Summer survival tips for SMEs

1.Take a history lesson – look at the seasonal trends that have occurred in the past and plan accordingly. If certain products/services have traditionally seen a surge in the past, the chances are the same thing will happen again.

2. Be prepared – organisation is key. Make sure that all documentation is clear and filing is kept up to date so that even when dealing with an increased number of customers, you will always have the information you need at your fingertips.

3. Don’t pay for excess baggage – while it is vitally important to make sure you have enough stock to fulfill the increased number of orders, don’t over estimate as over-ordering stock can result in cash being tied up in goods you can’t shift as demand for you product lulls.

4. Keep the cash flowing- when taking on increased volumes of work, it is imperative that you have suitable finance options in place; otherwise you could be in a position where you are unable to fund new orders and may have to turn customers away. Consider alternative finance options such as factoring and invoice discounting to ensure you have the capital you need when you need it.

5. Avoid the holiday romance – Build good working relationships with your suppliers all year round, not just during your busiest periods. As when the pressure is really on and you need their assistance, they will be more likely to help.

6. School’s out – consider taking on students and graduates who are looking for work experience. More often than not they will be bright, enthusiastic and most importantly won’t break the bank. They will ease the pressure on your existing staff as well as giving a breath of fresh air and new ideas to your business.

7. Timely temping – despite the fact that summer may be your busiest time of year, many of your staff will still want to take holidays. Make sure that you have enough temporary staff to manage the increased workload as well as covering for staff holidays. This will ensure your service levels do not suffer.

8. Time out – it is not always possible for you to take a holiday at peak trading times, however it does not mean that you can’t take a break at all. If you can’t afford to spend a fortnight away from the office then consider a long weekend instead.

9. Instruct a co-pilot – even if you are used to handling everything yourself, make sure you appoint a reliable and trustworthy second in command for the really busy times. Keep them fully briefed on all aspects of the business so you can delegate responsibility if necessary, Even if you don’t use them, it will ease the pressure just knowing you have their support.

10. Summer party – your business is bound to be more stressful during busy periods, which will reflect on your staff’s morale and performance. Keep them motivated by organising a summer party at the end of the busy period to show them that they are part of the success and that you value their hard work.

David Robertson concludes: ‘The Summer season can be an extremely challenging time of year for any business. The combination of increased demand coinciding with staff holidays can seem like an impossible hurdle to climb. Owners and managers need to be aware of the potential barriers associated with seasonal trade, such as cash flow, staffing levels, stock control and managing holiday cover and with a little planning and preparation, these barriers can be broken down making this both a successful and profitable period.’

  • David Robertson is chief executive of Bibby Financial Services

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