For many small businesses, the holiday season is one of their busiest times. As the year winds down, customers become more active, spending big on gifts and end of year celebrations. This provides a lot of businesses with a much-needed injection of cash, and helps them start the new year on a high.

However, this time of year can also be one of the most difficult to navigate. There are a variety of operational considerations to be worked through and structures to put in place. Careful planning is also required to make sure the business is equipped to make the most of the peak period.

Here we share our tips on gearing up for the holidays. We explore the arrangements that need to be made and planning that needs to be undertaken to prepare. We also share our tips on overcoming the unique challenges this time of year presents.

Planning and managing your resources

Over the last decade or so, the end of the year has become synonymous with delivery delays. Both the public postal service and private freight companies struggle to meet the increased demand for parcel and mail services. And this has only been exacerbated by the rise of online shopping.

At the same time, many businesses experience a noticeable uptick in stock turnover at this time of year. Not only do more customers come through the doors, they also generally spend more when they do. This can quickly lead to bare shelves – and lost business – if not planned for.

With that in mind, it’s important to make sure your business has everything it needs to get through this period. We recommend looking at what you ordered for previous holiday seasons to get a baseline and make any required adjustments. We also suggest getting your orders in early to minimise the risk of being left short by any unexpected supply issues.

Also, as the name suggests, the holiday season is a time when many employees look to take time off. While you should aim to accommodate this where you can, staffing levels need to be carefully monitored. This is particularly important if you need to have team members onsite and plan to open on key dates (e.g. Christmas and New Year’s Day).

To help manage expectations, it’s best to put the call for leave applications out early. This allows you to have staffing arrangements set ahead of time and for your team members to plan around their shifts. Many businesses also opt to have a year-on, year-off approach to the holidays to reduce the reliance on particular staff.

Communicating with your customers

It’s quite common for businesses to adjust their operating hours over the holiday period. For most, this means closing on key days (e.g. the public holidays) and potentially having reduced hours on others. But for some, it means extending trading hours on key days (e.g. Christmas Eve and Boxing Day).

Whatever your approach, it’s critical you make all reasonable efforts to update your customers on any changes to your availability. This should include updating your email signatures and pre-recorded phone messages to promote any planned shutdown. We also recommend updating your business listing on major search engines, like Google, with your special holiday hours.

Many businesses also adjust their marketing plan over the holiday period to account for the additional “noise”. For some, this will mean spending more in the hope of cutting through and better engaging their target customers. For others, it will mean cutting costs by scaling back paid activity until after the peak period.

These are both valid options, and the best approach for your business will depend on your industry and operating model. As such, it’s worth spending some time thinking about your commercial goals for the holiday period. You can then tailor your customer engagement strategy to best support achieving those outcomes.

Celebrating your successes

The holiday period is the perfect time to show your team how much you appreciate their hard work. This could be via a small get together, a big end of year bash, or a simple holiday bonus. Whichever route you choose, use the opportunity to reflect on the year that was and acknowledge the major achievements.

It is also an ideal time to regroup, reset, and start gearing up for the year ahead. Take the time to think about what you’ve learnt over the past year – both individually and as a business. Also, consider what you should do differently in the new year to build a stronger and more successful operation.

Need help planning for the holiday period?

If you’re worried about getting your business ready for the festive season, give MT Corporate a call. Our team are experts in business preparedness, and can guide you through gearing up for this peak period. We can also support your strategic planning, and help you put structures in place to make sure 2022 is a success.