When a contractor’s busy season starts winding down, there’s a lot to look forward to. Hopefully you’ll be able to have some rest and relaxation. Even if you can’t take an extended holiday or vacation, at least it won’t be as stressful as the past several months, right?
We’ve talked elsewhere about what you can do over the winter to get ready for the spring thaw and the upswing in projects. But even before that, there are steps you can take at the end of the busy season that will make it easier to start up again next spring.
Of course, we’re making a couple of assumptions here. First, we’re talking about winter as your slow season. If you’re in a field where you’re busy during winter but slow down in summer, just reverse the seasons as you read. Also, we’re taking it for granted that you have a true slow season. Not everyone does, of course. If you don’t, these tips are still helpful but you might not be able to concentrate them into a single small period.
Let’s look at some ways to slow down at the end of the busy period and leave everything in place for the next season.
Inventory And Inspection
As summer turns to fall and you have fewer projects to do, you’ll start getting ready to store your tools and supplies. This is a perfect opportunity to take stock of what equipment you have. It can also help you evaluate what you may need to replace or buy more of for next year.
We recommend doing inventory at the end of the season because it’s easier to have everything in one place and get an accurate count. It also lets you see how your tools have held up to the wear and tear of a full cycle.
There’s nothing worse than opening up shop again and trying to kick into high gear only to discover you’re short on tools and materials! It could also slip your mind that a blade was broken or a shovel handle cracked. Better to take care of it right away while it’s fresh on your mind!
Of course, before you store everything, you should make sure your storage area is cleaned up, too.
Whether you use a shed, a garage, or even a warehouse, this is a great opportunity for general cleaning. You’ll shortly be returning your trucks, tools, and everything else to their rest spots. Before that, you can make sure it’s well-organized and looks great.
Of course, that also means you can get all the tools and supplies cleaned up, too. Of course, you’ve been doing that regularly all season long. But you can take a more leisurely approach to it now. It’s also good to apply any treatment to them now, such as oiling tools.
Yes, dust will accumulate over winter, too. But storing everything in good shape will help lengthen its lifetime. It also means that the spring cleanup will be less demanding.
Doing inventory will let you know if you need to make additions or replacements. This can be a good time to check prices, too. Many vendors will be shifting inventory and looking to unload tools more cheaply so they have room for winter items.
If you can purchase other materials ahead of time and have room to store them, the same can apply. You’ll be ready to roll when there’s more work to do and you may even find better prices since demand is low.
It’s also a great time to take your work vehicles in for maintenance. You should have them looked over in spring, too. But getting any major work done now will help prevent delays when you need them most.
You’ll likely be emptying them of equipment anyway, and you won’t need them nearly as much.It’s an ideal time to schedule an appointment with your mechanic for a thorough inspection and get repairs done.
Of course, get them cleaned, too! It’ll have to be done again in spring, but at least you’ll get rid of the dirt and grime from all the job sites.
Organize Paperwork, Billing, and Taxes
This, of course, is much easier if you’ve stayed organized all year long. But it’s a must to get everything in order now. Make sure any license renewals are taken care of. Follow up on any late payments from clients. And get everything filed in its proper place!
You’ll still have paperwork to do over the winter, especially taxes. Those never seem to go away. But there’s nothing worse than having to come back to the office and scramble to find everything. Deadlines may still seem a long way away, but it’s the perfect time to prepare!
Set Up A Winter Marketing Plan
Even though it’s the offseason, you can still get your name out there. That’s especially true on social media and your website.
You can use this time to review the progress that’s been made so far. How many messages have you received through these channels? What seems to be working, and what doesn’t? Tools like Google Analytics can take some time to learn but are great at showing you how many people visit your site and what they do while there. Do they look around or are they leaving right away? What pages do they leave from? This can help you identify problem areas on the site. From there, you can work with your web designer to make adjustments.
You should also maintain an ongoing social media presence, even if it’s cut down a little bit. Still, a few publications a week is important to maintain awareness and some interaction. The visibility of your posts depends, in part, on the level of interaction your account receives. If you go all winter without posting, there will be few interactions. That makes it difficult to recover after a period of idleness.
You can use tools like Buffer or Hootsuite that let you schedule posts ahead of time. You can use these to set up a long-range plan. Re-use blogs or photos and share articles from other sources, too. Be sure to post greetings for the holidays as well!
Don’t leave these completely on autopilot, though. Continue to be on the lookout for incoming messages or reviews. If you aren’t comfortable with the tools, you can hire a social media manager or SEO specialist to assist you.
We all look forward to some downtime. Getting everything organized first will help you relax and create a smoother start for next year. You’ll save time and work more efficiently, and that means higher profits! Enjoy your slow time but don’t let all the work sit for when you come back.