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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Getting your small business ready for the festive season slowdown

If you are a South African business owner – barring the retail, tourism and hospitality industries – the festive season break is probably one of the quieter times of the year for you. It’s an opportunity for rest, reflection and preparation for the year to come.

Here’s a checklist of some of the essential things to do before you close or slow down operations for the December holidays.

Notify your customers

If you usually close down for a short while over December, it’s a good idea to put it in writing for your customers. You can use email, text messages, social media and your website to let them know about cut-off times for new orders, the dates you’ll be closed, and how they can reach you for emergencies. You can kill two birds with one stone by including this information in a personalised festive greeting card or mailer.

Calculate bonuses if necessary

If you usually pay a 13th cheque or performance bonuses for qualifying staff, do the calculations well before your December pay run. Let your employees know before payday whether they will be getting bonuses and how much.

Have a backup team in place

Employees, especially those with children, may want to take leave to make the most of the school holidays. However, you may need a skeleton team to attend to urgent customer requests, answer the phones, and keep an eye on the business. Check who is available and willing to work at this time.

Set up automated responses and voice mail

If you plan to shut down completely, you should set up a voicemail message and an automated response email in case someone contacts you during this time. These messages should let customers know when you will reopen and who to contact in an emergency. You can use chatbots and web FAQs to help customers with queries while no one is in the office.

Spruce up the office

When most are out of the office, the quiet time is your chance to do some spring cleaning, for example, filing paperwork, giving the office a deep clean, servicing the air conditioner and printer, changing flickering lightbulbs, and carrying out basic maintenance.

Get your policies in order  

When you get back to work in January, you may be inundated with requests for loans and advances from employees. Prepare to answer these requests with a standard policy, whether you can help or not.

Revisit your business plan

Have you met your goals in the past year? Do you need to revise or set new ones? Having an idea of where you’re at and where you want to be is a great way to start the year.

Catch up on admin and rest before the new year

With tight cash flows, now is an excellent time to get your books in order. An automated accounting system will help you stay on top of invoicing and remind customers that their accounts are in arrears. With mobile options available, you can also keep tabs on your business account from anywhere.

It will be January before you know it. Use the quiet time to plan for 2022 but don’t forget your downtime. Rest, relax, read a good book and spend quality time with your loved ones. Soon, it will be all systems go again.

By Viresh Harduth, Vice President, Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East

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