find that most of the estimates we didn’t get weren’t because the client went with another company, but because something else came up. For instance, maybe the client wanted their gutters cleaned, but then their boiler blew taking precedent over the gutters.
Lastly, be honest. Let your clients know this is a seasonal business. Tell them you’re willing to do the work at said price for this month only. Don’t feel pressured by your client because you need the work. Do the math and see if offering a discount is actually profitable for your business. The last thing you want is to work at a discounted rate only to find out you’re losing money.
As with any business, networking is a major tool for business growth. If you haven’t already, join your local chamber of commerce and business networks. Involvement in these groups can be a great tool to gaining business referrals. Use the off-season to really get involved in the community. For most remodelers their slow season overlaps with the holiday season. Use this time to get involved in a local charity. Put a familiar face to your business by attending as many events as possible. Overall know your business. Sometimes business owners will take up a new career during their low season, such as snow removal. This is fine, however it’s best to capitalize on your busy season so you don’t go into your slow season poor. The trick is to know your numbers and charge the right price so you can float through the winter without having to change your business.
So here’s a quick recap:
- Plan, Plan, Plan
- Do The Math & Know Your Numbers