Canadian summers are glorious but brief. For small businesses that only operate during the warmer months, preparing to close up shop as the weather turns and the temperature drops require careful planning.

However, ensuring your property is prepared for old man winter and your valuable contents and inventory are safely stored is vital. After all, unexpected damage and loss can happen at any time. 

Here are 10 ways to prepare your small business to close for the winter and avoid costly damages:

Tips for closing a small business for the winter

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1. Create a closing checklist

Develop a comprehensive checklist that outlines all the tasks needed to close your business properly. Consider your company’s building and winterize it against damages from the harsh winter weather. 

For instance, disconnect and drain outside garden hoses, close the shut-off valves that allow water to travel to an outdoor faucet and drain the line. Also, keep the thermostat consistently set to the same temperature during the day and at night. It’s also worthwhile to hire a roofing contractor to check your building’s roof for loose or missing shingles to prevent high winds and heavy snow from damaging it further and leading to interior leaks.

2. Prevent the risk of slip-and-fall accidents

Hire a snow removal contractor to keep your business’s driveway, walkways, and parking lot free of snow and ice to prevent anyone who steps onto your property from falling and suffering an injury. Even in the off-season, you’re responsible for third-party bodily injuries to people on your premises.

3. Deter theft and vandalism

Thieves and vandals operate year-round; long winter nights give them perfect cover. Install a monitored security surveillance system and adequate lighting that operates 24/7, and remove any valuables from display windows or inside the building and secure them elsewhere. Frequently visit the property for signs of a break-in (and to check on the general condition of your store, office, or warehouse).

4. Relocate outdoor materials and equipment

Think of the materials and equipment you typically have outdoors on your property. The extreme cold and icy conditions could damage them. Relocate them to a secured heated warehouse or garage, and ensure the facility has automated fire protection. Likewise, park your business vehicles in a secure garage with video surveillance.

5. Minimize off-season expenses

Analyze your business’s expenses and look for ways to trim unnecessary expenses in the off-season. Avoid making short-term decisions and stay focused on long-term goals with your money. Don’t spend money you don’t have or hope to earn later. You can also leverage a line of credit in the off-season if required, but be prepared to pay it down once revenue flows back into your pocket.

6. Maximize your business’s cash flow

Maintaining a healthy cash flow is critical for your small business, doubly for a seasonal business. The key in this scenario is to allocate a portion of your revenue earned during the peak season to a reserve fund. Keep at least two months’ worth of business expenses in your bank account to pay utility bills and support marketing initiatives. Working with a professional accountant or bookkeeper can make this task easier.

7. Continue to engage customers year-round

Although your business may be closed for a few months in the wintertime, you will re-open again, and keeping your customers and prospects engaged in the off-season is like planting seeds for growth when you do. Therefore, don’t let them forget you by cultivating those relationships throughout the year. Create a customer email list and send monthly newsletters year-round. Use email and social media to stay on their radar and to send them special offers or ‘welcome back’ discounts on your products and services when you re-open.

8. Offer off-season discounts

If you close your physical store or location for the winter, or your business slows down during wintertime, but continue to sell products online throughout the year, give customers and prospects discounts or special offers to incentivize them to buy your goods during your off-season or make reservations for your services for when you’re up and running again. 

Also, consider partnering with other local small businesses that are also seasonal. For example, by teaming up with a business that is open when you’re closed and vice-versa and offering coupons to both companies’ customers, you can help each other drive future sales.

9. Optimize your downtime

Plan for when your peak season arrives, and you’re ready to open for business. Use off-season times to spruce up your property or make renovations, repair equipment, and conduct routine maintenance on your building to identify and fix minor issues from becoming severe problems later. 

It’s also an excellent time to plan for the inventory you’ll need and stock up before opening day so you’re ready to roll. Furthermore, use the downtime to sharpen your skills by taking business administration courses or attending industry-related workshops.

10. Review your business insurance policy

Speak to a licensed insurance broker about your existing policy and ask them to review it. Ensure you have adequate, year-round coverage that accounts for the risks you face during the peak season and off-season. If your commercial property will be vacant for more than 30 days, it’s worthwhile to consider adding vacant property insurance to your overall policy.

Getting Liability Insurance for All Four Seasons

Even seasonal businesses need year-round protection against damage and loss. Fires, water damage, the impacts of severe weather, and the risk of theft or vandalism can upend your finances without warning at any time of the year. A business liability insurance policy from Zensurance customized to suit your specific requirements can shelter you from these unexpected expenses.

Fill out our online application for a free quote. Our knowledgeable brokers can quickly get the low-cost insurance your business needs from one of over 50 insurance providers in our partner network and advise you on what coverages your policy should have.

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About the Author: Jon Hogg

Jon Hogg is the Senior Team Lead, Renewals, at Zensurance.