The holiday season brings many opportunities to boost your small business. It may signal a quiet time or the apex of the trading year for your enterprise. Here we offer general tips for preparations, and some aimed at specific business sectors.
Commercial vehicles: check for winter-readiness
For a van-based business, ensuring the reliability of your number one asset is paramount during the holiday season. This means normal preparations for winter, plus the possibility of additional time on the road. Keep it clean, check tyres, windscreen wipers and wash, and electrics. For more on winter driving, see our quick guide to driving on snowy roads.
A holiday communication boost for your small business
A seasonal greetings card is just one of many ways to take advantage of the holiday season. Seasonal and topical emails or online posts are always a good idea, but the personal touch of a card can strike a chord and help cement customer loyalty. This is especially true if the holiday season is not an obvious busy time for your business, as may be the case if you work in home decorating, plumbing, electrical work or web design and development: this is an opportunity to keep your enterprise in your customers’ minds. If you’re considering a gift – say a diary, pen or mouse mat with your logo on it – it could be a memorable customer reminder that is deductible from trading profits, as long as it’s worth less than £50. Food, drink, tobacco or vouchers, are not allowable without incurring tax.
Whether you choose to send gifts, cards or just emails, it’s always worth letting your customers know:
- When you are open for business over the holiday
- Your out-of-hours emergency contact arrangements
- Whether you are offering a “crisis” service over the holiday period
The latter could well be an opportunity to boost your small business as long as you are prepared to deliver. Promoting your availability at set times and dates over the holidays offers a friendly reassurance that your customers will remember, even if they don’t need to call on your services.
Taking advantage of seasonal business
If your small business has anything to do with retail, catering, personal care services and the like, you already know that the holiday period is one of your peak seasons. In addition to the customer communication pointers above, use your marketing channels to communicate:
- Holiday-specific promotions, e.g. discount offers;
- Last order dates for guaranteed delivery
- Any plans for January sales
Prepare your supply chain for the holiday surge
Businesses with relatively small turnover and limited storage space (this may be confined to the back of your van!) must take extra care to cope with the sudden surge in demand. Here are some common-sense precautions.
Get your supplier orders in early to avoid disruption
If you rely on suppliers for materials, take the time to make personal contact to make sure there is no reason for disruption. You’ll need more stock than normal so taking on some temporary extra storage space may be necessary.
Cash flow precautions
By the same token, you may experience some cash flow issues as a result of late payments and holiday closures of client companies. Talk to your bank or financial adviser, ideally to arrange a short-term injection of cash if the need arises.
Discuss staff holidays and the need for extra help well in advance
Even if staff holiday discussions are, in fact, a conversation you have with yourself, you need to plan your time meticulously to ensure you can cope with increased demand. If you need to take on extra help, include training time to your schedule and be aware that even temporary staff requires employers’ liability insurance. If your extra help is a driver, check whether your van insurance covers use by employees.
Business continuity planning: don’t miss the chance to improve
Your van isn’t the only asset that needs to be winter-ready so you can maximise the opportunities offered by the holiday season. Are you prepared for power cuts? In a small business, you may not have a generator, but you can prepare by keeping electronic devices fully charged, stocking spare batteries, and having an old-fashioned corded phone on the premises. Additional batteries for your van could be a life-saver in some cases.
With these measures, on top of keeping your van in tip-top weather readiness for the holiday rush, you should be able to benefit as much as you hoped from the holidays. Season’s greetings !