December can be a frustrating, or at least confusing, month for many small businesses.
December always starts right after a holiday (Thanksgiving) and then less than a month later we are into the Christmas/New Year’s celebrations where business drops off sharply for most of us for at least two weeks.
There is a three-week window between Thanksgiving and Christmas where a business owner should focus on two things – collections and sales. Doing both help soften the edge of diminished revenues that can arrive in late December and hang on into January.
Let’s look at collections first. If you bill customers, you have some that pay late or slow. Talk to those folks now. Tell them you are trying to get your books cleaned up before the year is over and would like to get their account paid up.
Tell them by paying this year, they show the expense this year, which reduces their tax burden. I have used this technique for years and collected many lingering account this way. Most people see the value of a fresh start in a new year and want to get things cleared up.
Late-paying customers just need to be nudged. Call people. Print overdue invoices and hand-deliver them if necessary. A special email or mailing works also, although traditional mail is the least effective.
At the same time, you should focus on sales. Start with warm deals that were in play before the Thanksgiving holiday. The holiday can interrupt the sales flow and you need to check on things that were in the works as a client may have forgotten about you.
See who was buying last year as they probably need more this year. Keep your social media updated with seasonal deals and engagements and your website fresh. The holidays create urgency. Have services and products ready that can meet tight deadlines.
Collect and sell over the next three weeks and you can relax some during the holidays and not sweat the inevitable slowdown that comes.
And what do you do once the holiday period arrives?
There is no better time to plan. You will have a calendar year’s worth of fresh data at your fingertips. There will probably be quiet days to reflect on the last year and plan for the upcoming year. Projects you shelved because there was too much to do can be tackled now.
December can be a difficult month for hard-charging business owners. Collect and sell now. Plan and catch up the last couple of weeks.
And along the way, enjoy the season.