December is often the busiest time of year for businesses, and the season comes with increasing demands for both employers and employees. It is also the time of year when many South Africans take the opportunity to take a well deserved break. However, as exciting (and much needed) a holiday may be, this does often create added pressure — both personally and professionally speaking — and many people find it difficult to juggle all their commitments.
As overwhelming as it can sometimes seem, it’s important to try to stay ahead of the competition during this time and to not let your work fall into disarray after your break. In order to prepare yourself and your business for your leave, and avoid any unnecessary stress when you return in the new year, here are five tips, published on Small Business Trends, that can help you get everything in order before the kids finish at school and Christmas is upon us.
1. Track your workload
Your success as an employer or employee this holiday season will depend on whether you’re still able to provide your customers or clients with what they want, when they want it. It is, therefore, important to stay one step ahead and plan adequately in advance. This may involve starting with an inventory list if you sell a product, or a to-do list if you sell a service.
Take a look at last year’s sales to see which products were most popular, or gauge how much you will need to do by looking back at the previous year’s records. That way, you will have a good idea of what stock or work is generally in high demand during this period, which will help you to budget your expenses and time. And if files or figures don’t give you a sufficient idea, put a plan in place to track sales and workflow this year so that you can be better prepared next November.
2. Minimise back-office work
Everyone is busy at this time of year, and managing the back-end of a business can easily fall to the wayside — especially if you have customers making urgent appeals that can’t be avoided.
Luckily, we now have a variety of technology at our fingertips, which can ease the burden of doing tasks such as billing, accounting, collecting customer data, and automating business transactions. If possible, make the most of these advancements to save yourself a lot of time and effort. A little investment in certain areas can make your business life much more efficient and profitable in the long run.
3. Stay on top of expenses
The pace at work may have stepped up a notch, which can make it challenging to stay up-to-date with daily tasks (at a time when you need to stay on top of things more than ever). This can, unfortunately, result in spending even more time than usual trying to reconcile checks and balance sheets when you finally do have the chance to get around to cranking the numbers.
However, it’s important to stay on top of expenses, as tempting as it may be to put this off for a later date. There should be no Rand unaccounted for at the end of the season as otherwise, by the time the new year rolls around, you’ll have forgotten the nitty gritty and find yourself wasting time working backwards. If you are having trouble keeping abreast on your own, certain products, such as the Ink app from Chase, can eliminate office drudgery by giving instant notifications of sales and purchases, and tracking receipts so that they’re not lost in the end-of-year hustle.
4. Develop a marketing strategy
Along with bright lights and Christmas carols, endless marketing gimmicks are also used during the festive season to entice customers. Try to stand out from the crowd during this period by offering promotions that are specific to your products or services.
If you have a robust contact directory, e-mail marketing can have a high conversion rate and be an effective means of making people aware of any special loyalty offers. Social media is also a useful tool, and it’s worth paying for promotion on some platforms. Ad campaigns through a search engine, such as Google, can be effective, and don’t be shy of offering in-store promotions if you have an actual shop.
Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to gather customer data so that you can make people aware of future offers. It’s important to build an email list and a customer base, so a promotion that offers a discount for an email address can be a valuable exchange.
5. Maintain momentum
If you prepare in advance and manage your workload efficiently in the run-up to the holidays, then you’ll hopefully have less on your desk to contend with when you get back. Organisation, proper tracking and planned strategies are key, so that you can enjoy your leave and hit the ground running when you come back fresh in 2018.
If you ever find yourself at a loss and in need of advice, don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting to discuss how you can prepare yourself for the future.