Prepping Your Small Business for the End of the Year

The end of the year can be a bit crazy for businesses. It’s a time when nature is inherently slowing down, but business owners have to hurry up and get ready for seasonal shopping as well as tax time.

And whether you’re a retailer or a business-to-business (B2B) company, holiday and year-end success require preparation on your part. Here’s a checklist of items to consider as you get all your ducks in a row:

1. Staffing. Staffing gets pulled in two opposite directions during the holidays. Many businesses need all hands on deck while many employees will be looking to take some time off for holiday and family events.

  • Circulate a calendar so you know your staff requests, and they can see what days have already been requested off by coworkers.
  • Communicate your requirements and expectations for time-off requests.
  • Have open and early discussions to avoid people calling in sick to get a day off.

Having enough employees on the floor is crucial for retailers. If shoppers find long lines at your checkout counters, they’ll abandon their shopping carts. You’ll lose the sale and create extra clean-up work for your team. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Tip: According to data from previous years, Monday, December 12, will be the third biggest shopping day of the year – Mega Monday.

2. Tax time. The moment all the December festivities are over; the IRS comes knocking at your door. Many businesses will want to make some purchases for tax write-off purposes at the end of 2016. Don’t wait until the last minute. Also, some B2B companies will be slow during the final week or two of the year. Use the down time to get organized and start pulling together everything you’ll need to get your taxes done in a timely manner.

3. Merchandising. Do you have all the merchandise you’ll need to carry you through the holidays? If items are on order, you may want to double check delivery dates with your suppliers to avoid any eleventh hour surprises.

4. Order-by dates. It’s time to start communicating your “drop-dead” delivery dates if your business ships items. There are several steps in this process. Your notices start small and get progressively bigger and louder. During the final days, send overnight shipping message, if you offer that service. Determine where your crucial dates fall now, so you can let your customers know early.

5. Marketing and advertising. Print, online, radio and television advertising should be getting geared up for your holiday campaigns.

  • Dress up your website with temporary holiday graphics.
  • If you do keyword advertising, adjust your search terms to reflect the holidays.
  • Prepare holiday-themed social media, print, radio and television advertising and posts.

6. Touch base with old clients and customers. Giving small gifts to your best customers is an established practice and a good one. However, if there are clients who used to do a lot of business with you, but have fallen away, find a few moments to pick up the phone and make a personal call or drop by their place of business. Find out what’s going on with them and how they’re doing. Perhaps their needs have changed, but it’s also possible something went wrong in your relationship that you don’t know about. Take the time to find out.

There’s a lot to do in the final weeks of the year, isn’t there? The single key to successfully navigating your way through these busy days is to be prepared by having a plan in place ahead of time. If you do that, you have a good chance of sending 2016 out with a bang and not a whimper.

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