How to holiday-proof your business

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walking on beach

By Trent Innes

It feels like the Easter holidays arrive sooner each year. But while many of us are counting down, for small business owners – particularly those in tourism and hospitality – this is one of their busiest times of year. Instead of looking forward to some time away from the desk or shop, many are resorting to work longer hours to cope with increased demand.

Recent research from Xero shows the majority of small business owners aren’t planning ahead for the increased demands of the holiday period, and as a result 31% are resorting to working longer hours to cope.

Only 18 per cent of survey respondents said they will use last year’s figures to estimate turnover and targets to plan their approach for the summer season this year, showing they aren’t quite sure what to expect and what to do about it.

It’s smart business to focus on how you can maximise revenue during the high season but that doesn’t always mean you need to work more, or cope with rising stress levels.

There are several strategies small business owners can implement to ensure their operations doesn’t fall over when they decide to take a well-earned break or have to run their operations at breakneck speed.

One of the biggest challenges is staffing.

Use the lead up to your busy period to train up a key team of employees who know how your business operates and are capable of making decisions if you’re not around. By having a solid, core team, you can scale up during busy periods by hiring temps and be confident they have leaders around them to show them the ropes.

Build leaders.

Involving staff in various aspects of your business not only gives them a sense of ownership, it can help take some of the work off your plate. Having a reliable manager in charge goes a long way towards making you feel comfortable that your business is in good hands when you’re not on deck.

Learn to forecast.

Whether you’re closing for Easter or staying open the whole time, planning ahead is one of the best ways to holiday-proof your business. There are so many tools these days that can help you do this, from previous year’s financial or sales data, to Google Trends analytics to see when people start searching for your product or service. With all this data available to you, you can start to predict the busy times within your business and use the quieter times to plan for the peak.

Plan.

If you are heading off, put in a bit of extra time in the weeks leading up to your holidays, so you don’t find yourself overwhelmed and your workload is in the best possible shape for when you return.

Communicate.

You’ll find if you tell people you’re on holidays they’ll hesitate to reach out unless the issue is pressing. Call the people you deal with most and set up your auto-reply email response, give the person an emergency contact and set some parameters for what constitutes a pressing situation.

Get the right gear.

If you absolutely need to work while you’re on holidays, it will be much easier if you have the right technology. Make sure you can access your files by using cloud based software, like Xero, so you can logon using your smartphone, tablet or laptop, while you’re on the fly.

Looking at the ways you can plan ahead can help you get the most out of the Easter period – whether you’re planning to take some time out from your business or about to face your busiest period.

Trent Innes is the managing director of Xero Australia

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