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2013

This time of year, it seems as if very little business actually gets done. Small businesses are busy partaking in holiday cheer, hitting the slopes and what not. It makes perfect sense of course, especially if you have had a busy holiday season, but let me suggest that beforSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pnge you shut things
down completely, there is one more thing you should strongly consider doing before the year is out:

 

Conduct a year-end small business self-assessment.

 

With the year winding down and business slowing down, now is the perfect time to take a look at where your business has been, and where you want it to go. Conducting this sort of comprehensive year-end review is tremendously valuable:

 

  • As Michael Gerber famously said in the E-Myth, it is important to not only work in your business, but on your business. A year in review does just that.
  • It is a chance to take a look at what went right, and wrong.
  • It is an opportunity to get the perspective of your staff, and in the process, to let them know that you value their opinion.
  • It allows you to make needed course corrections.

 

So, in this column and the next, we are going to look at how to conduct such a review, what it should consist of, and what you should expect to get out of it. This week, we will look at the year in review part, and next week we will explore how to use that to plan for the year ahead.

 

Begin by setting aside enough time to do your review.


Depending on your business, it may take a few hours or a whole day. It helps (but is not required) to conduct it off-site. Before the meeting, give your team an agenda of what you want to review and what you want to accomplish. Solicit their input. Then, on the day of the meeting, both the dress and the vibe should be casual.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Here are the things your “Year in Review” should review:

 

1. Successes:
Begin with looking at the things you, your team, and your business did right. What were your wins? How did you accomplish them? What are the lessons to be learned that can be taken forward?

 

2. Direction: Are you headed where you want to go? Business plans are, of course, working documents. Once you have been in business a while, you will have a better understanding of whether your original business plan was on the money or off the mark. So dust it off and take a look. It is worth seeing whether the goals and projections you had a few years ago have been met, and if not why not.

 

And then, update that business plan (either figuratively or literally):

  • Where do you see your business headed in the next five years?
  • What will it take to get there?
  • What resources do you need to marshal to accomplish these goals?

 

3. 80-20: You know the 80-20 Rule of course – that 80 percent of your income comes from 20 percent of your customers. So yes, you need to see how you can better serve those valuable 20 percenters, but take this analysis even further. Which of your website pages bring you 80 percent of your page views? Which products or services are responsible for 80 percent of your sales? Really digging into these sorts of analytics can yield some very valuable insights.

Pull Quote.png(Next week, we will see how to use this information to grow even more in the upcoming year.)

 

4. Sales and marketing: Take a look at your major marketing campaigns this past year and assess their effectiveness. Are there other tools out there – like mobile marketing or Facebook ads or TV – that you can or should adopt?

 

5. Budget: Are you sticking to your budget? Where were your projections off and what course corrections do you need to make? How is your cash flow situation, what about your overhead and profit margin? Taxes?

 

Yes, the creative side of business can be fun. Coming up with new ideas, closing the big deal, all of these sorts of things get an entrepreneur’s engine revving. But you only get to do them if you are also a good businessperson, and that means knowing your numbers.

 

6. Operations: Are you effective? What sorts of processes can you adopt to make your operation run more smoothly? Do you need to bring in more help, new computers, or what?

 

7. The competition:
How are they doing? Do they have any strategies that seem to work that you can adopt?

 

The bottom line is this: Imagine that you were on a hike in the woods and you never consulted your map or compass. It is not unlikely that at some point you would begin to head in the wrong direction. A year in review is your chance to take out the map, see where you are, and make sure you are headed where you want to go.

 

How have you successfully reviewed your business in the past? Share your story below.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

Cyber security is one of those issues that small business owners know they should be concerned about, but sometimes never get around to. That was the case of Eric Erikson, and he regrets the day he didn’t take cyber security seriously.Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

As recounted in a story on CNN.com a few years ago, Erickson was selling pest control products online when his site was hacked and infected with a virus. Erickson took action, spending several thousand dollars to rebuild it, but not before customers got infected by going to the site and Google blacklisted it, warning potential site visitors that Erickson’s site was infected with malware.

 

It took three months to get the site back up and listed on Google, but Erickson said, “The whole experience crushed us.” He survived, and good news is that when his site was attacked again last year, Erickson had installed security software and was able to repel the attack.


But don’t just think that cyber attacks can shut down your site. The bad news can be far more serious than that. Cyber crooks can install “keystroke software” on your computer, steal your passwords and drain your bank accounts. They can hack into your social media accounts and create defamatory posts. And they can steal your customer lists or infect your hard drives.

 

 

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

 

They can put you out of business.

 

According to the McAfee blog, “In the last year alone, cyber attacks have not only increased in frequency, but also in severity. A serious enough breach has the power to cripple any small business.”

 

And consider this sobering statistic: The 2012 Data Breach Investigations Study by Verizon found that 71 percent of the attacks they analyzed occurred against businesses with fewer than 100 employees. According to Mike Pugh of J2 Global in the Huffington Post, “Even more frightening: According to an August 2013 story in PCWorld, of those small businesses whose systems are breached, roughly 60 percent go out of business within six months after the attack.”

 

It is not hard to understand why cyber crooks are increasingly focusing on small and medium businesses – we have less security, generally speaking, than other entities. Large corporations and governments are well versed by now in cyber security, but SMBs remain fairly oblivious, and that therefore makes for easy pickings.

 

So the answer is yes, you can be hacked and cyber-security is one of those things that you definitely need to bring to the top of your to-do list in 2014.

So how do you keep your site, data, passwords, bank accounts, social media accounts, and vital information safe? Here are seven tips:


1. Install software: This is No. 1 for a reason. Having security software in the cloud is the easiest, smartest, and best way to ensure that your confidential information stays secure. Make sure the software that you get protects you across the board, with antivirus, malware, spam, phishing, and spyware protection.

 

2. Train your staff: Even though most of us know this, train employees not to open unknown e-mail attachments. Similarly, these days, scammers are capturing data simply by getting people to click on phony social media links and websites, so again, the rule is – if you don’t know it, avoid it.

 

3. Avoid unknown updates: Let’s say that one day you are on Facebook and Jim has an update that says, “Check out this amazing hang-gliding video!” You click the link and are then directed to “update your Java software” (or whatever).

 

Pull Quote.pngDon’t.

 

Updates need to be done systematically and from approved sites.

 

4. Use strong passwords, and change them often: You know the drill by now, but do you do this? You should. You better.

 

5. Create an inventory of your devices: Including laptops, tablets, thumb drives, and smartphones. That way you will know if something goes missing.

 

6. Protect your network: Use firewalls and virtual private networks (VPNs).

 

7. Create policies and enforce them: Your whole team needs to know how seriously you take cyber security. Explain how you plan to protect your data, what the approved processes are, how to use and dispose of confidential information, what your social media policies are, etc.

 

Finally, consider buying fraud protection insurance. Just in case.

 

How have you protected your business from cyber attacks? Share your story below.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

QA_Peter_Schenk_body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Imagine going to your office every day, returning emails, drawing up proposals, talking with prospects, conducting meetingsand having a good cardio workout at the same time. A growing number of businesses are outfitting employee workstations with treadmill and bicycle desks in an effort to keep both their workers and their balance sheet healthy. One of the pioneers in this emerging trend is LifeSpan, a Utah-based supplier of specially designed units that combine workspace and aerobic exercise equipment. Business writer Robert Lerose spoke with Peter Schenk, president of LifeSpan, about its breakout products and the role that employee wellness plays in improving productivity.      

 

RL: How did the idea of the treadmill desk come about?

PS: LifeSpan had years of experience making treadmills and other wellness products. We started noticing many of our customers were building homemade treadmill desks using our treadmills. These customers weren’t necessarily designers, but they were taking an initiative for their health, which we loved. It got us thinking: what if we applied our own professional design and manufacturing know-how to building a treadmill desk from the ground up, that took into account what we’d learned they liked and didn’t like about their homemade models? That’s why the first LifeSpan Treadmill Desk TR1200-DT5 we released has features like a system to keep cables out of the way, a comfy rest for your wrist, and a roomy desktop to hold everything you’d need in a workday.

 

RL: What have you discovered about the relationship between employee wellness and employee productivity or morale?

PS: It’s unusual if a day goes by and we haven’t heard from a customer who has told us how much our active workstations have impacted their life. When an employee is getting a full day of physical activity at the office, it makes them look forward to going to work. It contributes to their sense of well being, and helps them feel more energetic, more focused, and more productive. It’s not just about staving off that mid-afternoon slump. It’s about improving the atmosphere of your office.

 

RL: How does a sedentary lifestyle in the workplace affect the bottom line of a business?

PS: Sitting all day can pose long-term health risks like diabetes and cardiovascular problems that ultimately impact a business’s bottom line. By offering workers a way to prevent the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle, businesses will save money in the long run on healthcare costs. The health of your workforce is a smart investment.

 

QA_Peter_Schenk_PQ.jpgRL: This year you introduced a line of bike desks. What are they like? How do they compare to the treadmill desks?

PS: Similar to our treadmill desks, the LifeSpan Bike Desk C3-DT7 is designed to keep you moving throughout the day without even thinking about it. The desktop size and features are the same. They’re both beneficial to your health and work performance. It’s only a matter of preference.

 

RL: What role should a business play in promoting the fitness of their employees?

PS: The success of a business depends on the well being and performance of its employees. We’ve seen a number of businesses purchase multiple treadmill desks for their employees to use individually, sometimes setting up conference areas dedicated entirely to treadmill desks. Some of our customers get creative by issuing challenges, like miles walked, weight lost, and other benchmarks that add competition and incentive to the mix.

 

 

RL: Do you have any results that you could share with us about your products and their reception in the workplace?

PS: Last year alone, our treadmill desk sales tripled and show no signs of slowing down. The trend continues to gain steam. We’re seeing treadmill desks move from the realm of early adopters and fitness/tech-minded companies into mainstream corporate America.

 

RL: Your website says that it's time to start "rethinking how we work." What did you mean by that?

PS: Working hard doesn’t need to equate to poor health. Sitting all day can take years off a person’s life. We should do whatever is in our power to bring more physical movement into our days. With that in mind, we’re about to expand our active workplace line by releasing two new items meant to change the way an office operates. We’re calling them LifeSpan ConfigureDesks. They’re designed to fit inside an existing office cubicle and other areas. They allow multiple office workers to either share a treadmill or bike desk, or use them individually side by side.

 

SBC newsletter logo.gifRL: In your view, what is one change that a small business can make right away to improve the wellness of its workers or work environment?

PS: Don’t underestimate the power of a good challenge. A small change could even be issuing pedometers to staff and seeing who can squeeze in the most steps in a day.

 

RL: Final thoughts about health and productivity that small businesses should know?

PS: To clear up a misperception of treadmill desks in general, I’d like to point out that they’re not exercise or workout machines. They move slowlymost people use them between one and two miles per hourso you never get sweaty or sound out of breath in work conversations. They’re quieter than most people think, like the soft whisper of a computer fan. And finally, I did this entire interview while walking and working on a LifeSpan Treadmill Desk!

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


At the height of the not-so-great recession about four years ago, my publisher approached me with an idea: What if we did a bookSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png on all of the different ways a business could find and get funding? The editor I worked with challenged me to come up with as many different funding mechanisms as I could find and the compile them into a book.

 

To their (and, frankly, my) surprise, I came up with almost 25 different ways to fund a business. Each chapter in Get Your Business Funded looked at a different money source, everything from the traditional – SBA loans, friends & family, savings and so on – to the creative – business plan competitions, microfinance, and factoring.

 

But of all of the different options I unearthed, by far the most interesting was the newest (at that time): Crowdfunding.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Today, there are two forms of crowdfunding, both providing a valuable option for small businesses. Let’s begin with the original form of crowdfunding that started with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. What is cool about this form of crowdfunding (let’s call it benefit crowdfunding) is that it offers an altogether new way to fund a business.

 

Traditionally, using outside sources (that is, not the entrepreneur’s money or family), a business could raise the capital it needed in one of two ways:

 

  1. Debt financing: This is what it sounds like. The entrepreneur goes into debt in exchange for the money. This money must be paid back.
  2. Equity financing: Here, the businessperson exchanges shares of the company, his or her equity, in return for the money. He does not need to repay this money because the financier received a share of the company for their investment.

 

Pull Quote.pngBut with benefit crowdfunding, the entrepreneur doesn’t need to go into debt nor sell shares of the company for the money. Instead, he or she gives a ‘benefit’ of the business in exchange for the money.

 

For example: Let’s say that you are starting an ice cream shop. You could let people who invest$100 name one of the sundaes. Someone who invests $500 could have a flavor named after them. In this scenario, you still get the money, but you do not go into debt and you continue to own 100 percent of your business.

 

These days, there are many different crowdfunding websites, catering to all sorts of niche markets. So step one is to find the right site to launch your campaign. Step two is to come up with different levels of benefits. Step three is to make a catchy video that explains the business/project. And finally, step four is to get the word out. Crowdfunding magic happens when you involve your own network and then use them to springboard into a larger group, a.k.a., the crowd.

 

I have a friend who successfully crowdfunded his first album. He says that he spent three months planning his campaign for the one month he crowdfunded. That is fairly typical. Do not expect to simply throw up a video onto Kickstarter and think that scores of people will then shower you with money. That is not how it works. But if you take the time, come up with a good plan and benefits, and then network and market the heck out of it, you too can have a winning benefit crowdfunding campaign.

 

The second sort of crowdfunding is revolutionary in its own way, even if it does not create a whole new category like the previous method did. It is called equity crowdfunding. Given what has been said here so far, it should not come as a surprise that the idea is to raise equity capital via a crowdfunding platform, instead of the more commonplace method of going to individual investors one by one.

 

The problem has been that to raise equity capital through a mass offering, a company and its investors have had to jump through a lot of SEC hoops. Last year, Congress passed the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups), which will ease securities regulations and make it possible for small business to crowdfund using equity instead of benefits.

 

What is great about both of these forms of crowdfunding is that they give entrepreneurs additional tools in their funding tool chest.

 

These days, there really are a lot of ways to get your business funded.

 

Have you used crowdfunding to raise capital for your business? Share your story below.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

 

 

QAjohngottschall_Body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Everybody loves a good story. Stories can fill us with joy, bring us to tears, or stimulate any emotion in between. They have a magical ability to grab and hold our attention in a way that almost no other form of communication can, making them ideal for marketers who want to reach distracted consumers and grow their sales. Recently, business writer Robert Lerose spoke with Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal, about the irresistible pull of storytelling and the role it plays in building brands.

 

RL: There seems to be a movement in business to have a good brand story to tellsomething that resonates on an emotional level with consumers. What are some ways that a business can harness the power of stories to grow their brand or sell their products?

JG: Story is considered a potent tool in business communication because it's special in the way that it draws human attention. If you just tell me your business makes really great paper clips, I don't care. It's just data. But if you wrap your product up in a compelling narrative—an emotionally engrossing story—then you have me. A story not only gives me information that you guys make good paper clips, but it helps me feel an emotional connection with you and what you're doing that's really quite powerful. Coca-Cola is a perfect example. What sets them apart isn't the beverage so much, but the kinds of stories they tell about their products and the kind of bond they've been able to forge with consumers over roughly a century. 

 

RL: You've said that television commercials are half-minute short stories. What did you mean by that?

JG: A commercial rarely just says that a laundry detergent works well; it shows that it does through a story about an overworked mom, rascally kids, and a laundry room triumph. Jewelry stores get men to buy sparkly little rocks by screening stories in which besotted suitors pinpoint the exact price of a woman's love: two months' salary. Some ad campaigns are designed around recurring characters in multipart stories. Story touches nearly every aspect of our lives.

 

RL: Stories rely heavily on conflict to involve the reader. Even case studies in business follow a typical problem/solution structure. Why?

JG: Stories are almost always about people with problems. The people want something badly, but big obstacles [stand in the way]. It is a basic storytelling technique to establish and forge this really strong, personal connection between consumers and the brand. Stories tend to fixate on trouble. Without a knotty problem, you don't have a story.

 

RL: Stories can help brands distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace. Do you have an example of a brand story that rises above the fray?

JG: This Chipotle ad is a very good example. You can tell people all day about the power of story. You can describe the psychological studies that prove it. But if you have them watch this story, they can see for themselves—feel for themselves—why story is such an incredibly powerful tool for riveting attention, rousing emotion, changing behavior, and driving home a business's message.

 

QAjohngottschall_PQ.jpgRL: You say that story binds society by reinforcing a set of common values and strengthening the ties of common culture. How can a business leverage this?

JG: Tell stories that tap into a common morality. Story is the grease and glue of society: by encouraging us to behave well, story reduces social friction while uniting people around common values.

 

RL: How can small business owners become better storytellers?

JG: I'd tell them to steer clear of business books and look up creative writing textbooks instead, like The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. There are a few basic principles to learn. One is to have a problem, to have trouble in your story. If there's no problem, people just aren't interested. The second thing I would stress is that by nature, story is a vehicle for a message. So it's not weird or artificial to graft your business message onto your business story. Stories are so much better at carrying a message and convincing people of things than just a straight informational presentation. There's a lot of research that shows how much better people remember things in story form—how much more convinced they are when people are given information in a story—rather than from a list of bullet points.

 

RL: Final thoughts?

JG: I was in Warsaw at this little place called the Radio Café that's popular with Western travelers. On the back page of the menu, there's a whole story in English about the Radio Café and the building it's in and the role it played transmitting radio signals during the Polish resistance of World War II. And suddenly—instead of just having Polish dumplings at this restaurant, I felt deeply, emotionally connected to this place. I had read up on Warsaw and I had all these associations in my mind. Their little story connected me to that big story and made me feel a little more connected to that place in a way that would have brought me back, in a way that would have me recommend it to my friends. Just by intuition, they knew it was important to tell their story.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Growth-Strategies-Thumb2.gifNew product or service development can strengthen your company’s prospects for accelerated growth. Mergers, acquisitions, and strategic alliances also can set the stage for enhancing your growth potential. But each strategy requires careful forethought and planning so that you steer clear of the pitfalls and make the choices necessary to drive your company’s sustained success.


Click here to download our guide "Build, Buy, or Ally: Growth Strategies for Business"

NativeAmericanNEW_Body.jpgby Erin McDermott.

 

The Small Business Administration has stepped up efforts to reach American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians through an increase in loans, improved access to procurement programs, and entrepreneur training workshops conducted in person and online.  

 

One big reason: Native American unemployment, which for the first half of 2013 was 11.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The national figure during the same period was 7.6 percent.) Many of these communities have long faced economic challenges and Census figures show poverty levels that now top all ethnic groups. As the native population’s double-digit jobless rate has persisted for nearly five years, private and public institutions are increasingly looking for home-grown solutions.

 

Christopher L. James, assistant administrator for the SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs, says that’s something that makes Native American entrepreneurs stand out.

 

“There’s generally different reasons for entrepreneurship among Native Americans,” he says. “Some believe it’s that ‘entrepreneurial spirit,’ but more often it’s job creation or supporting a family.”

 

The U.S. has more than 550 federally recognized tribes. Census figures show there were 5.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in 2012; among those, there are nearly 240,000 who own small businesses. The SBA has been reaching out to native-owned companies in all stages of development, in an effort to aid access to capital and offer training for entrepreneurs. To that end, the agency this summer agreed to expand cooperation with the Native American Contractors Association, an advocacy group that works with tribal corporations and promotes native-owned firms in the federal marketplace. In 2013, Native American firms were awarded $10.7 billion in government contracts, a number that is high historically, James says.

 

There’s also a focus on strengthening from the ground level. Two programs should be of interest for new and growing companies.

 

The first is the Native American Entrepreneurial Empowerment Workshops. These are two-day sessions geared toward aspiring entrepreneurs, with practical development training and technical guidance on how to get a small business going.

 

NativeAmericanNEW_PQ.jpg“We are seeing a real interest in entrepreneurial development among Native Americans. An increase in private sector business could have a positive impact on the economy of Native communities,” says Veronica Nix, executive director of Onaben, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit created by Northwest Indian tribes to increase the success of Native American businesses. It is also a provider of the SBA workshops and the originator of its “Indianpreneurship” curriculum. “Our goal is to act as a support to our local, hosting organization and to assist Native Americans leave a positive imprint in the business community,” she says.

 

For more experienced entrepreneurs, there’s the Emerging Leaders initiative, which focuses on executives at businesses that are on the cusp of growth in disadvantaged communities. This seven-month course, which James says is designed for more established businesses, aims to assist C-suite leaders of native-owned companies that are at least three years old and have a minimum of $300,000 in annual revenue. Its focus: supporting small businesses with a high potential for expansion and growth in underserved areas, both urban and more rural Native American communities. The program, which is free for those selected, was launched in 2008 and was previously known as e200. It has expanded in the last two years and now offers CEO mentoring, coaching on longer-term strategy planning, an immersion in capital access resources with local business leaders, and professional networking. (The application process begins in February and is operated through the SBA’s 68 district offices.)

 

The bigger costs are the time commitment necessary for busy entrepreneurs. The classes usually begin in April and involve about 100 hours of classroom time with 20 to 25 students in each location. Schedules for 2014 are still being determined, but 2013’s seminars were conducted in major cities near areas with high concentrations of Native Americans, including Oklahoma City, Portland, Albuquerque, N.M., Honolulu, and Helena, Mt., among the 10 sites.

 

SBC newsletter logo.gifThe results have been strong so far. A survey of more than 1,000 participants showed 75 percent maintained or created new jobs in their communities, and nearly half reported securing contracts with local, state, and federal government entities, valued at a total of more than $330 million, according to the SBA.

 

It’s momentum that those involved in the programs want to keep going.

 

“We see so many business ideas that range from small, home-based businesses to retail to art to construction—the business ideas run the gamut,” says Onaben’s Hix, talking about the SBA workshops she’s been coordinating for two years. “The feedback that we get from our participants is very positive. The need for business development services is evident.”

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngSo, what kind of boss are you during the holiday season? It is kind of amazing how many perfectly decent small business owners begin to let the stress of the holidays get to them. This is especially true in retail. Feeling the pressures of increased opportunity (and competition) can cause some bosses to go from nice to naughty.

 

I am reminded of a story of a restaurant that had about 6 waitresses on staff. Throughout the year, the boss was a nice enough fellow, but come November 1st one year, he went all Scrooge on them. Instead of hiring extra wait staff to handle the increase in traffic, he instead made his crew work increased hours. Days off were curtailed and overtime became the norm. His employees were not happy campers. People (aka your employees!) like to partake in holiday cheer, buy gifts, go to parties, and enjoy their families. But this bad boss didn’t appreciate that.

 

Instead, he decided that the restaurant would stay open on Thanksgiving and everyone had to either work or be on call. Tensions grew. And then, when he decided at the last minute to stay open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, all heck broke loose.

 

His entire staff quit.

 

Yes, of course that is an extreme example, but it is a good reminder that this is a special season that can put a lot of  stress on a business.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

So let’s do business the right way.


1. Set expectations:
There is nothing wrong with being open extra hours during the season if that helps you capture more business. The thing though is to make sure you communicate your expectations with your team, and keep them realistic.

 

2. Get the help you need: I bet our restaurant owner could have had his eggnog and eaten it too. His mistake was not setting expectations earlier and then overworking his crew without any consideration for their holiday plans. Undoubtedly, he could have found people who would have been happy to work holiday days, as long as he paid them appropriately.

 

Pull Quote.png

Get the help you need. Staff accordingly. In fact, you not only want to account for the additional hours your business will be open, but
you also want to adjust for the fact that your people will want extra time off so that they can attend to their own holiday shopping, make it to the school pageant, etc.

 

3. Remember, a little recognition goes a long way: According to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, 85 percent of those small business surveyed said that they planned on offering holiday perks this year. It’s a “best practice” that you should strongly consider too. According to the survey, the post popular of these perks are

  • Bonuses (49%)
  • Holiday party (43%)
  • Flex hours / time off (38%)
  • Gifts (41%)
  • Closing for the holidays (35%)

 

Employees love to be recognized for a job well done, and you earn their respect, gratitude, and loyalty when you show your appreciation.

 

4. Don’t burn out:
It does little good if you spend all of this effort getting your business ready, making your customers happy, and letting your staff know you value them if you don’t take care of yourself as well.

 

The holidays are a fun time. Close early, play hooky and go get some shopping in. Take the kids out to a matinee while they are home from school or head to the gym and get an extra workout in to offset all of those yummy treats you will be having.

Bottom line: This holiday season, the important thing is to remember to be sure to be a good boss to your staff  . . . and yourself.

 

How have you prepared your business for the holiday season in the past? Share your story below.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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