Tax & admin · 15 December 2017

Four lessons small business owners can learn from this year’s Christmas ads

Christmas ads from retail giants like John Lewis have become a festive television tradition

Christmas is just around the corner, which means that the airwaves are already filled with an array of heartwarming, festive advertisements from some of the UK’s biggest businesses.

But are there any hidden business tips amongst the tinsel? Emily Coltman, chief accountant to cloud accounting software provider FreeAgent, picks a few favourites from this 2017’s selection of Christmas ads and suggests some tips that can be learnt from them.

  1. Perseverance pays off – It’s A Wonderful Flight, by Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport has created a charming festive gem this year, with a pair of bears who keep stealing stolen glances at each other at the terminal. After lots of missed opportunities and shyness, they eventually forge a connection over some duty-free shortbread.

Their perseverance (and willingness to keep buying shortbread) pays off – and we finally see them grow older together, along with their new family of nattily-dressed little bears.

There’s definitely a lesson to be learned here for small businesses – a determined mindset pays off when it comes to business relationships. Make a decided effort to stay in touch with your client base, as well as putting in ample time with prospective clients, too. And if you have long-term customers, you may want to go the extra mile and give them a Christmas gift to say thank you.

  1. Know when to take a break – Moz the Monster, by John Lewis

John Lewis’ latest seasonal ad sees a young boy becoming great friends with the monster living under his bed and playing together all night, every night – until the boy starts to lose out on sleep and is tired all the time.

Moz the monster feels guilty for wearing out his new pal, and hides a snow globe nightlight under the Christmas tree, allowing the little boy to sleep soundly whenever he turns it on, and see Moz again whenever he turns it off.

As a small business owner it can be easy to work long hours, especially when deadlines are looming, and find that you’re wearing yourself out. Make sure you have your own “night light” (or at least give yourself a break before you start snoozing at your desk) by trying to weave small breaks into your working day or taking a full-on digital detox.

  1. Protect yourself – Paddington & The Christmas Visitor, by Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer has gone down the movie tie-in route this year by recruiting Paddington Bear to help with its Christmas creative. In the ad, the young bear mistakes a white-bearded robber for Santa Claus and then helps the thief “deliver” some stolen parcels back to their rightful owners.

While Paddington’s kindness is enough to show the burglar the error of his ways, this is not always the case in business – so it’s important to watch out for untrustworthy or problematic characters.

Ensure you calculate the risks before working with new clients and help to protect yourself from any potential late payers by building terms and conditions into your invoices. And if you do encounter any problems, remember there are options available for taking legal action against clients who just won’t pay.

  1. Make your own community – Snowed In, by Waitrose

Waitrose isn’t especially renowned for its Christmas advertisements, but they have bucked the trend this year with a surprisingly decent effort.

Its commercial sees some festive revellers enjoying a Christmas Eve beverage in their local pub before getting snowed in and having to make Christmas dinner together – with the group starting off as strangers and then becoming firm friends by the end of the ad.

Freelancers can sometimes find themselves having a comparatively isolated work life, without the hubbub of an office to work from every day. For this reason, it’s a great idea to make the effort to find other freelancers in your community, whether through going to local meetups like Creative Mornings or joining an online community like Freelance Heroes.

And remember, building a community isn’t just about the camaraderie – you never know when you’ll need the help of a fellow freelancer on a project, or if they’ll require your skills for theirs.

Emily Coltman FCA is chief accountant at FreeAgent, which makes award-winning cloud accounting software for freelancers, micro-businesses and their accountants

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Emily Coltman is chief accountant to FreeAgent, provider of cloud accounting software for freelancers, micro businesses and accountants. She is passionate about helping the owners of small and growing businesses to escape their “fear of the numbers” and she translates small business finance and tax into practical common sense speak.