This post originally appeared on startupnation.com/grow-your-business
With fall in full swing, most entrepreneurs’ thoughts turn to the essential work that comes alongside the changing seasons. This means closing out the year on a high note, getting geared up for the holiday crunch and making sure that everyone on staff makes it through the end of the year in one piece. Not an easy feat.
But as squirrels prepare themselves for winter by harvesting acorns in the fall, you too should make sure your company is ready for everything there is to come. This means juggling employee morale, creating killer holiday sales and wrapping up your 2018 finances before we ring in the new year.
Getting yourself ready in November (well before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday roll around) means taking advantage of the few calm weeks you’ll have this year. Here are a few key items to add to your to-do list; because you’ll be carving turkey before you know it.
Be prepared — winter is coming
The holidays give business owners one last chance to cash in before the year draws to a close. Stores are ready to sell, shoppers are ready to spend and deals abound everywhere. If you haven’t already thought about how you plan to make the most of the holiday buying season, now’s your chance. Draft and finalize your holiday sales plans, marketing tactics and any advertisements you plan to run to drum up business.
Planning goes beyond holiday sales, however. You’ll also want to make sure that you know which employees are heading off on vacation, which are locked and loaded for their regular shifts, and who’s ready to go if you find yourself in need of reinforcements. If you are a brick-and-mortar retail shop, November is also a great time to think about the logistics of opening earlier and closing later, which can help you accommodate post-9-to-5 holiday shoppers.
Keep your employees motivated (and happy!)
Even though festive cheer is the emotion of the moment during the holidays, it’s not always easy to keep your team motivated and focused on ending the year on a high note. The stress of holiday preparations, social obligations and shorter days poses a challenge for small business owners. An inattentive, distracted or downright exhausted staff makes it hard for everyone to concentrate on their work.
Keeping your team motivated is as simple as showing appreciation for all of their hard work. A recent study suggested that 86 percent of respondents feel motivated when they receive recognition for a job well done. There’s no better time to tell your team how valuable they are than during the holiday season—after all, this time of year is all about giving thanks. Giving people a little more flexibility with their work hours doesn’t hurt, either: If you can afford to let people come into work a little later, or leave a little earlier, you’ll see that your generosity has a big impact on your office productivity.
Make a holiday inventory list (and check it twice)
Not all lists this time of year are about determining who’s naughty or nice. An entrepreneur’s most important list should relate to inventory—the items you need to order to fulfill shopper demand, the goods you’re planning to put on sale, and any supplemental materials you need to get through the season (wrapping paper and tape, anyone?).
Preparation is your best friend this time of year. Know exactly what you need, how much of it you’ll have on hand, and anything else you’ll have to order to keep your business humming. Once you’re in the middle of the holiday crunch, you’ll be glad you took the time to list out everything you need to get you through it.
Make Small Business Saturday work for you
Black Friday brings out the ravenous, turkey-fueled hordes hungry for sales at big box stores. Small Business Saturday, however, is your time to shine. This is the one day every year where small businesses are in the spotlight with undivided buyer attention, and an opportunity to cash in on all of the good cheer that comes with it.
Simply being open on Small Business Saturday isn’t enough—you need to develop a sales plan if you truly want to maximize your earnings potential. Develop a robust marketing plan, advertise to your loyal customers, and make sure your deals are easy for shoppers to find. If you’ve thought about dipping your toes into the world of advertising, now’s the time to do it. Invest a bit of time and cash into a Small Business Saturday game plan, and you’re likely to see results.
Get your finances in order
November doesn’t just mark the beginning of the holiday season, even if most entrepreneurs’ thoughts turn to gift shopping and sales. Winter also means the end of the financial year, depending on your individual fiscal schedule. This time of year also kicks off tax season, which means that you’ll want to take time to check over your financials early.
The close of the year provides an excellent opportunity to dig deep into your profits, losses, revenue and cash flow. Starting early gives you time to spot mistakes and fix them before they become harder to manage. And, if your financial projections don’t look too hot, you’ll still have time before the end of the year to make up any revenue gaps or financial shortcomings.
Give thanks to the people who make your business thrive
Holiday deals and office parties aren’t the only ways you can say thanks to those who keep your business humming. A little extra appreciation for your staff and customers goes a long way: Not just because it helps both groups feel appreciated, but also because it motivates employees to stay engaged, and customers to keep shopping with you.
Think of a few inventive ways to give back, depending on your line of work. If you own a coffee shop, bar, or restaurant, think about hosting a customer appreciation night with deep discounts on food and beverages. Or, if you own a retail shop, think about throwing a holiday party that lets your team and your clientele mingle over drinks and snacks. These gestures help show that you care about people beyond what they provide for your business, while also giving them a reason to spend time in at your business. You’ll build brand affinity and loyalty, which is an investment that reaps dividends all year long.
November’s a tricky time for all entrepreneurs and small business owners. Between fiscal responsibilities, sales planning and all of the holiday madness that comes with the season, you’ve got enough on your plate to keep you more full than a complete Thanksgiving meal could ever compete with. The key to surviving the holidays is preparation and appreciation. Stay on top of your business by being organized, and thankful by showing how important your community is to your company.