5 ways to prepare your business for Christmas – a series Anna Palmer October 8, 2012 Business tips, How To..., Inspiration Christmas is just 77 days away. If this thought fills you with nervous anticipation then it’s likely you are a small business owner. Christmas is the most important time of the year for consumers and for many businesses this means an increased demand for their product or service. If your small business falls into this category it is important to start preparing now. Here is the first in a series of blog posts offering advice on how to ensure your business is prepared for the holiday rush. I will be posting each day with some valuable insights from our very own customers so keep checking back. Today we will discuss how to prepare your business for the peaks in demand over the holiday period. Table of Contents: Preparing yourself for increased demand. How to prepare your Christmas marketing strategies. How to Ensure your Christmas Deliveries Get Out on Time Will your Website Deliver this Christmas Choosing Winter Uniform for your Staff Staffing The increased workload from the Christmas rush may be good for the bottom line but it can also put extra pressure on staff. There are various strategies you can put in place to effectively answer the critical questions you may be facing. Will you need more staff? Temporary Workers. It may be worth hiring more people to help you in the Christmas period – the Post Office take on 18,000 more workers over Christmas. Ideal for increasing productivity hiring staff for a short period of time has strong financial attractions, but there are other benefits too. In any temporary draft you may find someone who has the potential to work in your company long term. Look into extending the hours of part time workers. Often staff have additional expenses over the Christmas period and may welcome overtime hours. Consider implementing flexible working hours. The increased demand may mean you have to look into extending opening times and this could be an ideal option to manage the extra workload. Outsourcing work. Appointing a supplier to undertake certain processes can free up your in-house staff to prioritise certain areas when necessary. For example, you may want to focus on sales to capitalise on the increased demand in the period or focus upon the day to day work more easily. Perhaps most important is communicating with employees. Start drawing up Christmas rotas now, that way staff can plan ahead and make sure they are available for additional shifts. Only then can you make an informed decision about whether you need to hire extra staff or outsource areas of your business. Motivation strategies are also crucial in getting the best out of your staff during busy times when you are expecting a lot from them. Explain clearly what will be expected and when you expect to be busiest. Well motivated staff will prepare, be more productive, innovative and creative, especially important attributes during this key time for your business. You may choose to offer monetary incentives such as a Christmas bonus or overtime, as well as traditional motivation strategies such as ensuring the work is challenging and creating a friendly atmosphere at work. Managing staffing levels, keeping staff informed and notified well in advance of Christmas expectations and keeping your workers motivated will ensure everyone gets through the Christmas period happily and profitably. Motivated Staff! 2. Inventory If you are a savvy business you will ensure you get ahead of sales and build your inventory of products before the rush begins. Create an as accurate as possible demand forecast. Analyse last years figures and assess how buoyant the market it looking. Usually with seasonal variations this means increasing stock at Christmas time, start considering this now and build your inventory of products. Commanding your inventory can be made far easier if you implement an inventory tracking solution and good stock management systems. For small business owners in particular who have had stocking issues in the past, it is important to have back up suppliers on board who can replenish stock at short notice. Another important issue during Christmas time is seasonality costs associated with international stock. It’s a good idea to source international stock even earlier than you would normally do during this time – allowing you to save on freight costs. Alternatively, look for other options such as air-sea. These services reduce lead time and half the cost of traditional airfreight. Ensuring you can cope with the peak in demand at Christmas is crucial and planning for staff and inventory changes needs to begin now. Next in the series we will discuss how to plan your promotions and advertising for the Christmas period.