Sage Accounting 50--Canadian Edition Vice President and GM Nancy Harris knows a thing or two about managing a business through its peak activity time of the year. Whether you're in retail, manufacturing, production or a variety of other industries, a small business can feel overwhelmed during the holiday season. Check out the following facts shared by Harris to see tips and advice on how to get through this busy time.
Learn from your past experiences – Whether your business is a start-up or well-established, you have undoubtedly felt like you were drowning under a large workload or faced a considerably complicated or chaotic situation at some point. How did you or your team perform? What were your or your team’s strengths and weaknesses? What was executed well? What could have been improved? Analyzing similar past experiences is a great starting point to plan for a busy time.
Be ready to go with the flow – Everyone knows that the key to managing a difficult task successfully is planning. However, it is even more important that the plan developed is flexible enough so that a last-minute change doesn’t render the entire strategy unviable.
Don't leave for tomorrow what can be done today – Spare yourself the added stress by handling those tasks, which you believe can be pushed off, sooner than later. Even if you can’t complete a task immediately, starting the process by compiling documents and information, such as accounting records and employee information for tax season will get you ahead of the game after the busy season.
Budget-friendly hiring – Busy times often call for extra help. Even if you are doubtful whether you need to hire during that time, include the headcount in your annual budget. If you require additional staff, you will have the means to employ them; if you don’t, you can save that capital for an emergency or invest it in another area of your business.
Shape up your workspace – Whether you run a shop or a warehouse, a clean, top-performing facility will not only help smooth the transition to a hectic period, decrease the chances of setbacks and facilitate everyone’s jobs, but also give a good impression to transient customers. Clean thoroughly, organize, perform maintenance on tools and machines, and dispose of outdated and damaged products/items.
Manage your inventory efficiently – One of the biggest hindrances our customers told us they used to experience during busy times was an ineffectively managed inventory. Although having a system in place that ensures smooth operations is important year-round, it becomes critical during demanding times. Automated inventory systems are the most time- and cost-effective solution to help you streamline inventory management, and there are plenty of affordable options on the market. Furthermore, these tools offer many additional advantages.
Take the example of the B.C.-based Feelgood Treat Company, maker of a full line of super premium dry and frozen treats for cats, dogs and horses. Last summer, this small business embarked on the daunting task of launching six new products and optimizing its current lines. Feelgood not only relied on its Sage accounting solution to ensure the correct number of ingredients and final products were always available to meet the new demand, but the company was also able to better understand sales trends, control costs/margins more accurately and offer better pricing for their customers.
Research best practices – Knowing how other businesses in your industry handle certain situations can be a source of inspiration in determining how to manage your own operations. Look for case studies or success stories online, or talk with business owners within your network. Business associations and your local chamber of commerce are also great places to search for and obtain information on best practices.
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Go mobile – Whether your company has embraced mobility by providing devices to employees or it follows the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, increasing the level of connectivity among your staff can speed up your processes. Smartphones and tablets are not only cheaper and easier to carry and use than laptops, but also offer the ability to communicate anytime, anywhere. Busy times can call for fast action and reaction, and mobile devices offer that ability like no other.
Motivate and reward your staff – Your employees are the nerves and muscle of your business. Without your workforce, your business would not exist. Communicate with them on an ongoing basis and demonstrate that you understand and appreciate the integral role they play; motivate them before busy periods; recognize their hard work; and reward them for their efforts during and after the rush.
Plan for after-the-storm activity – If your business offers products that are popular during a particular time of year, you know that the end of the madness never coincides with the last day of the season. In an era in which mobile shopping is becoming increasingly popular, many customers realize the product they receive is not what they expected and may return or exchange it. Plan to keep your seasonal staff at least a week or two after the end of the season, and have enough variety in your inventory to satisfy product exchanges.
Nancy Harris is vice president and general manager at Sage 50 Accounting–Canadian Edition. Nancy is responsible for driving the strategic and product direction for Sage 50 Accounting–Canadian Edition and oversees key functional areas including sales and marketing and research and development. A primary focus of her role is strengthening relationships with and cultivating an exceptional customer experience for Sage’s small business customers, partner channels, accountants and bookkeepers.