Preparing your business for the holidays

Preparing your business for the Holidays

If you are the owner or manager of a business outside the retail and hospitality industries, you’re probably looking forward to a well-deserved annual break.
Here is a checklist of some of the important things to do before you shut down for the December holidays.

1. Let your customers know when you’ll be away.

Don’t assume that your customers will know when you’ll be closed – send them an email or a text message notifying them about the dates of your holiday shutdown. If relevant, let them know who on your team will be available to help them in case of emergency. If you are an e-commerce business, make sure someone is responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the online store. Brief your team before you send out any customer communications to ensure they are able to plan for the season as well as answer customers’ questions about the holiday shutdown.

2. Arrange the skeleton crew.

December is a popular time for employees to take leave – it is summer, the kids have long school holidays, and the office is usually quiet. While it may suit you to have most employees take their leave during the holiday slowdown, you should also make sure you are not short-staffed. Ensure there are enough people around to attend to urgent customer requests, answer the phones, look after social media and keep an eye on the business. If you do have a skeleton crew running the show during this time, it might be a great idea to award them with a day of bonus leave or a small gift to show your appreciation.

3. Pay your Accounts in time.

If you are closing down for the December holidays, make sure that you have paid all your usual month-end bills in time. This could be your VAT payment, Municipal Accounts, Telephone bills etc. This will ensure that you don’t enter the new year with additional charges or cut-ff services.

4. Get ready for the New Year.

When you get back to work in January, it’s generally a rat race to first meetings, wrapping up key projects from the previous year, or catching up with admin. Ensure that you have a dedicated person to handle admin duties while you work on important tasks like business development. You may also be inundated with requests for loans and advances from employees who are broke after the December holidays. Prepare to answer these requests with a standard policy, whether you are able to help or not.

Remember, January can be as tight a month for your business as it is for your team because you will find yourself waiting for some payments. Be sure to contact people and businesses who owe you money to confirm when they will pay. If you expect a seasonal cash flow crunch, prepare for it by speaking to your bank about an overdraft.

5. Think more value, not more discounts.

When people think of holiday shopping, they think of discounts. Because of that, almost everyone is offering discounts. To differentiate yourself, you don’t need deeper discounts, just a better story.

6. Prepare an advertising budget, and stick to it.

One of the complaints from many retailers is that while sales increased during the holiday shopping season, overall profit didn’t. So much money was used up in marketing and operations that they ate into the profits. Take the time to lay out all your upcoming expenses and generate a sales forecast — it might help to loop in your bookkeeper or accountant too. Decide from there just how much you’re willing to dedicate to ad spend.

7. Produce all marketing materials now.

Once you’ve decided on a budget and the different channels you’ll utilize in your strategy, you’ll want to get all your assets designed as soon as possible. Once the season starts, the last thing you’ll want to think about is getting graphics designed last-minute for your promotions. Many design freelancers will likely be busy themselves, as well as your own staff. In some cases, you may be met with an expedited service fee, an unwelcome expense in your ledger. Identify the channels you’re using, prepare your graphics and copy, and file them away for easy access when the time comes.

8. Start the New Year with a bang.

Long standing customers will appreciate a New Year mailer to get them excited for opening specials when you are back in business to kick start the New Year. This could be an opportunity to rid the business of old stock that didn’t sell during the holidays. Opening sales are very popular and if you want to attract new business, this could be one of the ways.