By Viresh Harduth, vice president: New Customer Acquisition (Startup & Small Business) at Sage Africa & Middle East
If you are a business owner, the holiday season means one of two things: it’s either your busiest time of year (if you’re in retail, for example) or your quietest (if you’re in services). Either way, it’s a stressful time, especially for small businesses as their first year is critical to their growth and survival.
No matter which camp you fall into, there are a few things you can do to prepare your business for the rush (or slowdown), so that you start 2018 on a high note.
If things are picking up…
If you own a business by the seaside – especially a store or restaurant – it’s likely that you’re gearing up for a manic few weeks. Planning is the key to success – and your sanity.
· Stock up. Find out when your suppliers are closing and make sure you have enough product to see you through the busy season.
· Hire temporary staff. If the majority of your team will be taking leave, start interviewing temporary, freelance or contract workers to fill the gap.
· Appreciate skeleton teams. Maintaining morale and productivity among skeleton teams during this time can be difficult, especially when their friends are posting beach selfies. Small tokens of appreciation go a long way to keeping them engaged.
If things are slowing down…
Before you shut shop completely, use the last few weeks to prepare your business for the new year.
Here are some ideas:
· Tech, at your service. Set up an automated response email in case someone contacts you during this time, letting them know when you will reopen and who to contact in an emergency. Use chatbots to help customers with queries while no one is in the office.
· Revisit your business plan. Have you met your goals for the year? Do you need to revise or set new ones? Having an idea of where you’re at and where you want to be is a great way to start the year.
· Catch up on admin. With tight cash flows, now is a good time to get your books in order. An automated accounting system will help you keep on top of invoicing and can remind customers that their accounts are in arrears. With mobile options available, you can also keep tabs on your business account from anywhere.
· Give the office some TLC. Sort through paperwork – file what you need, recycle what you don’t; clean the carpets and windows; service the air conditioner and printer; change flickering lightbulbs; clean out the pantry and fridge; fix that leaking tap; donate unwanted equipment and furniture.
· Upskill, streamline, create, give back
o Use the ‘dead time’ to learn a new skill. There are hundreds of free online courses on everything from marketing and business writing to bookkeeping and data management.
o Improve efficiency: perhaps your website could do with a revamp or maybe it’s time to update your stock photos.
o Start a blog or write an e-book or white paper that you can use as marketing collateral to attract new customers.
o Research ways to give back without leaving your desk.
Keeping the ‘house’ in tip-top shape:
Whether you’re a start-up or a growing business heading into your busiest or quietest time, now is a good time to:
· Put proper policies and procedures in place in terms of leave and payroll. Manage your team’s expectations when it comes to bonuses, early December payroll and January loans. A cloud-based solution can automate a lot of this.
· Send handwritten cards or e-cards to customers, thanking them for their support this year.
· Don’t neglect your online presence. Social media doesn’t take a holiday.
It will be January before we know it. Use the quiet time effectively to plan for the new year but don’t forget your own downtime. Rest, relax, read a good book and spend quality time with your loved ones.
Soon, it will be all systems go again.