Many this time of year may be worried about getting that extra holiday helping in the food dish or taking that trip to the groomer for a claw trimming and Holiday flea dip.
Not the Small Biz Cat @SmallBiCat! Cozy at Small Business Trends headquarters, she is deep in thought (see above and to the left) about your business.
So without any further adieu, here are 25 things small businesses don’t need for the holidays … as told by the Small Biz Cat.
1. Angry Customers. This is never good. “Tis the Season to Be Angry” is not how the delightful holiday carol goes. But, if you get so wrapped up in the yuletide spirit that you forget to dot every “i” and cross every “t” on a customer’s account, you may get a surprise phone call. And it won’t be to wish you a Happy New Year!
2. Bounced Checks. This goes for yours or your customer’s! Bounced checks cost money — both in penalties and (potentially) in lost sales. It may mean taking a loss on services and merchandise. Too many of these and you’ll run out of kitty litter and cat nip REALLY quick. Check with your bank about overdraft protection. Then look into some alternative ways to accept payment that minimize these problems.
3. Bad Weather. It keeps customers away. Remember the weather that almost kept Santa home one year? If not for Rudolf, his Christmas goose would’ve been cooked. That same kind of weather can keep your customers away. But better they stay home than risk their safety and never arrive at all. It’s tough, but if the weather is dangerous, take to your social media accounts and urge your customers to stay safe. Perhaps offer a rebate or discount if they’ll delay their visit for better weather.
4. Sick Employee (Man Down). It happens around this time of year. Those cold winds and increasingly cold temperatures can wreak havoc with the immune system. The result may be a critical member of your team stuck at home, wrapped in a blanket, looking at a thermometer. Be sure you’ve planned for getting help on short notice in this kind of emergency. Or figure out whether there is work you can farm out to freelancers or other contractors.
5. Low Inventory. There’s no greater sight for retailers after a big sale or promotion than shelf after shelf of thinning merchandise. But that’s not what you want to see when heading into a busy shopping season. If you’re constantly running out of stock at the worst possible time, look into some inventory tracking software. What you recover in lost sales will pay for your investment long term.
6. Your Competition Opening Across the Street. Well, that’s a bummer. But then you have to be ready for competition, don’t you? This is no time to play … er, cat and mouse. Be bold. Welcome them to the community. Then do some evaluation to figure out where you can compete with them … and where you should not.
7. Bad Online Reviews. How could this be? After all your hard work, someone has taken the time and energy to say something negative about your business on Yelp … or one of the other popular review sites online. Hey, it happens. First, determine if the complaint is about something you did wrong or could’ve done better. Did you give someone poor service, serve a bad meal, sell a poor product? Reach out to the customer and try to make things right. But maybe it’s not about anything you’ve done. In that case, remember, you can’t please everyone.
8. Embarrassing Moments at the Office Party. Let’s hope those photos don’t make it onto Facebook! Social media is a great way to build your brand — until it’s not. That would be around the time Bill starts taking photos with his smartphone during the high point of the craziness at the holiday office party. And soon you’re getting calls from clients.
9. An Ugly Sweater from your Employees. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So when your employees give you that ugly sweater you can’t imagine ever wearing, be gracious. And if it has a picture of the Small Biz Cat, consider yourself privileged!
10. A Christmas Cookie Overdose. Don’t pack on those pounds! Another danger of the office holiday party is that lots of people will bring cookies. Do what you can to send uneaten cookies home with your employees. The Small Biz Cat may need about twenty minutes on the tread mill just thinking about this!
11. Scheduling Headaches. Yep! It’s the holiday season and EVERYBODY wants time off. Do yourself a favor — if not for this year then for the next. Establish a clear vacation policy. Make sure it is enforced. And design it to deal with scheduling problems around the holidays.
12. Employees with Visions of Sugar Plums Dancing in their Heads. This goes along with the point above. There are some employees who will start the holiday early — in their minds — no matter when vacations actually begin. A quick talk with the troops about the need to focus so everyone can have a great holiday can work wonders.
13. An Eviction Notice on your Retail/Office Space. Let’s assume this isn’t because you’re behind on the rent or such a bad tenant that everyone wants you out. See if you can stall for time until you get through the holiday season and have a plan in place for a new location.
14. A Robbery. The Small Biz Cat won’t be much help to you here. She’s not trained with jiu-jitsu skills or big enough and mean enough to repel an intruder. If this has already happened to you, of course, cooperate with law enforcement. But you may also want to examine some inexpensive security options.
15. A Shorted Out Christmas Tree. Be sure to check out your lights in the first place. Make sure they’re working before you put up your tree. Here’s a video with more specifics.
16. A Website Outage. If your business sells most of its products or services online, this is especially serious. Be sure to have a tech team — either in house or outsourced — standing by. And look for Web options that include security as part of the package. We only hope it wasn’t those adorable cat photos you uploaded!
17. A Hacked Facebook Page. For some businesses, Facebook has become a major part of the company’s public face. So when it gets taken over by hackers, it certainly won’t make you smile (like the photo below does.) Contact your customers and Facebook to tell them what’s happened immediately.
18. A Website Troll that Just Won’t Stop. First, figure out if this is tied to a customer issue. Is there something you did that angered someone to this extent? If so, try to mend fences. Whatever you do, don’t engage with this person on their level — with insults or other provocative means. If you can shut the troll out, do so. If not, try to sideline him in your community and encourage others to do the same.
19. A Lawsuit. This is why your small business needs a lawyer. Be sure to pick one with a specialty in small business and your particular market. Then take these issues right to him or her when you become aware of them.
20. An In-store Customer Injury. This is the nightmare of every brick and mortar business owner. Hopefully, you have an insurance carrier for this sort of thing. Follow their advice.
21. A Roof Leak. If you’re a renter, this may be your land lord’s issue. If not, you should have a maintenance plan in place for just such emergencies. Be sure you find someone who is experienced and will give you priority in this kind of instance.
22. A Delivery Truck Break Down. When Mrs. McGillicuddy is expecting her holiday fruitcake on time and your deliver truck is stuck by the side of the road, it’s a recipe for disaster. If your business depends on these kinds of deliveries, be sure to have a second vehicle as a standby. And have a good relationship with a local auto body shop that can rush repairs when necessary.
23. A Supplier Going Out of Business. This is another bummer but a real learning opportunity. Are you too reliant on some suppliers? Could the closing of just one company kill or significantly hobble your business? Then it may be time to diversify!
24. Late Deliveries. As already explained, late deliveries can make your customers mad. Obviously, you’ll want to minimize late deliveries when possible. But when they do happen, it’s important to go the extra mile to make things right. Could you offer Mrs. McGillicuddy a gift certificate and perhaps a free box of holiday cookies. May we recommend some shaped like the Small Biz Cat?
25. A Social Media Blunder. One simple example of this is given above with the idea of inappropriate photos. But there’s also the possibility something you or another member of your team said in an attempt at humor was taken wrong and went viral — in the worst way imaginable. Make your apology quick and absolute. The same forces that will carry your positive marketing messages can carry the bad stuff too — and do inestimable damage.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of 25 things small businesses don’t need during the holidays. And happy holidays from the whole Small Business Trends team. As for the Small Biz Cat, this list took a lot out of her, so perhaps after a leisurely stroll to the food bowl, she’ll be taking a nap.