John Hoskin, founder of CleverAccounts.com, gives some tips on maximising what can be a slow time of the year for business.
For thousands of consumer-facing businesses, Christmas is the busiest time of the year. But for B2B businesses, December can be an extremely difficult month. There can even be a drop-off in their workload, whether permanent or temporary.
Companies that offer discretionary services are most likely to find that some of their clients want to take a ‘holiday’ from their services in December. Those in discretionary service industries such as PR, marketing and IT will know only too well how frustrating this can be. Having over-serviced these clients throughout the year, only to find they want to put your services on hold right before the looming tax deadline, can be dispiriting.
Equally, if clients are going to bale, they often do it when it’s neat, namely at the end of the year. With this in mind, for many small business owners, the festive period can be a time of collectively holding their breath.
As a small business owner, what should you do to keep your revenue up over the holiday season? And what can you do more generally to protect your firm from the dreaded December drop-off? And if you can’t do anything, how could make use of the downtime?
Well for starters, plan ahead. If you’re susceptible to the December drop-off, whether through clients or revenue, factor it into your overall financial position. That is, prepare for a lean month or two so that you have the funds to cover it. Think about it in the summer, so that you have plenty of time to budget for the potential drop-off.
If you can predict how far trade is likely to fall over the festive season, and imagine a worst case scenario, then you can be ready for it. Essentially, you want to have a financial buffer in place to bridge you through to the New Year by which point everything should be firing on all cylinders once again.
Try and make use of this potential downtime – there are some benefits to be had. Take advantage of the winter slowdown to turn your attention to aspects of your business that may be overlooked during the busier months of the year. For example, the second half of December can be a great time for strategy and setting targets for the year ahead, or staff reviews and any other admin that continually gets bumped when everything is hectic.
Make your position clear about the Christmas period in your contract
Christmas may be slightly slower for a few days but then this doesn’t mean clients should suddenly put everything on hold, or have the right to do so. Ensure that all of these vital points are detailed in the contract so that there is no room for contention. The wheels of industry still turn in December, despite the fact people are enjoying themselves a bit more.
In this season of goodwill, sometimes offering a discount or deal could help keep your cash flow on track. You want the clients’ money before Christmas so it is worth incentivising this, perhaps with a seasonal discount for early settlement. Any small saving you can offer your clients could be seen as a benevolent gesture while also making sure your bank balance remains topped-up right to the end of the year, rather than in the red.
Remember, you don’t have much time following the festive season before the January 31 self-assessment tax deadline, which can often throw a bit of a curve ball for business owners that have not budgeted correctly. Any additional cash you can keep in the company in advance of this period will certainly make the New Year more enjoyable!