From Black Friday to Cyber Monday and the holidays we hold near and dear – ‘tis the season to be jolly and stressed. In fact, for small business owners, planning for the holiday season can often overwhelm the best of us. While there are seemingly a million and one things your company needs to do this holiday season, there are key areas that can cover-off on your most pressing concerns.
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Here’s a quick look at ten steps every small business owner should take before opening their online and physical doors during the holiday season:
1. Beat the holiday stress before it comes.
The holiday season is stressful for companies and consumers, alike. Beat the pre-season stress by tackling key issues early. For instance, strenuous time demands from work and family obligations during the holidays can be overwhelming. It is “the time of year that life comes before work,” according to Bed Rest Concierge CEO, Stephanie Johnson.
Like many small business owners, Johnson tries to “find a balance … [during] a time of year when work-life balance is very important,” she says. Start by developing a balanced schedule, delegating key tasks to team members and scheduling time with family and friends ahead of time.
2. Identify business process bottlenecks, immediately.
A bottleneck occurs when demand comes faster than the next step can use it to create supply. Holiday surges in demand often reveal bottlenecks within your company, resulting in limited scale and strained resources. Catch them before they start.
First, empower employees to make good decisions by giving them room to make the call. Every decision doesn’t need a committee of you; and if so, it is time to outline and distribute operational guidelines for all employees. Instead of calling you, they will know what to do because it is at their disposal – in writing.
Next, prevent bottlenecks that cripple operations. Employees will become sick or take impromptu vacations during the holidays. What happens when no one else is qualified to take over their work? Cross train employees to learn key functions outside of their role, should the need arise for “all hands on deck.”
Lastly, take note of daily processes that already suffer delays and develop a mock stress test to see how your business performs when timelines are tightened or when project steps experience roadblocks.
3. Set financial goals for the holiday season.
Schedule a meeting with your accountant (or dust off your company financial statements) and set revenue goals for the holiday season. Understanding your financial picture will guide budgeting, compensation, benefits, costs, revenues and more.
Most importantly, keep all team members informed of the financial picture to ensure they remain in-budget and realize how their work impacts the company’s success. If you need on-demand accounting help, try no-obligation, subscription-based accounting services like 1800Accounting or virtual accounting firms.
4. Connect with trusted business partners, early.
Now is the time to shore up your supply chain. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. How fast, efficient, and dependable are your suppliers? Will they rise to the occasion when you need them? Make the calls early to assess where your company fits into their bigger picture. Determine what consolidated lead times will do to your budget; consider how logistics delays – getting products and services to customers – will strain resources and impact sales.
Don’t hold back. Remain transparent about your needs. Most importantly, identify “pinch hitters” – suppliers that can step up to the plate as a substitute when key players do not actively meet business needs. Your supply chain is a strategic asset – “speed and adaptability drive success in a volatile world,” according to multinational professional services company PwC. And let’s face it – the holiday season is extremely volatile.
5. Refresh your sales promotion schedule.
Sales promotions are a key driver of holiday season marketing activities. From product sampling and coupons to rebates, giveaways, events and premiums; offering incentives is a proven sales driver.
Refresh sales efforts by outlining promotions offered during the holiday season. Address the following areas: timing, costs, where you will offer promos (i.e. distribution channels), and how you will track and measure success (i.e. analytics). Lastly, ensure that you can meet demand.
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