It’s that time of year again. For some, it may feel like it’s been creeping up for a while, but for others, Christmas can really feel as though it’s come out of the blue. For SME owners, the festive period can be a particularly stressful and overwhelming time, with demanding customers, increased workloads, and the added pressure of having to contend with out-of-office suppliers and financial dependents. Research from last year found that 53% of small business owners in the UK worked over Christmas, and 18% of those worked more than 18 hours straight a day.

With this in mind, Opus Energy, renewable energy provider to businesses, has shared its advice to combat burnout over the festive season and ensure your business continues to operate smoothly.

1. Managing tighter budgets effectively

End-of-year bonuses, annual donations to charities, lower sales - budgets always feel tighter at this time of year. The best way to deal with this is to plan for it. Start setting a small amount of money aside right from the beginning of the year, and create a special account for it, so you know you can’t touch it. Preparing financially for the holidays over the course of the entire year will make your financial strains a thing of the past.

2. Making the most of increased sales and customer traffic

If you own a storefront, the holidays can be the craziest time of the year, with a heavier footfall and demanding customers, often with urgent requests. Be prepared by hiring part-time holiday employees to cover the rush. Any extra money you spend on staff can easily be made up in sales, thanks to better and more attentive customer service.

Consider utilising the extra sales by running promotions over the holiday period. Convince your customers that now is the time to spend their money on exactly what you’re offering. Perhaps it’s a holiday sale, or a buy-one-get-one-free event - word-of-mouth promotion can make a huge difference to your sales figures over the festive period.

3. Improving cashflow

The Christmas period and the first few weeks of January are often a critical time for small businesses, not least because many managing directors, clerical assistants and finance department staff are on holiday over Christmas and the New Year. As a result, payments often don’t get made, cheques don’t get signed and small businesses often experience real problems with cashflow at this time.

During the festive period, many business owners often resort to costly bank overdrafts to see them through or, worse still, the company credit card, both of which can exacerbate their weak cashflow positions in the short term. To avoid this, try to forecast potential financial problems to ensure you, or your staff, aren’t caught short this Christmas.

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You should also make sure you send invoices to your customers as soon as possible to avoid delayed payments. Make extra effort to follow up debtors earlier on, as the chances of receiving payment become increasingly less likely the closer to Christmas you get.

4. Working with reduced business hours

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, you will inevitably be clocking in fewer hours around Christmas, due to statutory holidays and employee vacation time.

The best thing you can do to prepare for this slow period is to account for it in your business calendar. If that means you need to adjust your sales targets for the rest of the months of the year to make up for that reduction, factor that in as well. It can do wonders for your wellbeing to go into the holidays knowing you don’t have to achieve unrealistic goals between December 24th and January 2nd.

5. Dealing with distracted employees

It’s the time of year when we all have extra things on our plates. Your employees may be spending company time planning the party they’re hosting, or making their shopping list, resulting in lower productivity. Why not offer more flexible working options, so they can get things done that they might have otherwise tried to do at their desks?

Don’t forget to thank your employees for their efforts over the holiday season, especially if a Christmas party isn’t on the agenda this year. For budget-friendly ways to say thank you, check out our tips here.

6. Combat your personal stress

Having to worry about not just your own income but also your employees’ during a slow period can be hard on a business owner. The regular responsibilities remain, but the personal responsibilities also begin to pile up, which can lead to an overwhelming situation.

Make sure to take time for your own self-care, whether it’s meditating, exercising, Christmas shopping, or just leaving early to have dinner with friends or family. It can clear your head and put you back in the holiday spirit. Remember, it’s your Christmas too so try to switch off where possible during this festive season.

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