Staffing and Customer challenges are amplified during the holidays. The increased business magnifies your good points, as well as any areas in which you are lacking. Preparing ahead of time can make a big difference! |
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The Most Wonderful (and Challenging) Time of the Year

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If you own a retail business, online store, or a business which provides some kind of service to the public, if you don’t already know this, we are in the most wonderful time of the year. You’re probably hearing Andy Williams singing in your head right now, sorry about that. You’ll get plenty of that in the weeks to come, too. Really sorry about that…

Wonderful, but Challenging

If you are like most retail businesses, even if you have had a record year (and I really hope you have) you are about to see sales at a level you haven’t seen since this time last year. Products and services which have been slow movers all year are about to see a serious uptick.

I’ve been in the retail food business for 25 years now, and there is something you must know about increased business.

Increased business is a multiplier. 

Whether you and your team are good or bad at any given aspect of your business, this will be multiplied by increased business.

Is there an area in your business that you and your team dominate? This will serve you very well over the next two months as your expertise will be on display.

Are you lacking in an area? That is going to show up more as business increases.

Take time now to understand what you’re really good at and where you need to refocus some effort to get better so you can maximize your great points and avoid pitfalls related to your weaknesses.

Staffing Challenges

You have probably been planning for the holiday season from a staffing standpoint for several weeks now, and that’s great. Sometimes when it comes to staffing, despite great planning, circumstances can thwart our best efforts at being prepared. Team members get injured (either at home or at work) and cannot work their regular shifts. They may become ill and unable to work for days or even weeks at a time. People have family emergencies and need to take time away.

Unfortunately there is nothing these people or you as their leader can do about this. It simply is part of life, and part of life with which we must contend.

However, it does hurt more right now than ever, so a good bit of advice would be to think through possible scenarios and have a plan thought through before something like this happens. That way when it does happen, you are not caught totally off guard. Expect it, and plan for it.

Customer Challenges

It is no secret that the holidays are, for most people, very stressful. Most people are busier than normal at work, and all the while they are planning, preparing, and executing special family times together. They are trying to finish their Thanksgiving meal plan, travel arrangements, and other details. Any extra-curricular activities which they are part of are planning special events, parties, and activities which, although they are meant to be fun and social, do not come together without much planning and preparation.

All of this means that when people are visiting your business during this season, they are stressed out. They are more tired than usual. Their temperament will be different during this time due to their lack of sleep and lack of leisure time to unwind. You will see customers at this time of year whom you do no see, or rarely see the rest of the year. People are going to be in more of a hurry and have a smaller tolerance for issues affecting their experience at your business.

So what can you do?

Talk to your staff about these challenges and make sure they are prepared. Set the expectation that instead of contributing to people’s life chaos during this time, you want to be a calm in the storm.

Properly preparing for people’s unexpected life issues, preventing them from being able to complete their normal job they do for you puts you in a position to offer grace, not demands. If your team member just found out their mother has cancer, and this might be her last Christmas, they need grace. If you plan appropriately, even though it will not be easy, you will be able to offer grace instead of demands.

Your reward might be a team member who performs even better for you in the future.

Your team can create a safe haven of meeting and exceeding your customer’s expectations with a little preparation and focus. The reward will be an extremely satisfied customer who remembers that you filled a very specific, very real need in their life much larger than what they ordered.

You can bring order to their disorder.

They will thank you, literally and with their repeat business.

Do It Now

  • Pin this post to your Small Business Board.
  • Make sure everyone understands that increased business is a multiplier for good, or bad.
  • Make adjustments to negate your weaknesses and maximize on your positive attributes.
  • Talk to your team about the challenges your customers are going to be facing during these times.
  • Prepare your team, putting extra checks in place so that orders are handled more efficiently.
  • Plan for the unexpected to happen in the lives of your team members.
  • Be in a position to offer grace, instead of demands when life happens for them.

Make sure you check out our Servant Leadership post from a few weeks ago.

Some great books, which would also make great gifts for team members, include these three short reads.

The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success

The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do

The New One Minute Manager

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