First Person: Holiday Strategies for Small Business

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If your small business doesn’t experience a surge in demand between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you may have a tendency to shift into low gear during the holiday season. That can be a mistake, since the holidays can be a productive time for small businesses that make the right moves. Here are five of the best holiday strategies for small businesses that want to finish the year strong and to prepare for an even better new year.

Don’t let customer service slip.

When it comes to customer service, you should be at the top of your game throughout the year, but make a special effort to provide the best possible service during the holiday season. Customers, especially those whose business soars during the holiday season and who themselves may be dealing with less than cheery customers, may especially appreciate the effort. Also, be on the lookout for opportunities to help customers who are slammed by the holiday rush. They’ll remember it in the new year.

Give your best customers plenty of attention.

Your best customers — those whose business has been critical to your success in the past year — deserve some extra attention during the holiday season. At the least, you should call each one to extend holiday greetings and say thanks for their business during the past year. Then follow up with a nice, hand-written card. Even better, send a gift along with the card to let these important clients know how much you appreciate their business.

Keep marketing.

Some small businesses that don’t have a seasonal surge in business between Thanksgiving and Christmas cut way back on marketing during the holidays because they believe that customers are too busy to pay attention. In fact, you may have customers whose business slows during the holidays and who would be receptive to your marketing efforts. Also, you could add to the holiday cheer by offering discounts or specials for new or existing customers, which might give your business an unanticipated boost during the holiday season.

Keep your eye on collections.

Understandably, you don’t want to be considered a Scrooge during the holiday season, but, when it comes to accounts receivables collections, it should be business as usual or your cash flow could suffer. If you have a policy of calling customers once a payment is five days late, continue those calls during the holiday season.

Don’t put off year-end tax planning.

Take a little time toward the end of the year to review your business’s taxes. In particular, be sure that you aren’t missing out on opportunities to lower its tax bill. For example, review retirement plan contributions, since additional deposits prior to year end could be tax deductible expenses. Also, depending on your firm’s tax situation in the current year and your expectations next year, you may want to take advantage of opportunities to pull revenue into this year and delay paying some expenses until next year (if you expect to have a higher tax rate next year) or vice versa.

And finally, even as you continue to work hard during the holidays, don’t miss out on the joy of the holiday season. Take some time off to spend with your family and share some holiday cheer with your employees.

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