The holidays are just around the corner. Are you ready?
If you’re like most small business owners, the answer is “no,” which is probably causing you a lot of anxiety. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, 88% of people say that the holiday season is the most stressful time of the year for them.
It makes sense. Shopping for gifts, making travel plans, and seeing long-lost relatives is enough to elevate anybody’s blood pressure. And we haven’t even talked about the demands of your business yet, like running sales, working extended hours, and ensuring profitability.
Here’s the point: holiday stress is a real thing. Fortunately, with the right plan of attack, it can be managed effectively. Here are seven tips to help you reduce holiday stress in 2022.
1. Learn From the Past
Caption: You can learn about the future by looking to the past.
If you’ve owned your own business for multiple years you have an advantage. You can look backwards to try and predict what the holiday season might look like this year.
This is especially true for product-based business owners, who need to manage supply. How many items did you sell in 2021? Can you expect similar sales in 2022? If so, make sure you order enough product, material, and/or ingredients to meet the expected demand.
The past can inform your current strategies and processes, too. Maybe you hired a few temp employees to help with the holiday rush. Or invested in new technology to better manage the landslide of orders you field from October to December. Or decided to schedule all of your holiday-related social media posts ahead of time so that you didn’t have to worry about them.
Whatever the case may be, take a look back and assess what worked, what didn’t, and which strategies and processes you want to implement again in 2022.
2. Expect the Unexpected
You can learn a lot from the past, but every year is different. To minimize holiday stress, expect the unexpected. That way you don’t get overwhelmed if things get a little crazy.
Better yet, put contingency plans in place so that you can handle unexpected scenarios more effectively. What does that look like? Decide how you’ll handle sick employees, out-of-stock items, product glut, bad weather, and other potential business issues right now.
Doing so will help you act decisively if/when one of these potential scenarios rears its ugly head. And, in business, decisive action usually leads to more long-term success.
3. Empower Your Employees
Caption: Empower your employees to reduce holiday stress.
Your employees are the heart of your business. Without them, your local shop, restaurant, or service operation wouldn’t be the same. Do everyone a favor and empower these people with:
- Information: Your employees should know how to handle each and every situation they find themselves in. Restocking shelves? Check. Making returns? Check. Responding to emergencies, such as fires and floods? Double check.
- Technology: Give your employees the tech they need to thrive in their jobs, too. Invest in software to streamline processes. Better computers to prevent breakdowns. Whatever you need to do to keep your employees working productively.
- Resources: Don’t forget about simple things like register tape, staples, paper bags, and other consumables that your business uses on a regular basis. Empower your employees by making sure these items are always in stock and within easy reach.
- Experiences: Finally, do what you can to ensure employee happiness. The three tips above will help with this. But consider hosting a fun holiday party, too. Or scheduling employees’ work days so that they don’t get burnout. These things help!
So, how does empowering one’s employees help minimize holiday stress? Empowered employees will be more capable of running things in your absence, which means you’ll be able to take time for yourself this holiday season. (More on this below.)
4. Invest in Automation
If you really want to kick holiday stress to the curb in 2022, automate your business. There are tons of ways to do this. Here are a few ideas you should consider implementing:
- Social Media: You’re going to be busy for the next couple of months. Why not schedule social media posts ahead of time with a tool like Hootsuite? That way you don’t have to worry about posting content in the middle of the holiday rush.
- Email Marketing: The same goes for email marketing. Write and schedule your emails now. Then let modern technology send them at the appropriate times.
- Calendar Scheduling: If you own a service business, you probably spend a lot of time booking appointments. Guess what, you don’t have to! Invest in a calendar app like Calendly and let your clients book themselves at times that work for both of you.
- Customer Support: 95% of people say customer service is important for brand loyalty. So, to increase sales, treat your customers right. You can automate part of this process by providing real-time order updates and 24/7 website support via bots.
- Back Office: There are tools that will allow you to automate many back office tasks, too, such as inventory management, invoicing customers, and running payroll.
Automation will help you streamline and improve your business year round. But it’s especially important during the holidays, when stress levels typically reach new heights.
5. Analyze the Competition
Competitor analysis is an important step toward minimizing holiday stress.
Chances are, you’re not the only business in the world that does what you do. You have competitors. Use them to your advantage this holiday season.
Try to learn about their holiday ordering plans. Doing so may help inform your own ordering process. Analyze their marketing strategies. How do they connect with customers on social media and through email? Do they use any other channels to generate sales?
Once you’ve analyzed the competition, consider partnering with a few competitors as well. “What?” You’re thinking, “Partner with my competition? Never!”
While it may sound strange, strategic partnerships will help you reduce holiday stress.
Service-based businesses, for example, can partner with each other to handle emergency service calls during the winter months. Retail businesses can host joint events to grab the attention of more potential customers and increase sales. The list goes on.
The key to a successful partnership with a competing brand is clarity. Agree beforehand on who will “own” leads generated from your joint efforts, how money will be distributed, etc.
6. Schedule Time For Yourself
One of the best ways to beat holiday stress is to schedule time for oneself.
This may seem like an impossible task, since there’s so much to do at this time of year. But by making time for you, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to thrive.
You’ll make better business decisions because your mind will be sharp. You’ll be more focused on the tasks at hand, allowing you to complete them more effectively. And you’ll offer better customer service, leading to more sales in the future.
Here are a few tips to make more time for you:
- Set Reasonable Hours: Does your store or restaurant really need to be open until midnight the week before Christmas? For most small business owners, the answer is probably no. So, close up shop and enjoy a nice evening with your loved ones.
- Schedule Time Off: If you take the advice in this article seriously, you’ll empower your employees. Once you do, you’ll be able to schedule time off for yourself, because your team will have the knowledge and resources to succeed in your absence.
- Invest in Self Care: What should you do during your time off? It’s up to you, of course. But we recommend making self care a priority. Schedule a massage for yourself. Order that tasty meal you’ve been craving. Socialize with family and friends. These are important things—both for you personally and the future of your business. After all, your business won’t last long if you’re too burnt out to run it properly.
7. Start Preparing Now
Don’t wait! Implement these tips now to avoid holiday stress this year.
Last, but certainly not least, start preparing for the holidays as soon as possible.
It will take time to analyze previous holiday seasons, hire additional help, invest in new technology, partner with competitors, etc. The sooner you get to it, the better.
What if it’s already the middle of November and you haven’t prepped yet? Don’t worry, all is not lost! Take some time to evaluate the different tips and tricks we’ve shared with you in this article. Then decide which ones you can still use this year.
Have you made a list? Did you check it twice? Good, now prioritize which strategies will have the biggest impact on your small business and implement them first.
Don’t Let Holiday Stress Slow You Down
We won’t lie to you, the holidays are stressful—especially for small business owners. Fortunately, holiday stress doesn’t have to slow you down.
If you implement the tips we shared in this article, you’ll be able to manage your anxiety effectively, run your business successfully, and truly enjoy the holiday season.
Just remember, you don’t have to do it all by yourself!