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How to keep your small business running smoothly during the holidays

1) Do your planning in advance

Like everything in life, if you leave your planning until the last minute then things are likely to come unstuck and very likely to go wrong. If you have a holiday period coming up and it is likely that your sales are going to either increase significantly or decrease significantly then you need to plan for it well in advance. You need to know what your customers expectations are, what your staff availability is what your suppliers are up to. Our advice would be to gather this information at least 2 months in advance to allow for some proper planning.

2) Organise your staff

Holiday seasons can generally mean one of two things, either you will be swamped with work or you will have almost no work. Rarely is it ever somewhere in the middle. For both of these scenarios you will need to do some serious planning up front. If you have full time staff members then you will need to work out who is available and who is not. If you are a company that is extremely busy during the holiday period then it might be a good idea to have the conversation re working during this period well in advance. For some companies it may actually make sense to have the discussion during the recruitment process. Either way, you need to come up with a plan in terms of who will be rostered on and who will not.

3) Communicate with customers

You need to make sure that your customers are well aware of what your intentions are during the holiday period. This could be via an email that is sent out in advance of the holiday period or it could be a message that is placed on your website. Remember, there is nothing more frustrating than turning up at somebody's business to find that they are not open and have given no indication of when they will be open again.

4) Close the office for a set period

If you are one of those businesses that does very little business over the holiday period then it may be an idea to simply close your office during this period. Make sure that you have a discussion well in advance with your staff as they may not be happy to take forced leave. You should also check out your legal position before telling staff that they must take leave. A preferable position to take is to talk to them about the benefits and to encourage them to take leave during this period.

5) Get 24/7 call answering

If your main concern during the holiday period is dealing with all of those incoming telephone calls then a very useful option to go for is to get yourself a 24/7 answering service (like the one offered boy Ruby Receptionist). The benefit of having a 24/7 answering service is that your calls will be answered by a professional, trained receptionist who answers the calls in your company name and with a personalised greeting that you have decided on. You can even customise this greeting to suit the occasion or to give specific information. Also, if your callers have any questions in regards to when you will be reopening or recommencing business then the Ruby receptionist can give that information directly to the caller without having to bother you at all.

6) Bring in some casuals

If your regular staff have holiday plans or if your workload looks like it is going to be significantly higher than your regular staff can manage then why not look at bringing in some casuals for the period. Lot's of people look for casual work over the holiday periods and given that most university students and school students will be off on leave anyway there is usually a large pool of eager casual staff available who are willing to work for quite reasonable rates.

7) Make use of freelancers

If the work that you need doing isn't tied to a specific location and can be done virtually then it might be an idea to look at using freelancers. Freelancers can be found using a number of websites like Fiverr and Freelancer.com. Whilst freelancers can be quite cheap it is usually worth doing a bit of testing and trying out a variety of people otherwise you may be disappointed.

8) Get diary management

If your business involves clients ringing in and making an appointment to come and see you then it may be an idea to get a diary management service to take your bookings during the holiday period. The diary management service offered by Ruby Receptionist can work with most major software platforms and can book in all of those appointments for you while you are enjoying a break. One of the best things about our service is that you only pay for what you use. If you only get one or two bookings made in a day then you only pay for the time that it has taken. How does that compare to having a staff member sitting there in your office waiting for 2 phone calls?

9) Organise your deliveries

If you are going to close your office during the holiday period then it is a good idea to either coordinate your deliveries so that they come in before you close or after you return from your break. Alternatively, you could organise for your deliveries to be sent to an alternate address where the office will be open. One option that may be worth considering is getting yourself a virtual address where they are able to take deliveries of mail or couriers etc. You can then either have the articles redirected to your home or you can have the business centre hold on to your parcels until you are in a position to go and collect them.

10) Host an event

Holiday periods are a great time to build goodwill with your staff or your customers. Why not hold a party or some sort of seminar for your customers. It is a great opportunity to thank your customers for all of their support and potentially present them with some sort of gift or benefit. Holiday periods are also a great opportunity to thank your staff for all of their hard work (and potentially more hard work to come during the holiday break). It is also a good time to bond with your staff and to build company loyalty.

11) Send a newsletter

Communication really is key during the holiday period. One way to ensure that your customers (and potentially suppliers) are fully aware of what is happening in your space is to keep them updated with a regular newsletter. Putting out a newsletter is really inexpensive, if you use an email service like Mail Chimp or Campaign Monitor then they have templates that you can download and update. You can then use their mailing service to send the newsletter to all of your customers. Make sure that you personalise your newsletter by uploading your logo and images that are specifically relevant to your business.

12) Send a gift to your customers

Sending a holiday specific gift to your customers is a great way to build loyalty. If you are in an industry where your products themselves might be appealing to the customers then maybe you send one of your own products. If you are in something more generic then maybe just buy in something that the customer will always associate with you. If it is Christmas then you could potentially go with a hamper that they could share with their family while if it is Easter you might want to go with a basket of eggs. Either way, the customer will likely remember the gift in the future.

13) Change your website

Besides changing your website to show what your operating hours are during the holiday period you might want to make some seasonal changes to attract attention to your business and gain new clients. These changes could be things like adding a seasonal GIF to the site or adding festive images to the site. You might also want to add some images of any events that you have had, ie, you might show images of your staff enjoying your Christmas party or you may want to include images of some of your clients at a seminar etc (with their agreement of course). Make sure that when the holiday period is over you change the website back to something that is appropriate.

14) Get your phone redirected

Nothing is more frustrating for a client ringing in to a business than to simply have the phone ring out. At the very least you should be leaving a message telling people what your hours will be and how to get you. Better than this would be to divert your phone to a Ruby Receptionist who can answer the call and either redirect it to another number that you have designated or take a message for you and send that message via email. Regardless of how you manage those incoming calls you need to think about the impact on callers if they can't track you down.

15) Make sure your staff feel appreciated

Holiday periods are a great time to show your staff how much you appreciate them. This could be as simple as giving them a Christmas cake or a bottle of wine. Alternatively, you might want to give them a Christmas bonus or allow them to bring their spouse or partner to a company sponsored Christmas party. Remember, up to a certain value Christmas parties are tax deductible so it is a great opportunity to entertain your staff with no FBT cost attached.

Getting a live telephone answering service from Ruby Receptionist makes good business and financial sense. If you would like to find out more about our services then why not give one of our helpful sales representatives a call on 1300 72 10 73. We will be happy to help.