With the holidays on the horizon, business owners need to decide whether to shut up shop – and if so, for how long. Communicating that news to customers and suppliers is also really important.
Planning ahead can help the holiday period run smoothly for your business and your team. Here are seven things to consider when deciding whether or not to close for the holidays.
1. Customer or client needs
Do customers or clients depend on you, especially at short notice? If so, is it best to be open for business, or be available on call.
If you’ve got ongoing client projects, consider whether there are any deadlines over the holiday period. This might mean keeping the business open or keeping key staff at work. The key here is to talk to your customer and team, and work out a plan together.
Even if your business is open, it may not be necessary to have the whole team at work. For instance, perhaps customer service staff are needed, but not the accounts and marketing teams.
2. Staff planning
Do you need or want to be at work for your customers during this time? You may have no choice, and some or all of your team will need to be at work for most or all the days between Christmas and New Year. But, with a little planning, it’s often possible to reduce staffing levels.
If you have a small team and they are vital for business, a longer Christmas break will limit the amount of holiday staff will take during the rest of the year — and reduce your need to take on casual staff to cover. It also eliminates the challenges of staff supervision if managers also take holiday at this time.
Where possible, take the personal situation of your team members into account. For instance, they may need to be at home in December or January to cover child care.
Bear in mind, too, whether you’re entitled to require staff to take leave, or whether you can simply work with them to reach an outcome that works for you and them.
3. Your own situation
If you can plan things so the business can be closed for a couple of weeks, the break may mean you can relax without thinking about what’s going on at the office.
If you take a break while the team continues to work, it will help if you have a qualified manager to take care of the business in your absence. Be sure the manager has a way to contact you or knows what to do in an emergency.
Once you’ve decided on your holiday closure plans, make sure to communicate them with customers. Here are three ways to keep customers informed:
- Send customers an email including details of when the business will be closed and emergency contact information, if appropriate.
- Include holiday closure details on your website, in voicemail messages and out-of-office email messages.
- For key clients, you might wish to let them know you’re available if there’s an emergency. Be sure to inform them how often you’ll be checking email, voicemail or social media.
Check with your suppliers to find out what their plans are. If they are closed, or running a limited service, while your business is open during the Christmas period, make arrangements to have supplies in place.
Before your accounts team or bookkeeper goes on holiday, be sure to take care of setting up supplier payments and staff wages. It doesn’t help good supplier relations if you make them wait until late in January to be paid for an account that was due in December.
Before Christmas comes, get on top of your debtor collections in order to help your cash flow.
7. Crisis management
Even with the best-laid plans, problems can occur. Classic examples include IT problems, a customer emergency, or a fantastic new client who shows up when you’re running on skeleton staff.
Your lifesaver here is to plan for the unexpected. If your business is open, be sure to have a manager on hand who can make and act on decisions. It’s also a good idea to have a folder containing emergency contact information, or other vital information your staff may need.
When it comes to IT problems, let your staff to know who to contact — and make sure that person will be available. Make sure someone is checking your website, and that there’s a plan for resolving issues that may arise.
The holidays are traditionally a time for family, rest and recuperation. Whether you’re open for business or you’re able to close for a few days, a little planning will mean you, too, can have a peaceful holiday time.