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So This Is Christmas: How Small Businesses Can Survive the Holiday Season

Family buying Christmas gifts in a shopping mall For anyone who runs small businesses in the UK, chances are your holiday plans remained steady ever since you opened your doors: You work the Christmas holiday. Most likely, you work New Year's as well. You aren’t alone: Approximately 500,000 small business entrepreneurs (SBEs) work over the traditional holiday season, even Christmas Day. They might be at home in the middle of an email as Christmas dinner get served (24 per cent). A work device might sit by an elbow as presents are opened, its display some related task that requires attention (15 per cent). Chances are good that such a thing happened the year before as well! In part, the uncertainly of the modern business environment keeps SBEs on the clock when they would rather sing carols, trim the tree, or even attend their children’s nativity plays at school. While the thought of seasonal assistance sounds like a plausible solution, certain factors lead SBEs to shy away. The costs involved in the hunt for, the training of, and the retention of seasonal staff tend to outweigh the potential benefits, and these costs only seem to climb as time passes. To further complicate matters, SBEs often handle the holiday season’s increased demand with reduced staff: Most businesses find their staff on personal time or holiday during the last few weeks of the year. SBEs still try to capitalize on the season’s offerings and step outside of their traditional roles: They might juggle responsibilities such as scheduling, budgets, and intercompany emails as they handle customer service matters and returns! The time spent on these matters must come from somewhere, typically at a loss of family time.


Let’s put it into perspective this way: Full-time workers in the UK are entitled to 28 paid holidays: The average SBE might take 17; a third took 10 or less throughout 2016. Holiday stresses come before Father Christmas, though: Inventory concerns come along toward the end of summer, sometimes even earlier thanks to the introduction of Black Friday from the US. SBEs need to know any trends in their particular niche that might appeal to their customers, review past sales to see what peak, what bottomed, and what held steady. Set up alternate supply lines in case your standards fall victim to holiday rushes themselves. Social media posts to reach your followers, to wish them happy holidays and to promote your seasonal sales, and website updates to help cope with a higher-than-average level of traffic. It’s not uncommon for your number of visitors to triple around this time! What can you do to avoid a case of humbug? [Tweet "What can you do to avoid a case of humbug?"] Let’s look to staffing first: Try to plan out your holiday season. Perhaps some employees don’t celebrate Christmas or make their plans for another, more convenient day for their family gatherings. Take a list of those who would be willing to mind the shop during the end of December. These volunteers could receive compensatory time for use at another point in the coming calendar year. call-to-action-810x75-c An automated attendance system would make it a simple matter to keep tabs on any owed comp time based on log-ins to your small business cloud or physical systems. Online reports would ensure your volunteers receive their proper present from Father Christmas (or you, his liaison) for their good will toward others during this time. Mother and daughter buying Christmas decoration and gifts in a shop On the topic of cloud systems: If you find yourself unable to avoid a working SBE holiday, try to at least leave the office and use your company’s cloud tech or other work devices. While not the ideal of a no-work holiday, you could at least work in the comfort of your own home. If the option of seasonal help seems too pricy, you should look toward apprenticeships. The government can help sponsor and pay for these  employees who must work for your company for a minimum of one year. You could pay as little as 10 per cent of the costs of training and assessing your apprentice, the remainder paid for by the government. The apprentice, in exchange, would work with your staff, learn job-specific skills, and continue his or her education throughout the work week. Surprisingly, only 14 per cent of surveyed SBEs seemed aware of this possibility! Also consider the use of pre-trained freelancers to help fill out your staffing needs through the holiday season. SBEs can post their needs to freelance job sites such as Upwork and deal with seasoned personnel who only need to familiarize themselves with your particular ways of business, not necessarily completely from the ground-up. Such personnel help ease the burdens of increased business without the permanency of traditional employees or the total costs of seasonal. Look to automated inventory management to help keep your increased needs under control. Start your planning by the end of summer at the latest through research of past activities and current trends. By autumn, you should check on your suppliers and add a few names to the list to help ease the crunch of the holiday season and to prepare for any possible influence due to inclement weather or other SBEs’ increased orders. Above all else, you must remember this: Have a happy Christmas!