Small Business and the Holiday Season

It’s a holly, jolly and hard time of year for the Entrepreneur

The first Black Friday ads started playing a little over a week ago which means two things: retailers really need a big 2014 and the holiday season is officially here. It’s always tough to write about the holidays because they mean different things to different people. For some it’s all about religion, for others it’s a religion of the retail kind and for others it’s a time to finish one year and begin another. Regardless of your belief or perspective, this is a time to celebrate. It is a time to spend with family and friends and give thanks. It is a time to rejoice, reflect and rejuvenate. Yet despite the happiness that accompanies this time of year, it is not without its stress and anxiety. There are gifts to get, trips to coordinate, relatives to prepare for and parties to plan. And while families truly struggle to navigate the holidays, this time of year is particularly challenging for small business owners. Because while most business owners would prefer to be celebrating the joy of having survived another twelve months, there is never a more pressure-packed or stress filled time of year. This is a time when a small business owner needs to think like Scrooge but act like St. Nick.

Managing Staff and Clients

Today is Monday, November 17th, technically there are thirteen days left in the month. But with the four-day Thanksgiving holiday and accompanying weekends, there are really only six working days left before December. And as soon as December hits, things get worse. With the staff vacations, the office parties, the abbreviated kids’ school schedule, the trips to the airport, the long lunches and extended shopping trips, a small-business owner will be lucky to get ten days of work out of her staff between now and January 5th! So in spite of paying nearly six weeks of payroll, a small business owner can hope for about three weeks of work.

The business’s clients however expect the exact opposite. Faced with a rapidly approaching year-end, most clients want to wrap things up before the New Year. So even with their own diminished and distracted staffs, most clients want their vendors working at a full clip. Reconciling the two realities makes it incredibly tough on the small business owner.

Payables, Receivables, Taxes and Presents

The year-end is also ground zero for any small business financial planning. Because no matter how well business owners have executed their financial strategies during the year, they come to a head in December. After the year closes the accounting options are significantly reduced. So, faced with the need of having enough cash to meet expenses but not so much that the revenue and earnings are out of whack, they furiously juggle payables and receivables. And again, their clients’ mentally is exactly the opposite: they are often looking to move expenses off the books to lower their bottom line and reduce their tax liability. Managing the books at the end of the year is one of the most challenging things a small business faces.

Planning for 2015

And as if looking back at the year prior isn’t challenging enough, the small business owner has to keep an eye on the year to come. The holidays will in fact come to an end. The New Year will be rung in and shortly after all the champagne corks have all been exploded, the staff will be back and ready to get to work. The owner has to make sure that the work is there. The marketing effort also takes planning and execution and much of that lies with the owner, particularly at the end of the year.

The good news for 2015 however is that promoting small business will be even easier and more fun than ever. We continue to assure our clients that the options and opportunities to get their small business in front of its target audience and to send them a message that is clear and exciting will continue to get easier and less expensive. So 2015 should be a good year for small business in the areas of marketing, promotion and publicity.

The Ultimate Gift

No has ever said that running a small business was easy. It certainly has its rewards not the least of which is the opportunity to pursue a livelihood while indulging a passion. But that pursuit is difficult, time-consuming and risky. All of which the small business owner is willing to accept – for about 320 days a year. It’s these last forty-five days when those sacrifices are often the most difficult to face. Having the ability to relax and enjoy the holidays, to appreciate and reward the employees for their skill, hard work and dedication, to be generous with time and money while managing the demands imposed during the final six weeks of the year? That is truly one of the greatest gifts any small business owner can ask for.

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