Wait, what? Haven’t we just spent weeks listening to what Mariah Carey wants for Christmas? The decorations have only just been put back in the loft, surely? Yep, as sure as eggs is eggs, the minute the last Halloween trick-or-treater has rung your doorbell, Christmas creeps up like an incoming tide; it’s beautiful, it’s a lot of fun, but if you’re not prepared for its arrival you’ll end up with wet feet. Never is this truer than where small businesses – the growth-fuelling, people-employing backbone of the economy – are concerned. Seasonal trading can mean big business for a lot of companies, so forward-thinking, time and effort in preparation for the festive season should translate into higher profits, lower stress levels and, with any luck, a very merry Christmas. These are our top tips for keeping your business on track before Santa Claus comes to town.
Keep on top of Christmas chaos
Christmas strategy, whether that’s about filling seats, getting feet through the door, or making sure clients remain switched on as end-of-year fatigue sets in, waits for no (wo)man – rumour has it that massive retailers start planning their Christmas window displays in January. So, if Christmas is a particularly busy time for your business, it’s best to avoid playing catch up. Make sure you have enough stock for extra footfall and then work out whether you need extra resources and/or staff to ensure that any crazed Christmas crowds can be steered in the right direction. Even if you start to think ahead now, you’ll still be more prepared than the millions of businesses that choose to wing it every year.
Get ahead with staff holidays
Time off work, simply
to eat mince pies, watch every Home Alone
film ever made, and wash it all down with a Baileys, is (for grown-ups, anyway)
the very essence of Christmas, but life goes on and business doesn’t often come
to complete standstill just so a jolly old man can make it safely down your
chimney. This also doesn’t mean you should shy away from the meticulous
planning that is coordinating staff holidays and come over all Scrooge about
the situation. Ask way ahead of time for staff holiday requests and set a clear
deadline for receipt of those requests, so you can work out how to keep
everything ticking over while festivities are in full swing. Don’t just assume
everyone will want time off either; some people are happy to work over the
holidays, especially if some extra cash is a possibility, so incentivise your
staff with the offer of bit more money, or some time off during quieter months
in lieu of hours worked over Christmas.
Spread goodwill (about yourself)
Not every business
booms at Christmas of course, and December can be a much slower month depending
on the services that you offer. But, this doesn’t mean you should rest on your
laurels – instead, have a think about how you can catch the attention of any
prospective customers by shouting about what sets your business apart from
everyone else’s. A determined social media drive just before the holidays can
breathe new life into your marketing strategy leaving you at the forefront of
your target market’s mind as they consider with whom they’ll be placing their
custom in the new year.
Spread goodwill to your customers…the right way
If you have physical
‘halls’, deck them with the most eye-catching decorations you can lay your
hands on to entice customers through the door. If not, a Christmas countdown
promo on your social media channels, or better still a new year discount
perfectly timed for when everyone needs to tighten their purse strings is the
ideal gift for clients new and old. Most importantly, say thank you to your
loyal customer base, but please, for the love of Saint Nicholas himself, do not
send out a generic, mailshotted email. People can sniff out a template that’s
been rushed out from a database very easily and it’s neither personal, nor
worth the effort. It’s fine to send an email in thanks, but spend a few minutes
making it more personal and, for your biggest, most loyal clients, consider
sending a card. If you have a shop, a mince pie and some mulled wine during
late-night shopping will work wonders.
Don’t get caught out by festive extras
Giving to charity, gifting a bonus to your hardworking employees, getting carried away and ordering a round of expensive shots at the Christmas party – there are many financial ways that Christmas cheer can get the better of your anticipated yuletide budget, so in anticipation of next year, have a think about setting a monthly amount of money aside to cover these costs. You’ll know exactly how far you can spread your festive fun, and, if you’ve saved more than you thought you would over the course of the year, you can throw in a couple of seasonal surprises just for the fun of it.
Plan an office party that works for you
It’s all very well
wanting to throw the party of the year for your fabulous employees, but a West
End show followed by dinner at a swanky restaurant, drinks and probably some
more drinks is a very expensive night out – especially for small businesses and
even more so for remote small businesses who then have to consider the cost of
travel and hotels too. Instead of going for the wow factor, plan a warm and
friendly office party that works for you and your team – if a majority are
parents, for instance, then head to the local for a lovely lunch before
surprising everyone with the afternoon off. You can still have a relatively
wild night out on a budget if that’s what you’re all into, but consider a BYOB
restaurant first, put the first few rounds at the bar afterwards on the company
credit card and then make it clear that further drinks are not being paid for
out of the business account.
Take time to chill out
responsibilities of running a business with the demands of everyday life can be
challenging enough, so throw in a bucket load of Christmas activities and
celebrations and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It is the season to be jolly
though, and this means taking time out to relax. You’ll have Christmas Day and
New Year’s Day off as a given, but if there’s any way you can extend the
Christmas break to be exactly that – a break – you’ll reap the rewards hugely.
Whether you choose to use that time doing little else other than curling up on
the sofa watching festive flicks with your loved ones, or you’d prefer to pack
your time with ice skating, seasonal shows and parties galore, the change
really will be as beneficial as a rest and will clear your head, giving you
time to reconnect not just with family and friends but with your business too;
you’ll be surprised at how many new ideas you generate simply by switching off.
It’s not a cliché – Christmas is a time of reflection and of giving, not just to your family, friends, employees and customers, but to those who don’t have as much as you do. It’s likely your business supports a charity or two anyway, so use this seasonal springboard to contribute a little more than you do throughout the rest of the year and encourage your employees to give what they can too, whether that’s a single toy to Barnardo’s, a care package for a women’s refuge, or a bag of Christmas goodies for a food bank. Appreciate all that you have in your personal and professional life, from the employees that have helped you get there to the customers, suppliers and mentors who keep the whole chain ticking along. Say thank you to them. Give them a gift. Be grateful.
Wishing you all a very