We’re nearing the thin end of the calendar, which means that the holidays are almost upon us.
For employees, these months mean dinners, parties and a relaxing break from their email. Small business owners don’t usually have this luxury.
Instead, the holidays can be a frenzied time of trying to meet deadlines, juggling dozens of obligations and getting admin and finances in order for the end of the financial year.
It sounds daunting, but a little bit of planning can go a long way. Start preparing for the holiday season before it hits, and you may just find that you’ll even have time to enjoy it!
Let’s run through a few holiday to-do list tasks worth getting to sooner rather than later. Check them off, and enjoy a hard-earned eggnog while you count down the days until work goes back!
Pay it forward: gift giving and card-writing
A token of appreciation, no matter how small, can be a game changer. Everyone loves to know that their time, effort and loyalty means something to the people they care about. As a small business owner, it’s critical to take the time to prepare personalized gifts and cards for customers, clients, staff and vendors.
If you have a number of gifts to give, consider ordering through Etsy or Amazon Custom, both of which make it easy to tailor a gift to a particular recipient.
And if the very idea of hand-writing dozens of cards gives you a cramp, this is a great opportunity to work with a Virtual Assistant. You provide the direction and let us handle the details (or you oversee every detail and let us do the legwork!).
Another alternative is to try a site like Postable. Just type in your message and let the site do the rest. Bear in mind that the postal service experiences a time crunch at this time of year, so allow enough time for delivery, especially if your gifts are traveling cross-country or abroad.
Quick tip: business gifts are a key piece of marketing collateral, so make sure that they reflect your organization. Aim for gifts that add to your overall branding experience – including what you do and how you present yourself. Even if you opt for a simple bottle of wine, consider using a site like Canva to whip up supporting gift tags, notes or stationery that incorporates your brand colors, imagery and typography.
Celebrate a milestone: end-of-year parties
An end-of-year party is a great way to celebrate a high-performing, productive year. Depending on the size of your small business, you might want to keep it small, with immediate employees and their partners, or expand it to include customers, clients and vendors.
Have a dream venue in mind? Lock it in right now, as all the best places fill up months ahead of time. Don’t forget to consider things like dietary restrictions, kid-friendliness and accessibility. If you’re planning on awarding prizes or designations, consider whether you need access to a PA system or video screens. If you’re going the theme or special event route, make sure that it’s something that everyone can enjoy. Most of all, make sure that your party is a sincere thanks for everyone in attendance—staff will appreciate the thought.
Quick tip: whether you’re going to party it up at a restaurant or the office, make sure attendees can get home safely. Choose a place close to transit, or arrange for a bus, taxi or Lyft to take care of the designated driver responsibilities. And depending on how big the festivities are, allow for a slightly later start the next day.
Schedule a break: staff leave and office closures
With so many holidays packed into a few weeks, you’ll find that your staff are requesting time off at a far greater rate than usual. They may need time to travel, to accommodate visitors, or just to make the most of that annual leave. On top of that, the holiday season brings with it a greater likelihood of becoming run down or falling prey to illness – including the flu.
If you don’t get on top of things, you’ll find yourself understaffed and struggling to get it all done. Now’s the time to start preparing a staff leave roster so that you’ll know who’s going to be absent and when. As a small business owner, you don’t want all of your staff heading off on vacation all at once, so try to stagger leave where possible. You might also want to consider closing down the office for a few days if a mass exodus can’t be avoided.
If you’re working with contractors, be sure to get their holiday work schedules early. You’ll want to know if your contractors take off the last two weeks of the year, or don’t respond to emails during Christmas week.
The exact dates you decide to close up shop will depend on your industry. If you’re in retail, chances are you’ll be hiring temp staff and working longer hours than usual. On the other hand, if you’re in IT or advertising, you may be coming into an end-of-year lull that makes it the perfect time for a break.
Quick tip: if you don’t have a staff leave policy in your employee handbook, now’s the time to add one! Need one? We can help with that!
Start early: planning for next year
The New Year is almost in sight, which means that it’s time to start planning for it—if you haven’t already! Take some time to review this year’s performance and achievements, identifying any successes, gaps or room for improvement. You can use this review to start developing a plan of attack for next year. Consider things like your goals, your market, your competition and any pivots in the products and services you offer.
Next up, it’s time to take a look at your accounts. Start running those P&L reports and preparing cash flow statements so that you have a snapshot of where you stand financially. Finish up your account reconciliation, and review payroll, benefits, staff bonus and insurance information. You’ll probably want to write some checks to the IRS, too! Now’s also a good time to pick up the phone and have a chat with your accountant to make sure that nothing’s amiss.
Finally, even though we’re approaching mid-winter, do a bit of business spring cleaning. Update your marketing materials or stationery as needed. Back up your data, files, contacts and reports. Check and account for your inventory. And go over your website to adjust out-of-date information.
The holidays are almost here, so it’s time to get to it!
The end of the year will be here in no time at all, so clear some time in your calendar to start planning for it. Giving yourself enough preparation time will ensure less stress and superior results and will have you in good stead to do even better business next year.
So go on, work through our list – and then treat yourself to a gift of some down time!
Let our team handle all the back office details while you work on the front end of your business.
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