For businesses that boom before Christmas
Literally, of course, but also figuratively. As the festive season winds down, it is an excellent time to reflect on how your business held up. The festive season is a good stress test for any business. Any system in your business that was not ingrained and stable enough would have fallen over at least once during the festive season, or come very close to falling over. Make a list of the major things that went wrong, and work to fix the relevant system in your business to make sure it won’t happen again in the next peak season. Make sure you incorporate feedback from your staff and clients in this exercise.
Look at the whole year:
When you study how well your business did during the bumper season, it is important not to look at the festive period in isolation. A certain amount of your surplus for the period will have to tide your business over the quiet times. Even if you have made a surplus over the festive season, it may not be enough to keep you in the black over the whole year. If this is the case, prepare for an extra push in the months ahead to make off season less quiet.
Check for burnout:
Some lucky businesses work towards a crescendo on Christmas or New Year’s eve and then shut down, allowing you and your staff to take a break. This makes it easier to keep your staff fired up, because everyone is working towards a definite end. But in most cases the season’s wind-down is more gradual. Your staff members who keep working during the wind-down phase are in danger of burn-out. Be sensitive to the signs of overwork and low morale, and keep them engaged. Remember your own vulnerability to burnout. Take short regular breaks if you have to keep working.
Ride the second or third wave:
After Christmas comes New Year, then the start of the school year and Valentine’s day a bit later. And those are only the main events. Depending on the community which you serve, as well as on your marketing creativity, you can create your own second or third wave for your business just after the festive season.
Follow the market’s mood:
Before New Year, much of the consumer market is in a festive mood, which calls for a certain kind of marketing message. But after New Year, the mood changes as everyone stops partying, starts clearing out and adopts all sorts of disciplined new year’s resolutions. Gyms and fitness programmes are known for capitalising on this new mood, and they sign up new clients in droves. Think hard and creatively on how your business can tap into this change of atmosphere, and adjust your marketing to suit it.
Plan to deal with returns:
Any business should have a strategy and protocol to deal with customer complaints, but extra consideration is needed in businesses whose products and services can be given as gifts over the festive season. You are bound to receive a number of requests to return unwanted gifts. The first important step is to have a clear policy. The second step is to make sure your staff know the policy, are trained to deal with returns efficiently, and to escalate dubious requests politely and diplomatically.
Rejuvenate your look and feel:
Nothing says “tired” as loudly as a forgotten Christmas decoration in January or beyond. Be ready to sparkle with a new makeover for the new year.
Keep your contacts alive:
Your business would have interacted with a lot of new customers over the festive season. Think of ways to remind them of their experience in your business after the festive season. Sign them up for a fun newsletter or social-media messages, without crossing the line into spamming.
For businesses that go quiet over Christmas
Check in with staff as they return:
A lot may have happened to any of your staff members during their leave. It is a good idea to have a short meeting with each individually to gauge their level of enthusiasm and wellbeing. You can also use the opportunity to help them set work targets.
Pull everyone together:
When most of your staff members get back from leave, or just before you start revving up for busier times, is the best opportunity for team building exercises focused on the plan for the year ahead. Inform them of the planned direction and goals for the year, clarify their role in it, set clear and realistic team targets, and get them fired up for the year.
Make use of the new year resolve:
Everyone knows that very few new year’s resolutions ever make it past January, but it is undeniable that most people make at least a stab at it, as can be witnessed by the January queues at the gym. Consider implementing a challenging project for your team during this time in order to make use of their higher-than-usual levels of discipline and commitment.
Cancel your out-of-office replies:
It seems like a small thing, but surprisingly many out-of-office replies still go out weeks after people return from leave.
Follow the market’s mood:
As mentioned above in the section aimed at businesses that boom before Christmas, the consumer market’s mood generally changes abruptly in the new year to discipline and austerity. If your business serves other businesses, chances are that many of your customers will be working towards the financial year end, and will be budgeting for the new financial year. Make sure you shape your marketing messages to suit this time of the year.