At the Okoboji Expedition Company in Okoboji, IA, summer is their peak season.
Owner Taylor Huseman and his staff are incredibly busy renting, selling, and repairing bikes (and kayaks too!) to the influx of visitors that come to take advantage of the miles of trails and lakes in the Iowa Great Lakes region.
Running a seasonal business, Taylor knows that when the summer population swells, he has to make the most of it. And like many seasonal business owners, he’s had to find a way to transition to the off season when things slow down considerably.
He shared with us a few of the things he’s learned:
Tips for the Peak of Business
1. If it’s not in stock, it won’t sell.
Taylor has seen that he sells more bikes when he has them in stock, and by having inventory on hand, he’s been able to increase his sales.
“My philosophy for this year was, if we don’t have it in stock, we’re not going to sell it. If you’re coming to look at a bike, you want to leave with a bike. You don’t want to tell customers, ‘We have to order that.’ Having the bikes in the store so that people can actually see them vs. just saying we can get them was a game changer. They come in, we have that bike, they leave with it that day.”
2. Add staff and train them well.
Taylor staffs up hiring four or five extra people for the summer, which he starts planning for in March.
“We make sure that the person who buys the $500 bike gets treated the same way as the person who spends $10,000 on a bike. We make sure our customers get the service that they really need and that makes us stand out because we compete with some of the larger shops in the city.”
3. Make every customer feel welcome.
Even when the store is busy, Taylor makes sure his team has a laser focus for customer experience.
“When we’re busy, we focus on making sure that every customer is addressed as soon as they walk in the door. That’s the biggest thing. As long as you do that, a customer will feel like they’re welcome, instead of feeling like ‘they’re not paying attention to me.'”
Tips for the Slow Down
4. Use downtime to analyze what you can do better.
When the store is slower, the staff has more time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work the previous season.
“In the winter, it’s our break so we can sit back and analyze ‘What can we do better?’ Whether that’s service, rearranging how the store looks, or how we can operate more efficiently.”
5. Get involved in your community.
Taylor and his team invest time into building relationships in their community which in turn gets the word out about their business.
“We pair up with the schools, and we do a cycling program there. I teach spin class at the YMCA. I coach track. We get involved with whatever people do normally around here and then try to include cycling in some way, shape, or form. I will not pay for advertising. I make people write about us. Whether it’s about biking, events we’re hosting, or things that we’re doing in the area to help.”
6. Keep learning and adapting to grow.
Having the time to plan for the next peak season has allowed the Okoboji Expedition Company to adapt and grow.
“It’s a learning process. Not ‘I wish I would have known that,’ but more like, “Okay, what did I learn? What do I do to adapt and grow from it? What do I need to fix it?'”
To run a successful seasonal business, Taylor has used a strategy that is two-fold: make the most of the busy season by increasing inventory and staff, and use time in the off-season to analyze how the business can improve and get its name out to the community.
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