Christmas, it’s upon us again! Yes (whether it agrees with our morals or not), Christmas retail is well under way, Christmas jingles are filling the malls and Santa’s jolly face is lining our streets.
Christmas is both a joyous and stressful time, and can be a tricky one for business owners. I recently presented at BNZ Connect in Pukekohe (a great monthly event for local business owners more details here). My topic was “How to ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ Business at Christmas”. As it was only early November, I could feel the cringe in the room when I mentioned the “C” word. Yes it seems early, but as a business owner or operator, it’s important that you’re prepared for Christmas.
Check-off these 12 days of Business at Christmas to make sure you’ve got everything covered:
1. Annual Closedown
Closing down for the holidays? Make sure staff get at least 14 days’ notice. They are entitled to public holidays on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and paid or unpaid leave for the rest of the period. If any employees have accrued a large amount of leave, Christmas is a good time to encourage them to use it.
2. Keeping it Open
Staying open? Plan your staffing well in advance. At the very least you’ll need someone to cover the essential tasks (like payroll, clearing voicemail). Make sure skeleton staff have “emergency” contacts for relevant managers and suppliers in case anything goes wrong.
3. Extra Staff
If you plan on keeping up a full service, start thinking now whether you’ll need to take on extra staff – casual, part time or fixed term. Even if you take on casual staff they will need employment agreements. See www.dol.govt.nz for the latest rules on pay rates and a very handy “Employment Agreement Builder”.
4. Tax: Gifts & Entertaining
Staff Christmas functions are 50% tax deductible and staff/client gifts are 100% tax deductible (just keep the latter below $1,200/year to avoid Fringe Benefit Tax).
5. Telling your Customers
Alert customers of your seasonal hours to avoid any misunderstandings. You can use this chance to remind irregular customers of your business; send a card or email, phone or even advertise in the newspaper.
6. Managing Stock
Christmas stock orders needn’t be daunting. Prepare a stock forecast by looking at sales records or your stock system. (Note: if you haven’t got a stock system or method of obtaining accurate sales records, add it to No 11 on this list!). Look into flexible stock options available to your business, like consignment stock or stock lines available at short notice.
7. Important Dates
January: 15th (November GST and provisional tax), 20th (PAYE), 28th (December GST)
February: 28th (January GST)
8. Bargains at the Sales
For some, Christmas is synonymous with “Sale”. Before you join in, consider the impact that discounting will have on your profit and customers: you may not get the returns you expect and your customers’ impression of your value may greatly decrease. Try adding to perceived value, rather than decreasing price.
9. Existing Customers
Christmas is a great time to thank customers and remind your customers of the bond they have with your business. Why not send a promotion out to your client database or offer free Christmas nibbles at your store.
10. Taking Time Out
At the very least, take a few days off work and recharge. If you need to keep an eye on things, Cloud systems like Xero are great for keeping in touch with the business while you’re out of the office.
11. New Year’s Resolutions
Reflect on the year that’s been, what you achieved, what changed – are you where you thought you would be? Then look ahead to 2013: where do you want to be in 12 months’ time? Set goals and talk them through with your advisors and staff.
12. New Year, New Customers
Over the holiday period think about what you’re doing to attract new customers. Why should people buy from you over others? What is your point of difference? Where are you advertising and is it working? Maximise your existing customers; how can you find more like them or upsell more? Have you asked them for referrals?
And remember -
Keep Calm, it’s only Christmas.