For many business owners the Christmas jingle will have a different ring this festive season…

Christmas won’t feel quite so festive this year for many small business owners across Australia. Small business closures are at record levels with Australian Securities & Investments Commission data showing companies in administration up by 9.6 percent on the same period last year. Our utilities are more expensive than ever, the Australian Taxation office is clamping down, ‘seasonal winner’; the retail industry is declining and Europe is falling — again. According to Dun & Bradstreet Small Business CEO Christine Christian, “It is clear that global economic uncertainty is affecting the confidence of business and consumers alike with knock-on effects for anticipated sales, profit and employment growth.”

The rich continue to sell their holiday homes and adjust to new standards of living, and many of our staple families are doing it tough — tough enough to cut back on bare essentials. Coupled with the stress this alone ignites, we are entering the busiest time of the year socially, a time when personal relationships are under scrutiny and it all happens at the slowest time of year for business. After 18 years of living here from the Northern hemisphere, I still can’t quite get over how Australia shuts for the month.

When it comes to the business services sector, January is the quietest as most take holidays for the entire month. Right now, that cashflow hole is a tough one and with banks restricted in lending, for some business owners it is a critical time.

This Christmas as with every year, my office will close for two weeks and everyone gets a holiday. The office will be manned by a skeleton senior staff.

So how can we prepare?

1. Sieve the business — run the business through a sieve, keep what is necessary, get rid of what is not

2. Get invoices out early — ask for expected payment dates over the festive season, accounts go on holiday too!

3. Chase money in fast — ask for prompt payment before Christmas

4. Let go of all unnecessary costs — dead wood drags you down, get rid of it

5. As you may have heard me say before, cut once, don’t salami slice, it’s bad for morale and bad for moving forward

6. Review your IT arrangements and contracts — are your business needs the same as they were a year ago?

7. Talk to your customers — catch up on their pains and plans

8. Talk to your prospects — a chance to wish them season’s greetings

9. Clean the database — the unsubscribes, new business cards, those who you know have moved on

10. Get brand-ready — review collateral and take a fresh look at your brand

11. Get sales-ready — do you have what you need to sell in the new year?

12. Secure finances — with the bank, with investors with an overdraft

13. Use Christmas as an excuse to connect — it doesn’t have to be expensive to be memorable

14. Communicate office closures over the holiday period to all and sundry

15. Plan your promotional campaigns for the new year — they should start early, around February at least

16. Prepare your next newsletter to kick communication off

17. Paint your office — or refresh your space; some of my best buys have come from Fantastic furniture or Freedom for under $100 and as a brand agency, my office has to look good

18. Thank your staff — without good people, as managers we can do nothing

19. Thank your suppliers — they are the backbone … in hard times we need their understanding more than ever

20. Rest and recuperate. If the person at the top gets sick, the rest of the team does.

Ultimately, it is never too early to start preparation for a new beginning. As a successful business owner you want to differentiate by promoting the right image, at the right time, with the right message and through appropriate channels of communication for your prospects and clients. Cheers to new beginnings!

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