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Beyond the bottom line: How SMEs can make the most of the festive season

The festive season is just around the corner, bringing with it both new opportunities and added risks for small businesses across the country looking to capitalise on the increased consumer activity that typically characterises the last few months of the year.
Jason Mellow
Jason Mellow

For SMEs, scaling up to deal with an increased demand for products and services can be challenging, especially for newer businesses who aren't as familiar with the difficulties and risks that the silly season can present. Preparation is critical for businesses looking to make the best of this golden opportunity: in some cases, this might mean onboarding new staff, in others acquiring additional vehicles or equipment to ensure that orders are fulfilled on time.

No matter the industry, it's vital to maintain a long-term vision, and to prioritise ongoing business growth over short-term gains.

Agility, anticipation and adaptability are key for smaller enterprises looking to capitalise on increased consumer appetite this festive season. Here are a few top tips to ensure that it's a successful one:

Plan ahead

Don't let the silly season sneak up on you, as it could put your hard-earned gains at risk. Planning is critical for small businesses looking to compete in an increasingly cluttered market, particularly given the very real challenges posed by soaring overheads and ongoing power cuts. It's vital to carve out a clear and coherent communication strategy long before the first Christmas trees are decorated in shopping malls across the country, utilising cost-effective platforms and ensuring your offer is impactful enough to stand out from the crowd.

Staff up sensibly

For businesses in the retail sector, it's important not to lose sight of the importance of the customer experience over the festive season. Whilst it might be tempting to save a buck or two by hiring untrained temps to assist in tackling the increased customer influx, this short-sighted strategy could end up backfiring in the long run. Remember that this isn't only an opportunity to beef up your bottom line, but also an unmissable occasion for businesses looking to establish awareness and build brand loyalty.

As such, it's imperative that you don't try to cut corners when it comes to your consumer experience. Invest in the right people, train them correctly and make sure they're equipped with all the tools they need not only to make sales, but also to make lasting connections.

It's also important to take care of your permanent employees during this period, ensuring that they're adequately motivated and incentivised to be at their best. Try to involve them where possible in planning, taking into account their feedback and concerns, and to make sure they aren't overworked and overwhelmed. Remember that your employees are your primary point of contact with the outside world, so if they're not happy, you can be sure your customers won't be either.

Listen and learn

Unlike large corporates, whose festive campaigns are often nailed down a year in advance, small business owners have the opportunity to be flexible and to adapt based on customer feedback. Your ability to take into account both positive and negative feedback and adapt your approach accordingly will be what sets you apart from your competitors, so don't be afraid to ask questions and change gears to set your business up for success.

Reduce your risk

Make sure your business is covered adequately for any unforeseen pitfalls that could compromise your profit margins. Having the right insurance policy in place can spell the difference between success and setbacks for small businesses, so it's vital to consult with your insurer to safeguard your business for the future.

For instance, you'll want to make sure that any vehicles used are appropriately insured for business usage, and that you're covered in the event of any injuries that might be sustained by staff or customers. If you're working with specialised equipment, make sure it's specified in your policy so that you can have it repaired or replaced swiftly and thus avoid lengthy delays that could be extremely costly to your business. Remember, the resulting peace of mind will be priceless.

The festive season represents an unmissable opportunity for small businesses to earn, learn and, most importantly, grow. By minimising risks and taking adequate measures ahead of time, South Africa’s budding enterprises can truly make the most of the year-end rush, and continue reaping rewards long after the last jingle bell has sounded.

MiWay is a licensed non-life insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP 33970).

27 Oct 2022 18:00


About the author

Jason Mellow is the head of MiWay Business Insurance.