Small business owners often face a wide variety of challenges during the winter months. Here, Opus Energy’s Sarah Musgrove provides some practical winter preparation tips for owners at small UK firms.
Let’s face it, winters are tough to negotiate when you’re a small business owner. It’s supposed to be the start of the most wonderful time of the year, but businesses are bound to suffer an eerily silent period, especially when employees start booking time off over Christmas.
With the festive season nearly upon us, here are seven of the best winter preparation tips for small businesses, so that owners can cope with the period whilst maintaining their sanity.
(1) Staff asking for time off
There’s no point in being a scrooge to your employees. They have families, events, and to-do lists to check off, just like you.
During winter preparation, make sure to ask ahead for everyone’s availability, and give a deadline for employees to book holiday time off by, so that you can plan ahead.
(2) Increased sales and customer traffic
If you own a small shop, winter can be the craziest time of the year. Be prepared by hiring part-time holiday employees to cover the rush. Any extra money you’re spending on staff could easily be made up in sales, thanks to better or more attentive customer service.
(3) Cash flow
The winter period is often a critical time for small businesses, not least because many managing directors, clerical assistants and finance department staff are on holiday over Christmas and New Year.
As a result, payments often don’t get made, cheques don’t get signed and small businesses often experience real problems with cash flow at this time.
During the winter months, many business owners have to resort to costly bank overdrafts to see them through or, worse still, the company credit card, both of which can exacerbate their weak cash flow positions in the short term. An important winter preparation tip is to forecast potential financial problems to ensure you, or your staff aren’t caught short this winter.
(4) Tighter budgets
End of year bonuses, annual donations to charities, lower sales – budgets always feel tighter at this time of year.
The best way to deal with that stressor is to plan for it. Start setting a small amount of money aside right from the beginning of the year, and create a special account for it, so you know you can’t touch it.
Preparing financially for the winter and the encroaching festive period, over the course of the entire year, will make your financial strains a thing of the past.
(5) Distracted employees
It’s the time of year when we all have extra things on our plates, and your employees may be spending more time thinking about Christmas – whether it’s starting to plan the party they’re hosting, or making their shopping list, this could result in lowered productivity.
Not also thinking about all the work Christmas parties and gatherings that may be happening. So, why not give staff longer lunches for a week, so they can get things done that they might have otherwise tried to do at their desks?
(6) Lower sales
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may be facing a slower sales period as Christmas time approaches. One way to prepare for that is to run a holiday promotion, to convince people that now is the time to spend their money on what you’re offering.
Perhaps it’s a holiday sale, or a buy-one-get-one event. Getting the word out that your business is offering deals can help invigorate a sluggish month, for some businesses.
(7) Personal stress
Having to worry not just about your own income, but your employees’ as well, during a slow period, can be hard on a business owner. The regular responsibilities remain, but the personal responsibilities also begin to pile up, which can lead to an overwhelming situation.
Make sure to take time for your own self-care, whether it’s meditating, exercising, Christmas shopping, or just leaving early to have dinner with friends or family. It can clear your head, and put you back in the holiday spirit.
Sarah Musgrove is a content writer and digital editor at Opus Energy
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.