Snow Days: Handling Business in a Winter Wonderland


Snow Days: Making the Most of Winter WeatherThe first major snowstorm of the season hit the northeast, bringing with it traffic delays, school closings, and snow removal blues. For business owners, snow days can have a devastating impact on their business, depending on your industry (if you run a ski lodge or have a snow removal business, you’re probably ecstatic right now). If you own a business where winter storms mess with the natural flow of things, what can you do to make the most of a bad situation? Take a lesson from your local mail carrier.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Mail Carrier

Are you willing to work as hard as a mail carrier to get what you want?

Those words, which appear above the New York City Post Office on 8th   Avenue, are mistakenly thought to be the Postal “Motto.” They’re actually from Book 8, Paragraph 98 of the Persian Wars by Herodotus, yet the well personify the dedication of mail carriers to completing their assigned routes and making sure we get our mail. Basically, for a postal carrier, weather is no problem. What does all this have to do with your business? Something Rafael Diaz, a manager with whom I worked and admired for his no-nonsense, real-life business sense, related always stuck with me. He said his father told him ‘If you’re not willing to do what a postman does, you can’t expect to earn what he does either.’ According to payscale.com, a postal carrier earns $35,000 – $60,000 (approximately). Therefore, if you want to earn at least that much, you must put in at least the same level of work – which means getting down to business when the weather outside is frightful.

Here’s the bottom line: You can’t let snow (or rain, heat, and gloom of night) slow you down. However, although you still have to work hard, nothing says you can’t work smart at the same time.

Making the Most of Bad Weather

How you handle bad weather has a lot to do with your industry. For some people, they have to be out in the cold. What can help in that situation?

When You HAVE to Go Out

First, make sure your attitude is correct. I remember an interview T.J. Hoisington conducted with Hap Klopp, the founder of The North Face Company, and their CEO for some 20 years. He quoted a Swedish saying that’s so appropriate: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” Instead of hating the weather (which is pointless since your feelings won’t change a thing) dress for it. Invest in clothing that will keep you as warm as possible. Then focus on the positives. If you don’t like the weather, it’s a good bet anyone else that has to be out in it feels the same. That means you’ll likely have less competition, or competitors with a bad attitude. Either way, that makes you a breath of fresh air when you call on customers and prospects. When doing outside sales some years ago, I visited a business in a rainstorm that had so much wind the rain was almost hitting you horizontally. When I walked through the door the owner looked up and, with an amazed look on his face, asked “what are you doing out in this weather?!” I smiled at him and said, “Why, I came here looking for you!” It was true; I was happy to find anyone on a day like that because there were fewer customers in the store and fewer salesmen vying for the owner’s attention. It was a great opportunity to sit, talk, and build rapport. And yes, I did make the sale.

Additionally, look at your options. Even if you’re in a blue-collar industry like plumbing, electrical, and the like, you may be able to put off certain calls for another day and devote the coldest days for paperwork (come on, you know you put that stuff off for as long as possible). You can also use the time for connecting with customers. A few phone calls go a long way towards building relationships and may yield unexpected results in the forms of referral business. Whether or not you net any leads, however, time spent connecting with customers is time well spent, so use days with difficult weather conditions wisely by extending that personal touch.

When Work Keeps You In

Some businesses don’t require that you leave a building. In those cases, customers come to you, or you provide services within a confined space. Weather may not slow you down personally apart from traveling to the physical location. Nevertheless, it may have an effect on your business. For example, this article by Jonathan Graham appearing on the Boston Herald website shows how cold weather affected auto sales across the nation in December 2013. Dealing with customer patterns in cold weather is tricky. Here are some suggestions on bringing in new business during the cold.

In an article on attracting customers in January, the folks at Myron.com went back to tried and true methods: Sales & Promotions. They suggest the following:

  • Turn returns into chances to offer promotional giveaways
  • Use sales and incentives to boost customer traffic

All of the above has the added benefit of boosting brand awareness according to the article. Underlying everything is the idea of turning a normal activity (returning unwanted holiday gifts) into an opportunity to interact with customers in a more meaningful way. If we extend the concept further, you can take a normal desire (in this case returning gifts, but it works equally well for things like keeping warm and well fed) and use it to offset the reluctance to venture out. Granted, you should never encourage unsafe activity. However, if a person is bordering on the line of whether or not to satisfy a desire or simply wait-it-out, you can tip the scales in your favor.

Timing and an understanding of your target market is also important. For example, you would expect stores selling things like ice-melt, heaters, and shovels (your local hardware store for example) would do well when snow and inclement winter weather hits. In fact, most do as many reports indicate. However, sometimes there’s a delayed effect. This article by Alexa Block shows that in Rapid   City, SD, the rush on winter supplies usually takes place a few days after the bad weather hits. Under those circumstances hardware stores need to plan accordingly and not be surprised at the delayed reaction to the cold. Knowing this allows an owner to use the initial days of a winter cold front to build anticipation for the coming rush, perhaps even speeding things up. Here is where a good social media presence, email list, and possibly a custom mobile app will come in handy (see my Twitter and B.O.B. Facebook pages for help with the first two, and contact me for info about mobile apps).

We can’t control the weather, but we can control what we do about it. With a little planning, you can make the most of winter weather conditions and keep your business going strong – even on snow days.

What are some of your winter weather business tips? How do you manage to keep productive during inclement weather? Share your thoughts in the Comments below and help your fellow professionals accomplish more (and learn from their experiences as well)!

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8 thoughts on “Snow Days: Handling Business in a Winter Wonderland

  1. If you love the product or service you offer, keeping an upbeat attitude even in the (absolutely ridiculously) freezing weather may not be so difficult. You will most likely appreciate the extra time you will be able to spend with prospective customers.

    If you, on the other hand, find yourself doing something more out of necessity, it may be a good idea to take a few moments before heading out into cold to give yourself a readjustment. Thinking about those in the past, for example, who you have helped under similar conditions when they most needed it and the appreciation they demonstrated is the best way to feel good about what you do, regardless of the weather or any other inconvenience you can face.

    For those who work in confined spaces, expect that there will be downtime and plan for it. Make a task list of things that need to be accomplished so while you are all waiting for that one brave soul to walk through the door (or to call), you can all keep active and alert. There is nothing worse than walking into a place of business chock full of apathetic sales associates.

  2. Hey, Kerwyn! You know, I feel a little guilty coming here to make a comment, given I work from home and, if it’s not too long a duration, enjoy the ‘bad weather’. In fact, my problem is that I find it very difficult to work in ‘good weather’, in that I then hate being in-doors, when, being self-employed, I could so easily be outside profiting from what is essentially rare in England: “good weather”!

    You know, you using the postman example, you’re so right to do so. Only yesterday I observed the mailman making his stolid way to the door, in the most torrential of rains, like the one you mention in your post, only to deliver yet another Virgin Media promotion, which goes straight into recycling without being opened.

    That’s the spirit.

    I can’t give business tips, but I can say that, these days, I’m generally more welcoming to anyone who braves the elements for his/her business and knocks on the door, if only for a chat – maybe you’ve touched upon that in your post.

    Lastly, I had to smile at your postman quote since I’ve always been a big fan of the American sitcom ‘Cheers’. I’m sure it will have made Cliff Claven smile also, and that he probably quoted the very same in one of the episodes.

    All the best, great read 🙂

    • Thanks, Chris! I’m sure Cliff appreciates your admiration of and openness towards those in his profession. 😉

      Working from home has many challenges, and good weather is one of the many distractions you have to resist. As you say, it’s so easy to head out and enjoy a beautiful day instead of, say, sitting at the keyboard and plugging away. I don’t know all the things you do, Chris. However, if going out interferes with your writing, you have two options. The first is to write while out, something relatively easy in today’s world of mobile and cloud computing. All your notes, manuscripts, links, etc. can travel with you. However, that may only amplify the distractions. That brings me to the second option (which isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive of the first): Knuckle down and focus on writing for specified periods throughout the day. Ultimately, that focus is what makes things happen, as I’m sure you’ve already discovered.

      And yes, I also welcome a visit from a door-to-door salesperson or the occasional telemarketer (I’ll probably get a lot of flak for that last admission)!

      • I also translate, Kerwyn, I’m self-employed.

        But you’re right, I have an ipad, i’m not confined to the house. But it’s not great for combating the sun’s glare 😉

    • Thanks, Carol! I appreciate that very much. Interestingly, writers are business people after a fashion, especially today. Guy Kawasaki’s book A.P.E. shows writers who self-publish must fill three roles, that of Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur. So creative persons benefit from developing some business acumen, even as business people need creativity to innovate and flourish.

      • That’s a fabulous point you’ve brought up there, Carol!

        But your reply, Kerwyn, is absolutely spot on.

        Carol, I believe the likes of you and I – I think of myself as being on the creative side rather than the business one too – must take heed of Kerwyn’s wise words. I came to realise very early on, as soon as I decided to self publish, that is, that I must have some sense of business acumen, it’s all part of the game, and if we think we can simply publish a book and expect purchases, then we’re going to be gravely disappointed.

        An example with me is that I’ve never considered myself to be a ‘social networker’- the idea of twitter and facebook etc filled me horror… But, at some point, I realised it was totally the wrong attitude, and rather than rebuke the concept, I decided to embrace it, the who shebang: since then I have two facebook accounts and a facebook page – come and like it sometime 😉 – and three twitter accounts, and they’re all facets of my own personality; reflect different areas of my work, and I know exactly what I want from them…

        I have many creative writing accounts too.

        It really is about playing a game. And if we don’t play, we get nothing back, as callous as that sounds.

        All the best, you two!

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