With the silly season fast approaching, it is crucial businesses tie up loose ends, lock down security and safety measures, finalise pays, and set sufficient rosters. There are numerous items which should be on your ‘to-do’ list to ensure your business runs smoothly while the office is closed. Just because you are going on holidays doesn’t mean your customers are.
Early planning is key to boosting profits and minimising stress as you head into the final month of the year. Whether you’re already putting the finishing touches on your preparations or just getting started, here are some reminders of things to consider in the coming weeks.
1. Staff Management
Many businesses will close over December and January, for some it can be the busiest time of year and deliver much-needed cash flow. If you are open and you need staff during Christmas or New Year’s, it is crucial you roster accordingly by asking employees if they are willing to work. Some employees might actually be happy to work during this time, but attempting to force anyone to work the holiday season against their wishes is not advisable.
Also, reward long time employees with time off during this period and utilise your casual workforce to cover the gaps. Keep in mind you might have to pay higher rates for staff working on public holidays. Most staff appreciate bonuses or pay before Christmas and New Year, so it is a good idea to set this up to finish the year on a positive note.
Lastly, ensure staff who are left in charge have the authority to deal with an emergency should it arise. An information kit should be left with passwords, spare keys, insurance details, and an emergency number.
Here’s a quick outline of our staff management tips:
- Work this out in advance; best to get volunteers for taking leave; or working through; or being on call. Forced Christmas roles can cause friction and are best avoided.
- Get it right with the mix of public holidays / annual leave
- Many staff prefer to be paid in advance at this time of year so there is cash flow to consider
- Christmas or performance bonuses – be clear about what is being given and why.
Who will be on duty or on call for emergencies?
- If not yourself, who will be on duty; do they have contact phone numbers; do they have keys and security passwords; what authority do they have to make decisions: Remember the 2011 floods!!!
2. Performance Bonuses or Small Gifts Under $300
Christmas gifts are a great way to generate goodwill amongst staff. If you have a company credit card with a rewards program, often you can use points accredited to claim gift vouchers or other products to deliver presents to staff instead of using cash flow.
A gift to an employee at Christmas time is classed as an ‘exempt benefit’ where the value of the gift is less than $300. Where a Christmas gift is provided to an employee at a Christmas party also provided by the employer, the benefits are associated benefits, but each benefit needs to be considered separately to determine if it is less than $300. If both the Christmas party and the gift are less than $300, and the other conditions of a minor benefit are met, this is classed as an exempt benefit.
Visit this article from ATO for more details on benefits classification.
3. Setting-Up a Standard Auto-Reply and Voicemail
An easy way to alleviate stress and ensure customers aren’t neglected while you are on your break is to include a standard auto-reply/voice message for all emails or missed calls. Your auto-reply should include a few key things such as:
- Date and time you will be away and when you will return to work
- Who to contact in case of an emergency; make sure you include a contact phone or other important numbers, as necessary
- A brief synopsis of your business and what you do
- A greeting or pleasantries in regard to the holiday season
- Encouragement to join your newsletter or connect online
4. Keeping Active Communication and Web Presence
Ensure you are connecting and continuing to engage with your target market through marketing and media. If you have a social media set up, it is easy to pre-schedule tweets or auto-posts through management sites such as Hootsuite.
Frantic last-minute posting risks typos, tone problems, and other mistakes. It’s much safer—and more efficient—to dedicate a specific time ahead to create, tweak, proofread, and schedule posts. In addition to making your workday less stressful, using a social media scheduler can help you plan an effective content mix. You can look for opportunities to reinforce social messaging across platforms, and you’ll be able to time your posts to reach the largest possible audience.
If you’re not familiar with scheduling social media posts and engagements, check out this guide from Hootsuite.
5. Sales and Stock Management
During holiday season, many retailers see a sharp spike in their sales. In order to maximize the yield from the holidays, it is crucial that a business’s inventory is managed correctly. Minimise holding stock on site if your business is closing, or scaling down, during the holidays. If it is your busiest period during this time, make sure you have enough product on site to meet demand. The worst thing that can happen is to run out of stock of products that are in demand since this may damage the businesses bottom line and also the customers’ impression.
It also helps to know the operating hours of your suppliers to ensure nothing of value is left out in the open, and necessary items should be pre-ordered. Also ensure that you have an established reorder point and be clear on stock availability and delivery schedules. Work with suppliers to determine if there are adequate substitutes available in case product become unavailable.
Lastly, make sure that mail, plants, and other around the office details will be looked after.
All in all, keep these stock management points in mind before the Holidays start:
- Minimise holding stock if shutting down or scaling down
- Sell or remove perishable stock before closing
- Be aware of when your suppliers are open or closed over Christmas / New Year
- Order replacement stock in advance for delivery when reopening
If you have been thinking about conducting a renovation or bringing in pest management, it is a great idea to do it while everyone is away. This will minimise disruption in the office during regular work hours.
However, emotions can and do run hot during a renovation, and the stress of the holidays can compound those emotions, which can range from simple annoyance to downright frustration depending on your personality and your contractor. So, as we are quickly heading into the holiday season, we wanted to share our tips for managing your renovation over the holidays:
- Talk to your contractor about your holiday plans
- Set a realistic plan for working around holiday disruptions
- Be upfront and honest about your thoughts and feelings
- Designate a place where all stock and tools can be stored and covered
- Be flexible and reasonable when working with your contractor
Ensure all data is backed up before you leave and keep hard copies in a separate environment. Better still have secure encrypted off-site backup of the data that is important to your business. . Make sure physical security is increased if the premises will be unattended. It is also crucial your business insurance is up to date in case of an emergency, accident, or fire. If staff are going to be working, and in reduced numbers, make sure you have a sufficient safety plan in place and emergency numbers readily available.
To sum it up, here are the things to remember:
- Increase security if premises is unattended for a while
- Staff security if working reduced numbers or staff working alone
- Data backup / recovery strategy
The holidays usually entail a load of tasks to be done and your staff might not be able to handle the strain. You may think of hiring additional staff but it’s not practical since the demand is only short-term. With outsourcing, you can hire a small but dedicated group to help for a faster turnaround of your operations.
If you want to have a person on hand to answer customer enquiries, and you don’t or can’t use your regular full-time staff, it is possible to outsource incoming calls to a managed call centre. Email, chat, and phone inquiries also pile up during the holidays. With an outsourced staff, you’re ensured that you have enough people to answer queries in a timely manner and assist customers accordingly. This is a simple process to implement and will allow you to relax while still retaining a connection with your customers.
9. Gifting Clients at This Time of Year
It is not unusual for a business to provide a Christmas gift to special or high value clients. These can be Christmas hampers gift cards, but in any case, be aware of any fringe benefits implications.
One idea that has great appeal is to donate to a charity such as the Salvation Army and advise the client that you have done this in lieu of a gift which may or may not be useful or appreciated.
Here is my simple guide to client gift giving:
- Make it appropriate
- Make it personal from you
- If practical deliver your client gifts in person
- Make it genuine not just a token – or don’t bother
10. Enjoying Your Personal Break
So many of us yearn for time off work to spend with family and friends, but when it comes to being away from the office, switching off can be hard to do, especially if you have a work smartphone. According to Executive Style, nearly three-quarters of Australians (73%) admitted in a survey to working while on holiday, more than double the global average (33%).
If you’re thinking about the stack of work on your desk and how short-staffed your department is over the December period, a holiday break can be anything but relaxing. Nonetheless, it’s important to unplug yourself from your job and enjoy your holiday break, as it will allow you to return with a fresh perspective and renewed energy, which can boost your productivity and effectiveness on the job.
- If you haven’t had a decent break yourself try to forget about the business and focus on the family for a while
- If you are the key person then you need to be rested for the new year which will have its challenges
- Wrap up your work commitments—keep the last few days before your holiday break free from meetings and non-essential activities.
Merry Christmas from AURIC Financial and the team.
Dai is a Master of Business Administration graduate of the University of New England, Registered BAS Agent and member of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers. For 16 years he owned, operated and managed businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry – particularly Accommodation, Event Management, and Food & Beverage Management. In recent years, Dai has worked in the Not for Profit sector, Real Estate, Motorsports, and Motor Trades industry and business services, in Finance, Administration, and Practice Management roles, before becoming a Professional Bookkeeper in 2009.