Is it possible to wind down at Christmas but at the same time keep your business ticking over?
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Far from conjuring calming images of ice-skating children, merry carollers, and chestnuts roasting, the word ‘Christmas’ has a tendency to bring small business owners out in a cold sweat. It’s a season that creeps up on all of us.
Before we’ve opened the first door on our advent calendar, shops are getting crowded, Michael Buble’s festive album is on repeat, and we’re cramming at work to get everything done before it turns 25 December.
With the added stress of increasing staff holidays, supplier closures and staff party costs it’s no wonder that we found almost a quarter (23%) of SMEs owners admit to not enjoying the festivities. However, with some advanced planning decision makers at small businesses can join in on the all the yuletide merriment!
This year, First Data spoke to customers to find out what their top tips would be to help small businesses survive Christmas and they had the following advice…
Are you prepared for the storm?
We were shocked to find that a massive 53% of SMEs make no special business plans for the Christmas period. It’s true what they say: preparation IS key – especially during the festive season when the pace picks up.
By planning in advance, and dipping into your data insights from previous years, you can make clever predictions on what you need to stock up on and how many staff you will need to put on shift to make sure the days run smoothly.
Being able to plan ahead could mean the difference between a successful trading period and falling into the red for many SMEs.
Black Friday is now a big day in the UK shopping calendar, so British shoppers are looking to pick up a bargain when completing their Christmas list. Today, shoppers have ample choice both on the high street and online meaning that they will happily shop around to find an item that is at the right price before committing to a purchase - even at the last minute.
There is life on the high street after Black Friday
However, SMEs need to know the promotions customers are hunting for if they are to stay ahead of the game.
In order to do this effective promotional offering you need to dive into an analysis of your trading history. Only the correct software will enable you to collect such valuable insights.
Having an overview of trading history will allow you to spot trends during previous Christmas trading seasons – which products sold particularly well? Which offers worked best? When did the business activity peak?
A quick look into your data will help you to build the promotions your customers want. Tailoring the right offers will help you to drive sales, as well as allowing you to order the right stock in good time.
Stay on top of your stress levels
Christmas shouldn’t be a time where you are stuck working in the office late at night or spending early mornings on the shop floor, though we know that this can sadly be the case for many SME owners.
We know from our research that almost half (49%) take the decision to hire more and more staff to cope with busy times. Of course, an extra pair of hands rarely goes amiss, but ‘throwing bodies at the problem’ in this way suggests that many businesses aren’t using technology as effectively as they might to ease the burden.
Tech can help with a whole range of tasks, from managing accounts, to staffing planning, to stock and customer data analysis and reporting.
For example, if you have access to live stock levels, you’ll be able to see when certain items are running low, without manually sifting through items in your stock cupboard, giving you time to place your orders with suppliers ahead of time.
You can automate that
Of course, it’s common for staff to request annual leave during the festive period. No one wants to be the “Scrooge” that has to turn down a holiday application – try to get your Christmas ducks in row ahead of time so that less time is required from your staff pre and post the big day.
You could also consider incentivising staff with extra time off during these busy period, if they are performing well. Again, technology can help you to manage this. Who in your team is selling the most? Or receiving the most tips?
“When will the madness end?”
Most of us take annual leave during the summer months and sometimes by December a well-earned break is truly needed. Unfortunately, many SME owners feel they are unable to take their eye off the game during this time of the year.
The pace may seem relentless but in order to stay calm and in good spirits there are technologies you can implement that allow remote working, even for small businesses, so you can spend time with your loved ones.
A cloud-based business management platform can give you the visibility you need at your fingertips, whether you want to sit down to watch a Christmas film, decorate the tree or ensure you have a front row seat at the children’s nativity.
If there’s one item that is performing particularly well, or needs a boost, you can track this and add in any offers or promotions directly from the comfort of your own sofa.
Christmas can be manic for SMEs. But investment in the right tech can be key to surviving the season – with both revenue and revelry. Christmas is an enjoyable time spent with family and friends, so don’t miss out on the fun!