A festive season survival guide for your startup

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It is imperative that both seasonal and non-seasonal businesses take heed of the pressures of the festive season and ensure business continuity to retain customers and steady profit margins for the new year.

That is according to Byron Jeacocks, regional general manager at South African risk finance firm Business Partners, who said that if entrepreneurs don’t plan accordingly for this busy time of year, there may be serious consequences to deal with in 2017.

“Whether a business is seasonal in nature or not, business owners need to take into account that their everyday work schedules and habits are going to be disrupted in some way or another,” he said.

There are certain behavioural trends of consumers over the festive period that favour certain types of businesses over others. However, Jeacocks said both seasonal and non-seasonal businesses can thrive or suffer at this time of year.

“The festive season can either make or break a business when entering into the new year,” he said. “However, if business owners plan in advance and are aware of the potential challenges they could face, they can be creative and use the season to their advantage.”

Here are four key tips from Jeacocks to help business owners plan their festive season strategy effectively.

Plan for less or more income over the period

Both over-trading and under-trading can put a business under pressure, he said.

“For example, offering discounts can be beneficial to businesses in terms of generating interest, increasing foot traffic and moving products but business owners need to be aware that these ‘retail discount holidays’ can result in stock shortages for late December or January, and should take these specials into consideration when planning their buying strategies,” Jeacocks said.

“With this in mind, businesses should also take into consideration that their suppliers may close over the festive season, so they may need to place their orders earlier than usual.”

Aside from ensuring there is enough stock to support the business through the festive season, seasonal business owners should also ensure they have enough staff to assist with the expected higher demand.

Communicate effectively with customers and generate excitement

“As businesses are competing for customers with different needs, they should either communicate any seasonal specials they are offering or communicate the dates that the business will be closed, as well as advertise the reopening of the business and perhaps offer reopening specials,” Jeacocks said.

Look after staff

According to Jeacocks, a business’ staff can be one of its biggest assets, and it is vital for business owners to make their staff feel valued at this time of year by thanking them for their hard work throughout the year and perhaps throwing a party or offering a bonus.

“If the business is seasonal and busier over the festive season, business owners should consider offering their staff shift work if possible, hiring temps to help carry the added workload, as well as offer to buy meals and supply transport if they are working later hours. Seasonal businesses should also increase security during this time,” he said.

Plan for downtime

It is inevitable that both seasonal and non-seasonal businesses will experience downtime within the year, with Jeacocks saying it is crucial to plan for this and make the most of it.

“Seasonal businesses can use extra profits made during the “high” season to pay back debts and reinvest in the business going into the new year, whereas non-seasonal business owners should use the downtime over the festive season to review their business plan, implement new strategies, catch up with admin, and manage any repairs or renovations which may need to take place,” he said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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