Plan Smart and Get Ahead This Holiday Season

Feeling overwhelmed in the run-up to the busy season? If the thought of the impending holidays makes you break out in a cold sweat instead of feeling warm and fuzzy inside, it’s time to get serious about preparation. Here’s how to avoid a season of stress.

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Get employees involved.

Meet with the employees who were with you last season and have a serious, no-holds-barred conversation about how the holidays really went last year. What worked? And, more importantly, where did you fall short? Being polite won’t help your business, so get their honest feedback, and ask them if they have any suggestions about how you can all do better this year. For example, should you hire seasonal employees? If so, do you have a solid training protocol in place? Your staff determines your success and failure, so make sure you have a team you can count on. To make sure you have the best people on board, read our post on How to Source Seasonal Help Quickly.

Determine your busiest times.

Data is your best tool in preparing for the holidays. Luckily, you have loads of it at your fingertips in your Square Dashboard. There, you can look back at historical sales data to help you identify which November and December days were your busiest last year. You can even drill down further to figure out your peak sales hours. These data points can help you be strategic about setting your holiday hours and planning employee schedules.

Set an early deadline for time-off requests.

Start talking to your employees about their holiday plans now. No matter how early your employees submit their requests, it’s just a reality that not everyone can take off the same peak days and times. To make these shifts more appealing, get creative with incentives. Some options to consider are free breakfasts (or lunches or dinners), spa gift certificates, days off, and cash bonuses. You know your staff best, so choose something that they’ll find exciting.

Keep customers updated.

During the holidays, you need to be as transparent with customers as you are with staff about deadlines and limitations. Once you assess your staffing situation, determine what’s feasible in terms of offering services and deliveries during peak times. Whether you fulfill in-town or online orders, be clear about cutoff dates and times for deliveries. Take some of the burden off an already-stretched staff by encouraging customers to order early.

If you have special holiday hours, make sure that your website has the most up-to-date information. And if you’re opening early or closing late, post the news on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or another social media outlet of choice — especially if you’re running special promotions during these times.

The holiday season will always come with its ups and downs. But if you start now, and get your ducks (and data) in a row, you can turn the next few months from unpredictable rollercoaster into an exciting ride to profitability.