from the Kabbage team at American Express
The upcoming few months are typically the busiest for small business owners. The time to start preparing for this period is now.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the extent of work necessary to create a profitable end to the year, be strategic with your planning by reflecting on years past. Identify any wins or challenges that contributed to your company’s previous successes, and learn how to imitate it moving forward. Additionally, plan how you can approach previous challenges differently to make this holiday season your most profitable and productive one yet.
As a small business owner, it’s impossible to know how to do everything perfectly for your business. However, each year is an opportunity to learn something new about running a business and build on that growth in the years to come. Follow these tips to get the most out of this bustling business season:
Get Started Early
As you begin thinking about end-of-year preparations for your business, you will need to take action as soon as possible. The more time you give yourself to prepare all areas of your business, the more likely you are to have success.
From hiring additional help, reworking and potentially expanding your budget, creating an adequate marketing plan, and many of the other details you’ll need to work through prior to the bustling holiday season, give yourself plenty of time to plan. A successful end to your small business year cannot be put together in a few days or a couple of weeks. A proper planning period should last at least a month or more when you take into account the processes of hiring and implementing new tools to improve your business operations. This amount of time ensures your preparations are thorough enough to make as much of an impact as possible on your bottom line!
Know The Time Frame
It is generally understood that the official holiday season begins the day after Thanksgiving, but you cannot neglect the holidays leading up to this time period. October, for example, contains Halloween, another major holiday that creates increased consumption and has risen in consumer popularity in recent years. Take advantage of an extended holiday season by preparing for increased business beginning in October.
If your products or services provide the opportunity to do so, keep your offerings relevant to the season and on-trend with the nearest holiday. Halloween offers a unique opportunity to pander to consumers’ nostalgic feelings for the holiday and will inspire them to shop your small business to help keep that feeling alive.
Follow the same procedure with all proceeding holidays taking place from Halloween to New Year’s Day to maximize sales from the holiday season. Foster the excitement and festivities that come with each unique holiday by marketing your products in fun, retro-themed ways during the holiday season.
Predetermine Sales Goals
Once you feel familiar with the optimal time frame to work with, map out your sales goals for the season and create a plan to make these goals happen. Begin with a thorough review of last year’s business performance, and take stock of which items or services sold best. Identify which ones were less popular with your customers and decide whether or not you want to restock last year’s best-sellers or introduce new items for the new year.
As you look to prepare your sales goals, a large part of your focus should be on the information and data collected from years prior. Once you’ve analyzed that information, you can make decisions about what areas of your business you want to focus on or even grow to increase sales for the upcoming busy season. This may include expanding or reworking your budget to account for things like carrying more inventory, upgrading your marketing plan, hiring more employees, expanding store hours, and more. You may even want to consider acquiring additional funding by taking out a business line of credit to help get your working capital up to speed quickly for the upcoming season. While all of these changes will require more of your resources, they are likely to help your business grow during a very busy season.
Be sure to keep your sales goals realistic with respect to previous years and the improvements you plan to put in place. As nice as it would be to double last year’s sales, if you don’t make significant changes and improvements, it will be hard to achieve such a lofty goal. Rather than setting a numeric revenue goal and hoping for the best, make a goal for the number of items or services you want to sell and determine the projected profit amount from there. Think realistically how much more you and your employees can sell this year over last year,
Aside from monetary goals, try challenging yourself to improve your customer service efforts and business operations as well. Any small improvement you can make that not only benefits your bottom line, but your loyal customers as well is a win.
Prepare New and Existing Employees
A major factor in the success of this year’s holiday season will be your employees. This time of year can be especially stressful for your staff considering their workload will likely increase drastically in a very short period.
It’s important that you take extra time and attention with your employees during the busy holiday season to ensure they feel rested and comfortable when they come to work.
Begin by creating your holiday work schedule ahead of time. Give your employees the opportunity to put in their requests for time off in advance so you can grant them the time off they need to be able to enjoy the holiday season themselves. Then, you can schedule employee shifts around the requested time off in order to give your employees ample time to prepare for the busy season.
Your employees are people just like anyone else, and the holidays are likely a busy time for them in their personal lives as well. Allowing your employees time to tend to their personal lives during the busy season will help create better employee morale and help your staff feel more engaged when they are at work.
You may even find it necessary to hire additional staff to help out during the holiday season. Whether you simply don’t have enough employees to keep up with the influx of business, or you need to cover your staffing needs with a bit of additional support, seasonal employees are a great solution to this problem.
No matter what approach you take to your seasonal staffing needs for your small business, be sure to treat all of your employees the same. Whether an employee will only be aroundfor a few months or a few years, keep your training process the same. A temporary staff member will need to be proficient in a shorter amount of time and be able to keep up with more work than you would expect an employee to do during any other time of the year. Be a source of support and understanding for new employees and encourage your full-time employees to do the same.
Finally, make time to show your appreciation for your hardworking staff. The holidays are typically a time when most people would rather be home with their families and enjoying some time off from work as the year comes to an end. Yet, your employees continue to show up day after day to support your small business. Prepare a few tokens of gratitude for your workers by doing something as simple as bringing in baked goods for your staff to enjoy, taking your team out to lunch or dinner, or even throwing a holiday party for your team to enjoy.
Look the Part
Do not neglect the opportunity to make your storefront or website look the part for the season as well. A business that presents itself as not only excited for the season but up to date on the latest trends associated with the season, the more enthusiastic shoppers will feel about visiting your business.
Begin with decorating your storefront. Keep the decor respectful of the variety of holidays celebrated during the season, yet still engaging and exciting to look at. Use window paint, lights, and promotional messaging to make shoppers aware of the products and sales you are currently offering.
Treat your website like a storefront as well by giving your site a makeover for the season, especially if your business is solely located online. Keep the look of the site similar to what you plan to create in your physical store. Creating a cohesive look between your in-store and online presence will help your decor feel intentional and unified.
You can even dress festively yourself and encourage your employees to do the same. Doing so will enforce the feeling of happiness and excitement that comes with holiday shopping and preparations.
Finally, the details are what closes a sale. Fill your store with festive smells, joyful music, and a happy mood. When your customers feel comfortable in your store, they are more likely to spend more time there, take greater care with their purchases, and even return more than once to make purchases from your business.
Avoid the overwhelm this year and start preparing for the holidays now! The stronger your plan for the season is, the more sales and success you can expect to achieve for your small business.
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