Managing the Crazy Behind Small Business Christmas (and any other business spike)

I’ve accepted that Christmas, at least here in the good ol’ USA, starts the moment Halloween is put to bed. Down come the Jack-o-Lanterns and up goes the mistletoe. Whatever your opinion on this situation may be, there’s no arguing that December is crazy!

When you own a small business, there are high expectations on your company come this time of year. As a business owner, I love December because – simply put – it’s when I see major increases in sales and my employees start getting paid more (that always feels good). However, there is a ton of stress that comes with this month. I know how to run my business under this stress because I’ve survived it before, but it’s gearing up for new challenges that I have to drink an extra gulp of coffee for.

My team knows that once the calendar surpasses Thanksgiving, there is no space for time off until after Christmas. We have to spend every second getting ready. It’s not just the extra baking that scares us, it’s all the little things that complete the packages we need to send out. We have to be ready just in case – oh, I don’t know – our local Staples’ sells out of packs of note cards. What if our jar manufacturer runs out of power in mid-December? Don’t even get me started on snow!

Do you know what snow does? Snow starts out with a simple bump in the road: I have an employee who can’t make it safely to work. Now I have one less teammate so we’re all going to be behind the whole day. With UPS on a strict time limit this time of year, if we don’t get everything baked, decorated, labeled and packed by 5pm, we’re up the creek without a paddle.

This has taught me what I like to call ABC Prep. Essentially, never settle for Plan B. There needs to be Plan C, D and most definitely E. What this means for me is that I have to sit down with Scott and Mum to discuss all the things that can go wrong. It’s kind of a depressing conversation, but when you run a gifting business and recognize the monster that is Christmas, you know when it’s time to get down to brass tax.  When you have as many as 5,000 gifts shipping out on a particular day, there’s no room for mistakes.

I hope I haven’t scared you! If you know your business really well, you know when you need extra help to stay afloat. For us, it’s the three major gifting holidays: Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. For someone starting their own taxes services, they’ll be busiest in March and April. This person would need to plan for anything that could impact them in the early spring. It’s all simple calculations; I promise!

Sit down with a few team members and map out your craziest times. Maybe use a white board so you can easily erase stuff, or maybe you make a flow chart; whatever works best for you! Once you have an idea of what could go wrong, you’ll be just that more prepared. You’ll never be 100% without incident – Murphy’s Law, am I right? – but you’ll be more apt to tackle anything that comes your way!