SHOULD SMES OPEN OVER CHRISTMAS?
Now that we're approaching the latter part of the year, we take a look at the pros and cons of keeping your business open over the festive period.
It’s an old problem facing owners of small businesses – is it worth keeping the office open between Christmas and the New Year? Can you afford to give your staff a well-earned break, or do you stay open for the benefit of your customers and your bottom line?
Basepoint, as one of the leading serviced office providers in the UK, takes a keen interest in all issues affecting small businesses. Here we look at six of the key factors to consider when deciding on your opening hours over the holiday period.
What About Your Customers?
If your customers aren’t likely to be buying your products, or your supply chain isn’t operating, there isn’t much point in you staying open. It depends on the nature of your business. For some SMEs, particularly in retail, this is a critical sales period, when you can get rid of old stock and get in new lines.
Whatever you decide, announce it in good time, preferably via social media and the internet. Customers are unlikely to begrudge you the days off provided they know your opening hours well in advance. According to the old saying, it takes 20 years to build up a good reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
What About Your Staff?
Your employees may be expecting a break, as Christmas is traditionally a time for visiting family or friends. They won’t thank you if you insist on them coming into work, particularly if there is little to do. It may be simpler to close rather than try to keep the business going with a skeleton staff. Rewarding employees with extra days off won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated, particularly if the weather is bad.
If your business needs to open between Christmas and New Year, it is important to be fair and consistent with all staff about who works and when. If possible, offer them the choice of what days to come in. Families with young children might want more time off over Christmas, while single people might prefer to leave the New Year free. Again, don’t leave this decision until the last minute.
Watching the Finances
There are usually financial implications to staying open over Christmas. Depending on their employment contracts, staff are often entitled to be paid more on any Bank Holidays they work, so it may be more cost-effective to shut down.
SMEs can also run up other additional expenses over the festive period, such as staff parties and bonuses, while some companies pay the December salary a week early – in time for Christmas Day. Staying open between December 25 and January 1 might become necessary to improve the company’s cash flow.
Either way, it is essential to have an accurate assessment of your company’s financial position before you make your decision.
The Growth of Technology
You may be able to work from home over the festive period because of the rapid growth in technology. Cloud-based software means it is easy to access your work emails to deal with any outstanding problems, although there may still be issues which you can only deal with in person.
Basepoint Business Services can offer a range of telephone services, including call forwarding and programmed diverts, all tailored to your individual requirements.
Staying Safe and Secure
While closing over Christmas may be appreciated by your staff, widely advertising this to your customers may not go unnoticed by burglars and thieves. Opening for a day or two will also help avoid a build-up of mail – another tell-tale sign that the premises are unoccupied.
If you do shut, make sure that the premises are safe and secure. Put lights on timers to create the impression that the office is still occupied, and that any valuable equipment and records is safely stored away.
At Basepoint, you don’t have to worry about a lot of these issues. Our service charges include a manned reception area during business hours, a secure door entry system with keys for all occupiers/tenants, CCTV coverage and an alarm system.
A Chance to Take Stock
If you don’t come in from Christmas Eve until January, you could be facing a huge backlog of issues to deal with, with lots of emails and voice mails to answer and mail to open. If you aren’t going to do much actual business, this period is the ideal time to take stock, in all senses of the phrase.
As well as checking on your actual levels of stock and assets, you can use this time to review the progress of your business, set goals for the year ahead, and even give the premises a new lick of paint.