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Beating the financial stress of the holidays

The holidays are a glorious time of year and a festive time for many. As a business owner, it can be both joyous and challenging at the same time. Given the number of events and the strain of competing commercial and family obligations, it’s easy to under-plan and overspend. Here are three quick key messages to help you avoid the season’s pitfalls and enjoy its opportunities.

Plan ahead. 

Take a 360-degree view of your business. Consider each aspect that can impact the holidays: decorations for your store or office, special merchandise, a potential need for extra help, gifts and/or parties, your website’s speed and ease of use, etc. Make a list of the items you’ll need to address in each area. The more you can organize and anticipate, the more prepared you’ll be. With your “knowns” taken care of, you’ll be better able to deal with the unexpected, should it arrive

Set your budgets and stick with them.

Once you’ve built your lists, assign numbers to them. This gives you the opportunity to see what your efforts will cost and, more importantly, where you can pare expenses. There’s no need to go overboard on gift or party expenditures, for example — not for your staff, vendors or key accounts. You can save money on office parties by hosting them at the workplace, going potluck and asking employees to bring a homecooked dish or opting for a charity drive rather than a party and letting everyone contribute a toy or an article of clothing for the less fortunate. Remember, your objective here is building camaraderie and fostering communication, not impressing people with your catered food and entertainment. When thanking your suppliers, you’d be surprised at the power of a thoughtful, handwritten note on good stationery.

Line up your financing.

This is probably the most important point of all. It’s easy to run into liquidity issues over the holidays. Waiting for payments when you need cash is a problem you don’t want. To protect yourself, consider a working capital loan from your financial institution. You can use these short-term, low-interest-rate loans for any aspect of your operations — payroll, inventory, rent, maintenance, etc. It’s a smart way to gain both funds and peace of mind

Don’t let the season run you ragged. Enjoy this joyous time of year. With a little planning and a healthy dose of common sense, you’ll be on the way to a comfortable, profitable holiday.

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