[This article was originally published on 18 November 2019.]

The end of the year is near. Whether you are shutting down for the December holidays or will still be open for business throughout the festive season, here is a comprehensive list of all the essentials to take care of – from treating your clients and team to planning for emergencies.

  • If you are shutting down during the festive break

– Close off the current year properly. In between preparing for the holiday season, take the time to finish the year in an orderly manner – it’s more important than ever after the year we have had. Review successes and failures and make sure to recognise the high achievers on your staff. – Jason Mellow, MiWay Head of Business Insurance

– Let your customers know when you will be away. Don’t assume that your customers will know when you will be closed – send them an email or a text message notifying them about the dates of your holiday shutdown.

– Have an out of office notification on all your communication channels which includes when you will be back, as well as an emergency number.

– Make sure you let important clients know that you might be unavailable so that you don’t just disappear. Once you know which dates you will be away, book them out and send a meeting request.

– Have all your social media posts scheduled for the holiday period.

  • If you are open for business during the festive season

Ensure your stock levels are considered for the end of year, placed in advance and arrange adequate storage capacity. Suppliers may also close for the season so a clear plan will ensure that you maintain the correct stock levels.

Keep your outlet open for longer. Many consumers are on leave, they will therefore be spending longer hours in stores, being open for longer extends the possibility of a higher footfall into your store this season.

Make sure that your store stands out and draws people in with the increased foot traffic. Whether you go super Christmassy with tinsel and trees, or stick to summer themes with umbrellas and sunglasses, some clever decor can pique a passer-by’s interest and imagination.

– Branch out to markets and events. Markets and pop-up events become more frequent as the festive mood hits.

– If you’re a restaurant owner you could set up a food stall with highlights of your best dishes. A cool idea for beauty salons could be a pop-up manicure station in a mall or shopping centre.

– Hire additional seasonal employees or arrange a skeleton crew for the festive break if additional help is required.

– Motivate staff that are working through the festive season. Create a light, fun environment for people to work in during the end of year period.

The end of year is a perfect time to show some appreciation to the clients who have supported you throughout the year.

  • Plan for emergencies

– Ensure that all your insurance and security are up to date and that you and your business are covered for that emergency.

– Provide an emergency number in all your ‘out of office’ messages.

– Provide an option to add a donation to a local charity when customers check out, donate a portion of your sales for the day to a cause you care about, or encourage shoppers to add a care hamper to their carts, which you can distribute. – Viresh Harduth, Vice President, Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East

Give back in a measurable way. If you are serious about using your resources to make a difference, try to invest in measurable outcomes.

  • Party time!

Treat your employees to thank them for all their hard work and service throughout the year.

– Host a small, intimate client party. The end of year is a perfect time to show some appreciation to the clients who have supported you throughout the year. For your top clients, you could consider a small gift with a personal message in a card.

Thank your customers. You can do this either by emailing them, if you do have an existing email database, on social media, or if you are feeling especially generous, offer them a little discount.

  • Financial prep

–  Any time there is financial instability (whether it’s due to the economy or company shortfalls), the first step is an obvious one: reduce discretionary expenses. Re-evaluate your company policies for travel, entertainment and office supplies, for example. – Rael Levitt, founder of Inospace

– If you expect a seasonal cash flow crunch, prepare for it by speaking to your bank about an overdraft.

Get your invoices out at soon as possible and make those phone calls where necessary to get what is due to you before the shutdown.

Take advantage of any special deals that might be relevant for your business. For example, if you need to purchase a printer, be on the lookout for post-Christmas sales. Also, look for rental deals or discounts on yearly subscriptions versus pay-as-you-go options.

  • Practice self care

Make a reading list for the holidays– holidays can be a great time to catch up on reading – pick up a business book or autobiography of a business leader who inspires you. Challenge yourself to read actively, this means writing notes about key ideas in the book.

Clear your mind every day – spend a little time exploring different calming techniques such as deep breathing, writing a journal or listening to classical music. Find out what calms you down and make it a goal to incorporate mindful meditation into your daily schedule.

– Practice gratitude. Count your blessings every day. Remind yourself why you love what you do and why you are grateful to have a supportive environment that enables it.

– Give yourself permission to rest, to nourish and recharge your mind, body and spirit so that you can meet yourself where you are at.

Make time for friends and family to remind yourself to stay real, reconnect, and to stay grounded.

Spend time with family.

  • New Year’s prep

– The beginning of the year is a great time to get in touch with clients, suppliers and other stakeholders. A personal phone call or email to wish them well for the New Year is a good way to get on their radar early in the year. The quiet first few weeks of the year are also a great time to meet your contacts to discuss how you can work together over the months to come. – Anton van Heerden, former Managing Director of Sage Africa & Middle East

Get ready for the New Year. When you get back to work in January, it’s generally a rat race to first meetings, wrapping up key projects from the previous year, or catching up with admin.

De-clutter your physical work space. There is nothing worse than starting the year with an unorganised, paper stacked desk/boot/drawer/drive. Get rid of old stationery items as well.

Start the New Year with a bang. Long standing customers will appreciate a New Year mailer to get them excited for opening specials when you are back in business to kick start the New Year.

Think about a client you would like to fire in 2020 – Take an objective look at your client book and assess who is a profitable client and who is not. Consider what you would need to do in order to give your toughest, most unrewarding client notice. How much business would you need to bring in to cover the loss.

Do an audit of your online profiles, websites and other digital assets. Check if they still meet your business or brand’s needs.

Create a content plan – even a light one – to start the year off with fresh relevant content, without scrambling for content to post and share. Remember it’s all about adding value and engaging with your customers or clients.

– Take stock of what has happened in the industry or market you are operating in. Check how your clients have performed, as well as how their competitors and collaborators performed. Look into what might impact them in the upcoming year, and what you can offer them to make a positive difference.

– Look at fellow entrepreneurs and businesses and see who is open to collaborating in the new year. These are potential partners. However, also research potential companies to avoid working with.

Reflect on the previous year – what worked for your business, what didn’t work? Do analysis on your finances and what you wanted to achieve – are you on track with your budgeted income, cost of sales, expenses?

– Think about your business with current suppliers. What needs to change for the following year with regards to  suppliers? Consider negotiating with suppliers for the new year. You can get a better rate.

– Think about your customer’s needs – has it changed? Are you keeping up with their changed needs? What can you add to your products or services? What service or product do you need to stop?

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