by Heather Foley, consultant at etsplc.com
The holiday period can be a tricky time for any business. You may struggle to meet an increase in demand, customers may insist that you work to even tighter deadlines and your workforce may be running on minimal numbers, but nowhere are problems more evident than in the small business.
A holiday time can impose pressures on a small business which may stretch it to breaking-point. So, what can you do, in your small business, to prepare for the holiday season?
As with most things in life, planning is essential. Your plans for the holiday season need to be in place well before you need them. Identify the problems, learn from last year’s experience, and discuss what has worked well, or not, in the past.
Ensure you speak to key people across your business, to include all aspects of your company.
2. Make availability clear.
The holiday period is inevitably a time when people request a break away from the office. In a small business, it can be quite straightforward to organise holiday, and be aware of absences. At the same time, it can be difficult to cover for them. To ensure fairness, you may need to introduce a rota system, whereby staff can take turns choosing the optimum days over the holiday period. Above all, the business needs to be covered.
Plan these personal holidays well ahead of time so that everyone is clear.
3. Customer service.
In an ideal world, your customers would not be aware of any changes in your business over the holidays.
Well before this time, review how many projects will be ‘live’ and organise any deadlines with available personnel in mind. Try to anticipate what sort of problems may arise.
Think about who will be on-hand to deal with any surprises over the holidays. You need to have a capable all-rounder on call so that any customer issues are dealt with promptly.
4. Social media.
If your small business doesn’t make regular use of social media channels, then the holiday period could be a perfect opportunity to start doing so. Use social media to keep customers up to date with any of the smaller issues that may affect them. Of course, any serious problems will need to be dealt with the customer personally.
Social media channels can be a chance for your small business to send seasonal greetings to your established customers. They can also be a way of demonstrating to any new customers that it’s business-as-usual for your dedicated team over the holidays.
After the holiday period, ensure you build in a time for reflection. Identify the strategies that worked well for your small business, as well as those that may not have worked. These notes should feed directly into your planning for next year.
Ensuring that both your customers and your people are looked after over the holidays can be tricky, but with some planning and forethought, it need not be an insurmountable problem. Keep communication channels open, use social media to your advantage, and ensure someone is available to deal with any surprises. As with most things this holiday season, it’s all about the preparation. Happy holidays!
Heather Foley is a consultant at etsplc.com. ETS has been a partner to some of the world’s most respected companies since 1989, delivering specialist consultancy and leading edge technology in the following areas: employee research and engagement, leadership development, 360° feedback, performance management, and talent and succession planning.