Make the Most of the Off-Season

It's easy to kick back when business slows down for the season. Put your time to better use, and make the next busy season your best yet.

Make the Most of the Off-Season

When the fall finally rolls around, I am thrilled. Not just because I really love candy corn and pumpkin spice lattes, but also because I am so ready for the busy season to be behind us. Don’t get me wrong; I love to be busy. A great weekend in my books is an almost empty storage yard and all of my drivers hating me for the ridiculous work I have lined up for them. 

But as the weather gets cooler, I am ready for the pace to slow down a little. For one, I want to get back to a state of being proactive versus reactive. During the season, it seems like we are always putting out fires. The weather is hot, so an older truck breaks down, which leads to a whole day’s deliveries being way behind schedule. Now you are running around, moving deliveries to other drivers who are already working with a full roster. This is a reactive state if I have ever seen one!

In the fall, the workload is lighter, so we can plan better. We can take an older truck off the road and assess whether it is worth saving or if it is time to scrap it, before it can destroy my carefully planned Friday deliveries.

I also have time to really sit with my staff and go over their workload. We can decide if certain customers or contracts need to be rearranged, we can talk through their work process, and we can decide if they need some additional training to put them in a better position for next season. It is really hard to work without feedback, but the busy season doesn’t really allow for it. A slower pace means each employee can have more face time, which is really important, especially in a small office.

Colder weather also means that the routes get smaller and more manageable. This is a great opportunity for route optimization and for a little bit of a route shuffle. Maybe a certain city or county would be better served by a different division of the company. A few years ago, we reassigned Staten Island, New York, to our New Jersey division. The tolls from the Bronx are a lot more expensive than the tolls from New Jersey so this was a win-win for everyone. 

I also love this time of year to start planning my next season. All year long, I keep a list of events we lost or didn’t know about. I also include counties that haven’t gone out to bid recently or construction companies that we haven’t worked with in a few years. Then I hand out these “leads” to my staff and tell them to go after them for the next year. The thrill of trying to win a new job is the perfect thing to carry you through the winter slump.

Lastly, take a good solid look at all of your processes and procedures. What seemed great in April may be really cumbersome by October. Can you remove a step? Is there a way the paperwork can be handled by one less person? If you fine-tune your processes all winter, they should be working well in the spring and automatic by the time the season really ramps up in June. 

I used to hate how things slowed to a crawl in the winter. But now I really relish a chance to take a breath, clean up and plan for the next season. What is your favorite winter project?

About the author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.


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