Hey there, small business champs! As the leaves fall and the holiday buzz starts to build, it's the perfect time to reflect on the year gone by and set the stage for success in the coming year. November is your strategic pit stop, the month where you fine-tune your business engine for a smoother ride in the year ahead. So, grab a cozy cup of coffee and dive into the November checklist that will prepare your business to hit the ground running in the New Year.
Reflect on the Year That Was
Before diving into the future, take a moment to look back. What worked well? What could have been better? Reflect on your wins and losses, and use these insights to shape your strategies for the coming year. Don't forget to celebrate your victories – they're the fuel that keeps you going.
Get your financial ducks in a row. Review your cash flow, outstanding invoices, and expenses. Make sure your books are up to date. This helps you plan for tax season and gives you a clear picture of your business's financial health. If you need professional advice, now's the time to consult with your accountant.
Set Clear Goals for 2024
What do you want to achieve in the next year? Whether it's expanding your customer base, launching a new product, or boosting revenue, set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. Having a roadmap will guide your actions and keep your team aligned.
Is your tech game up to par? Assess your current tools and systems. Are they helping or hindering your operations? Consider upgrading or adopting new technologies that can streamline processes and improve efficiency. From project management apps to customer relationship management (CRM) systems, ensure your tech supports your business goals.
Employee Engagement and Planning
Your team is your most valuable asset. Check-in with your employees – get feedback on what's working well and what could be better. Also, start planning for the year-end reviews and consider any training or development opportunities for your team. A motivated and skilled workforce is vital to achieving your business goals.
Marketing and Promotions
Please go ahead and step back into planning mode and create a promotional calendar that aligns with your business objectives. Now is the time for you to look over any surprises from the past year and make sure you are mapping out time for campaign management and content creation for 2024.
Engage with your local community. Whether sponsoring a community event or partnering with other small businesses, building solid local connections can have long-term benefits for your brand. 'Tis the season for goodwill, and your active participation will not go unnoticed.
Legal Compliance Check
Ensure that your business is compliant with all relevant regulations. This includes local, provincial, and federal requirements. Stay updated on any changes in laws that may affect your industry and make any necessary adjustments to your operations.
Wrapping It Up
November is the launchpad for a successful year ahead. By taking the time to reflect, plan, and optimize, you're setting your small business up for success. Because you KNOW December will get away from you as the holiday events and activities pile up. Take your business to the next level in 2024!
I know, I know! We have yet to even hit Halloween. And I am one that still wants to see the Spook-tacular decor in store and not entirely ready to see Candy Canes....However, preparing for the end of fall and being willing to usher in the holiday season is crucial for small business owners to ensure they can capitalize on the opportunities and challenges that this time of year presents. And with proper planning, it doesn't have to be scary! To help you get ready (while also celebrating where we ARRRG - please excuse my festive Halloween and autumn references while also providing some handy holiday information.
1. Pumpkin-Spiced Planning:
- Create a Holiday Calendar: Start by outlining important dates like Halloween, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year's. Then, work backward from these dates to plan marketing campaigns, promotions, and events.
- Decorate Your Store: Add some seasonal charm to your physical or online store. A "spooktacular" window display can attract attention and create a festive atmosphere. It doesn't have to be complicated, but regularly changing your window displays to coincide with the seasons is a great way to continually catch the eyes of passersby and entice folks to periodically shop because they can see it is likely something new to discover! A well-decorated storefront can be the "potion" to lure customers inside.
- Inventory Check: Make sure you have enough stock for the upcoming holiday rush. You wouldn't want to "ghost" your customers with empty shelves. Remember the Target Canada debacle?
2. Boo-tiful Marketing:
- Promoting your business shouldn't be scary: Consider running on-themed promotions to draw customers in. Use humour where appropriate that is tailored to your audience, as it tends to help information stick
- Social Media Content: Share creative seasonal content on your social media platforms. There is still time to capitalize on some Halloween traffic, too! Post pictures of your team in costume or ask your audience to share their best costume ideas.
- Email Campaigns: If you don't already have an email list started, make 2024 the year you prioritize this. Just don't treat your email list like a social media account and send something every day. You know how you hate being drowned with emails from Old Navy... Pick a schedule that works for your workload and the volume of information that needs to go out. Maybe you only send one quarterly, or like us - monthly with an occasional additional timely message. In no time, you'll be sending out "fang-tastic" email newsletters with holiday offers and gift suggestions.
3. Treats, Not Tricks:
- Customer Appreciation: Show gratitude to your loyal customers with special discounts or early access to holiday products.
- Customer Service: Train your staff to provide excellent customer service during this busy season. A great customer experience is better than any sweet you could offer- less cavities, too. This staff training should also include some appreciation for your staff - being in customer service can be emotionally draining, and appreciation goes a long way. Also, a quick reminder for yourself that no one cares about your business as much as you do, and you can't expect that your employees will - if they do, you've got something extraordinary and have found the perfect people to help support you and your vision - treat them well!
- Gift Cards: Offer gift cards for those who are unsure about their holiday shopping. It's a "boo-nanza" for last-minute shoppers.
4. Plan for the New Year:
- Set Goals: Outline your business goals for the new fiscal year. What do you want to achieve? Use this time to reflect on your past performance and strategize for the future.
- Budgeting: You don't want any frights in this area! Review your financials and allocate budgets for marketing, expansion, and any necessary improvements.
- Team Alignment: Ensure your team understands and is aligned with your goals for the coming year. A strong team is your "holiday miracle."
6. Be Ahead of the Sleigh:
- Fulfillment and Shipping: Make sure you have a robust fulfillment and shipping process in place to handle the holiday rush. Consider offering free or expedited shipping options if you offer products online. It's also a great time to consider transitioning to discrete shipping to help keep gifts surprising!
- Returns Policy: Review your returns policy to accommodate gifts and purchases made during this season.
7. Network Like a Vampire:
- Holiday Networking: Attend local holiday events and business mixers to build relationships and foster partnerships for the new year. Might we suggest the After Dark Party at Horton Market on November 25 ;)
- Collaborations: Explore collaborations with other local businesses for cross-promotions and events.
8. Year-End Clean-Up:
- Inventory Clearance: Consider offering end-of-year clearance sales to reduce excess inventory.
- Financial Review: Meet with your accountant to review your year-end financials and get your taxes in order.
9. Celebrate and Rest:
- Holiday Party: Organize a holiday party for your team to celebrate your accomplishments and unwind. You could treat them to a night out for the After Dark Party *wink*
- Relax: Take a break to recharge for the new year. You've earned it! Get this break on the calendar now, and if adjustments to store hours or availability need to be made to accommodate a break, post the changes early to give your customers a good heads-up.
With these "spooktacular" tips, you'll be well-prepared to navigate the end of fall and the holiday season while aligning your small business with your goals for the new fiscal year. Happy Haunting and Happy Holidays! 🎃👻🎅🎉
But, I also have a question...Is the Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween or a Christmas movie?
The rich culture and history of St Thomas can sometimes be overlooked, with new and modern businesses spotting the old architecture of historic Talbot St. However, one staple of the city that has withstood, continuing a legacy through the years, has been Jennings Furniture & Design, the second-oldest furniture store in Canada.
Jennings in 1975. (Elgin County Archives.)
In 2009, the owners, Scott and Bruce Hammond, descendants of W.B. Jennings, approached one of their interior designers, Renee Carpenter, to purchase the store. During this time, despite the recession and job losses that had hit St. Thomas, Carpenter took a leap of faith. After taking over, her focus shifted the merchandise towards modern high-end, luxury and custom pieces, compared to mass-produced big brand names. Carpenter noted that the downsizing of housing through the years, specifically with clientele opting for condominiums and smaller living spaces, would require different furniture needs. This change in tune shifted the interest and specific taste of the customer into the spotlight, bringing back an era bygone of when the store had first opened.
Keeping with tradition, Carpenter mentions that Jennings continues to provide manufacturers of traditional-styled furnishings for clients amidst the contemporary, modern and transitional pieces. This variety allows each client’s needs and desires to easily be satisfied. Jennings also strives to carry on its legacy through its values, specifically customer service. It is committed to upholding the same quality and service provided to St. Thomas and the surrounding area since 1885.
While quality was never questioned, Jennings rebranded services, adding designers to the team to provide new upscale interior design services to members of the Jennings Club. This change would allow locals to purchase locally rather than opting for designers and services from distant larger areas such as Toronto.
Even throughout Covid, Carpenter remained dedicated to the store, offering virtual showcasing of products to clients, preparing curb-side deliveries and fashioning the store’s website for online shopping. Her motivation lies in the generations that have run the store before her through wars, pandemics, economic failure and more. Her perseverance drives the store forward through tough times, and her resilience is inspiring.
Years of dedication and determination have proven fruitful to the store, which has proudly served St. Thomas for 138 years. This store is one of the beautiful jewels of our downtown, giving a glimpse into our past with bright hope for the future.
As a business owner you know you are required to track all the financial transactions that flow through
your business. So why then do so many owners scramble in March and April getting their books together
for tax season? The answer is simple. You are passionate and great at the product or service you offer
but for many that is not an accounting business. Here are some tips and tricks to help you avoid the tax
1. Why record your transactions
If the only reason you are tracking is to be able to file your tax return, you may find that you don’t have
the motivation to track regularly. A more motivating reason why you want to keep good records is so
you can make business decisions. Do you need to increase the price you charge? Do you have
unnecessary expenses that are making you unprofitable? It is difficult to answer these without good
2. What transactions to record
When it comes to recording your business dealings, ALL transactions need to be recorded. This includes
cash transactions, e-transfer transactions and business expenses you personally purchase for your
3. Where to record your transaction
For many businesses starting out, a simple excel sheet tracking all of your sales and expenses is enough
to get started. If you do choose to invest in an accounting system, make sure you understand how to use
it. There is nothing worse than paying for a system, using it wrong and ending up in a bigger mess.
4. When to record your transaction
It is recommended to record your transactions as close to the time of the transaction as possible. For
some it may not be practical to record each time you make a sale or a purchase. However, getting
yourself into a weekly habit of recording all the transactions for the week can be a huge benefit. You can
likely remember your transactions for the past week (or quickly figure out what that charge was for).
Also recording on a weekly basis for many business owners can take less than an hour of time.
5. Talk to an Expert
Are you aware of all the things you can claim as an expense in your business? This is a common problem
area. Often times business owners get advice from friends and family about what expenses they are able
to claim. When it comes to tax time, Canada Revenue Agency might not agree that the advice is correct.
Please remember that every business is different and as a result there may not be a one size fits all
approach when it comes to your expenses
Tracking your business expenses may not be the thing that brings you joy. However, ensuring you are
properly tracking, with the right tools and on a consistent basis might just be the reason why you can
continue the business that is bringing you joy!
Jennifer Hare, CPA
Jennifer is a Financial Coach who has a big passion for helping people feel more safe and secure in their financial situation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook or Instagram
Market and Festival Season is in full swing! As you plan and prepare to participate in a show with your small business, are you putting your best foot forward to create an inviting shopping experience for your potential customers?
Whether this is your first or seventh market season, there are always ways to improve the customer experience to create greater success for yourself. Check out these simple ways to maximize your market experience.
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