How to Make the Most of your SME This Coming Winter
By Chris Smith, independent writer and blogger at Spend It Like Beckham
To get your efforts off to a great start, it is important to ensure that as a small business you are committed to creating a comfortable and effective working environment. Winter bugs, cold offices and bad lighting can put a real downer on the morale of employees. Some simple low-cost hacks can help your team flourish.
Employees who have little or no access to natural daylight have been found to struggle with their workload by4pm. This slump was worse than their colleagues who sat near windows. Even then in winter, windows aren't really much use. Introducing task lamps and swapping expensive traditional bulbs with cool-toned LED ones can create an awakening daylight effect. On the topic of winter office essentials, why not make sure you have enough space heaters too?
Building a positive, rewarding and inclusive culture in your small business is essential not only for employee productivity and retention, but also reputation. This can be hard to force but introducing small gestures can help manifest this. Most offices provide hot drinks, but why not go that extra step further and fill up a basket with general cold remedies? You could also introduce brain food, it's as easy as a bowl of fruit!
Provide the Right Resources
As well as optimizing your office environment, you should look at resources too. Many small businesses take on temporary employees over the festive period. Temps know they are there to cover festive annual leave and extra busy periods, and so are up for the work on entry. This also reduces strain on your core team. There are however, some cons to hiring temp staff. One being that they require training. Employing well-experienced temps or give them fail-safe tasks is a good way to go with this.
Allowing your core team to work from home means you still have hands on deck when working around expected winter obstacles. This could be bad weather, transport issues, the common cold and those taking half-day annual leave for various festive commitments. It also makes for happier and harder-working employees, and is thought of as a job perk! Depending on the size of your company, this could mean having to provide work laptops. Most employees are happy to use their own equipment, bearing in mind they will be saving money on commuting. You would still have to provide access to shared files though.
When starting up a business it is often mistaken that to be successful you must purchase expensive software and online tool subscriptions. This isn't necessarily true as there are many great free alternatives to CRM systems, task planners, email marketing platforms and shared drives. Adopting a good free CRM and email marketing tool can bolster customer relationships and conversion. It will help keep everyone in the office and working from home on the same page during the winter rush.
Seasonal Marketing Opportunities
Many businesses take advantage of the winter festivities, as with any seasonal opportunity, to add content and drive marketing efforts. There is a wealth of exciting and engaging ideas at hand.
One of the great things about social media is that it can be scheduled ahead of when you want the messages sent. This eases the manual workload, especially during those few days when the office is closed. Some companies do a promotion online 'advent calendar', whereby you put together 12 days of competitions, discount codes and freebies. This is a great occasion to reward the loyalty of your customers and keep a small business in their mind.
Personalised Christmas customer and supplier messages can be quickly generated with most free email marketing tools ahead of time. The fun aspects of working in a winter office are the many festive events, card-swapping and secret Santas going on. Why not get your customers involved too? Send out online or offline branded seasonal cards, or even a calendar, to show them you care - all while getting your brand on show.
Beat Those January Blues!
Adopting the above stress-busting organization tips and planning ahead with your team improves your chances as a busy entrepreneur of actually having a relaxing Christmas break this year! Yet it can feel like all fun is behind you when you shake off the mince pies and lie ins. Don't forget to keep on with a good work/life balance. Employees will miss the time they spent with their family over Christmas but with January being quieter for most businesses, it is a good time for a slower month. A slower month doesn't necessarily mean a bad one though!
After the initial rush of January sales, everything lulls to a standstill and the January outlook is frugal and bleak but this a great time to get your small business in order ahead of spring. The time typically spent chasing invoices and supporting customers can now be directed to updating your process documents, meeting your accountant, creating employee training opportunities and networking.
Ultimately, make the most of Winter! Have fun with your employees, colleagues, customers and suppliers. Give yourself and your team time to enjoy this great season. Use the festive and social opportunities to develop your brand and company culture, and get a great head-start on the new year!