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10 Steps to Prepping Your Small Business for the Winter Season

10 Steps to Prepping Your Small Business for the Winter Season

As the last days of summer fade into fall, many small business owners begin planning for the winter season. Outside of Black Friday and Christmas sales, winter can be a long, dreary time for many industries. Without a plan, you may not make the sales you’d like and may even fall victim to some of the potential winter weather pitfalls.

People didn’t expect to still be living in a quarantine environment as we move into the holiday season for 2021. How will winter impact the overall economy? The U.S. Census Bureau recently conducted their regular Pulse Survey to see where expectations lie.

When asked if the pandemic affected their business, 24.1% of owners said yes. Hardest hit sectors included the restaurant and travel industries and specific regions, such as New York, Louisiana and Illinois. However, preparing for the shift in how people shop and where they place their focus can help you prepare for more than just inclement weather this season.

How Do I Prepare My Business for Winter?

In order to fully prepare for the coldest season, you must take a step back and look at your business from a macro perspective. Not only do you need to prepare for potential winter disasters, but you also have to think through consumer behavior both in the past and as it might occur in the new economy we all face.

The best way to ensure you cover all your bases is to go through a series of steps. You won’t miss one thing in favor of another. Use the list below as a sort of checklist of steps to prep for winter.

Steps to Prep Your Small Biz for Winter

It doesn’t really matter what order you complete these steps in, but it does make more sense to start with the larger items, such as marketing plans and then work through to the smaller details.

1. Prep Work Vehicles

10 Steps to Prepping Your Small Business for the Winter Season

If you have a fleet of vehicles or just one delivery van, now is the time to prepare for winter. Simply keeping your vehicles in top shape can reduce expenses from costly repairs and extend the life of your equipment.

Clean and inspect the interior and exterior of each vehicle. Replace any worn parts, such as belts and brake pads. Are the tires safe for icy road conditions? Replace any batteries that are nearing the end of their life span.

Ensuring vehicles don’t break down or have fewer flat tires increases your technicians’ productivity. They won’t waste time waiting for a repair or a tow truck. Your customers will be happier when you arrive on time and your workers will be happy they aren’t wasting their day.

2. Check All Detectors

Although fires break out any time of year, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking your smoke alarms twice a year. If you plan to check them in winter and summer, you’ll always be assured batteries work and everything functions properly.

If you don’t have detectors in any areas, install them. You may also want to look into a sprinkler system that ties into your alarm and the ability to alert the local fire department automatically. A fire could break out while your business is empty and you want it put out as quickly as possible to minimize damage.

3. Call Your Insurance

Winter prep time is also a good time to call your insurance company and ensure your coverage is what you think it is. Do you have enough to cover damages should a sudden snow storm leave ice on your roof and subsequently cause a collapse?

Talk to your insurance agent about potential scenarios and make sure you have enough coverage to protect your inventory, employees and customers should the worst happen. An umbrella policy is an excellent idea to cover anything truly catastrophic.

You may also want to look into whether your insurance will reimburse you for time you’re forced to close and money lost. A couple weeks during the busy holiday season could be devastating to your business.

4. Set Inclement Weather Policies

10 Steps to Prepping Your Small Business for the Winter Season

Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/s9CC2SKySJM

Now is the time to figure out your inclement weather policies. If you live in a location where snowstorms occur, you may want to tag onto a local company and let your employees know whatever they do is what you’ll do.

For example, some brands follow what the local school district does. If the kids get a snow day, then employees get one, too. If you run a store selling essential products or food, closing your doors isn’t always feasible.

How will you handle employees who say they can’t make it in? Decide now what the policies are and then no one is shocked if they get written up when they truly could have arrived safely.

Always err on the side of caution with your policies. You don’t want to put a worker at risk on icy roads or encourage customers to come out when they should really stay at home.

Also, decide now how you’ll notify everyone. You could send a text alert to your workers if the store closes. You can notify customers the same way. You should also call local TV and radio stations to be added to their list of cancellations and early closings.

5. Plan Sales

As you near the end of summer or arrive in early fall, you may push away the thoughts of what you’ll put on special for Black Friday or Christmas. However, you really do need to plan ahead and make sure you know what your top offers might be.

Make sure you have enough inventory on hand to meet demand. Planning now also helps you get a jump start on marketing plans for winter.

Think about what specials might drive people to your store during the holidays. However, also think about how you’ll keep business coming in after the holiday rush. January and February are notoriously slow in some industries. How can you generate excitement, especially during a pandemic when people just want to stay at home.

6. Create a Marketing Calendar

Once you have an idea of the sales you’ll offer and the loss leaders to get people in after the holidays, spend some time coming up with a complete marketing calendar for the full winter.

Write out where you’ll advertise and post, what you’ll talk about and how it ties into specials. Will you run any viral campaigns or use any user generated content? Now is the time to give your fans the heads-up about upcoming events.

7. Create Content

Come up with a list of topics you want to cover that tie into the sales you have planned and the winter weather. For example, if you sell clothing, you might write a piece about stylish accessories for the year.

Come up with some unique topics your target audience will care about and schedule them for your blog or as guest posts on other blogs. Make sure you spread out your content so something goes up at least once a week or so throughout the season.

Obviously, you’ll schedule posts for the holidays first and then move into January and February posts.

8. Schedule Social Media Posts

Use your calendar and schedule social media posts ahead of time. According to Oberlo, there are around 3.78 billion social media users, signifying an increase of 5% in the past year.

If you want to drive traffic to your business, you must plan social media engagement ahead of time. Look back at the topics you’ve scheduled on your blog and use a third-party scheduler, such as HootSuite, Buffer or HubSpot to plan out your posts.

You will still need someone to respond to comments, but the work itself is set ahead and frees up your time during the holidays to focus on other stuff. Set it and forget it for the best engagement possible. Ask your users to share your posts and help spread the word.

9. Clear Out Old Inventory

10 Steps to Prepping Your Small Business for the Winter Season

Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/h1RW-NFtUyc

Each season, look at what hasn’t moved very well for your brand. What do you have a lot of that doesn’t seem to sell? Offer specials and clearance on these items to get them out of your warehouse and make room for more popular items.

Get in the habit of at least making your money back on slow-moving items and make way for what flies off the shelves. Not every product you offer will be a hit. Find out what is and buy more of that.

10. Buy Salt and Signs

When winter weather hits, if you don’t already have the supplies you need, you may have a hard time finding them. For example, there was a shortage of road and sidewalk salt last year. Buy yours now so you have enough to get through the season and keep your employees and customers safe as they enter and exit your business.

You should also get a contract with a local snow removal company if it’s your responsibility to maintain a parking lot or sidewalks. You want excess snow removed as quickly as possible so you can reopen your doors and keep revenue flowing.

When Should You Prep Your Small Business for Winter?

It is never too early to start planning for the next season. Remember how busy you get between Black Friday and New Year’s Day. You’ll have more customers to juggle, things to ship and sales to track. It’s best to get your planning done well before the holiday season hits.

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