Seasonality In Business: The Definitive Guide
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At first, seasonality seems more like a weakness than a strength in the business world. However, virtually all businesses experience some degree of seasonality. What business doesn’t have customers whose behavior is influenced by the weather? For certain industries, that influence is just a little more extreme.

Traditionally speaking, seasonal businesses perform the majority of the year’s sales during the summer or winter. The disadvantages of this situation are pretty obvious. But with the right tools and strategies, seasonal businesses can reap rewards that far outweigh their sacrifices.

In this guide, we’ll explain the answers to the following questions:

What are the Advantages of Seasonality?

Many entrepreneurs found success by turning setbacks into opportunities. Seasonality is no exception. After all, one of the greatest hardships of small businesses is unpredictability. Though seasonality presents a host of risks, at least you can see them coming.

Here are three major benefits to having a seasonal business:

1. You Know When to Ramp Up Spending

Entrepreneurs often emphasize the value of data. Looking at historical metrics related to demand and performance can tell you the best times to launch marketing campaigns, order bulk inventory, offer discounts, etc. This data essentially determines your spending patterns as well as the timelines for significant investments.

For some businesses, data can be difficult to interpret. They might have to consult dozens of metrics before drawing meaningful conclusions. For others, however, this information is crystal clear. They can easily tell when demand hits its peak or how long it takes for marketing campaigns to produce results. Seasonal businesses are more likely to belong to this group. When you have a solid handle on your busy and slow seasons, you don’t have to worry about missing out on inventory deals or hiring employees at the wrong time. In other words, seasonal businesses are dramatically less likely to make incorrect spending decisions.

2. You’re Less Likely to Procrastinate

Unpredictability can make business leaders hesitant to move forward with new initiatives. And when you have 12 months to fulfill your annual revenue goals, you’re more likely to put things off or develop careless spending habits. Seasonal businesses, on the other hand, have no time to procrastinate. They operate on a set schedule and know exactly when to ramp up or pull back their spending. Putting something off for just a few weeks could jeopardize their performance for the busy season.

3. You Have Time to Strategize and Prepare

Seasonal businesses have elongated slow and busy seasons that last several months. For other businesses, these periods are much shorter. This gives them less time to prepare for busy periods, which is their chance to capitalize on the year’s biggest spike in demand. They don’t have the time to develop new strategies or acquire new tools. Less preparation ultimately decreases the likelihood of maximum success.

Successful seasonal businesses take full advantage of the extended time they have to prepare for the busy season. They put tremendous thought into their marketing strategies, improve the quality of their offerings, change their pricing structure, etc. To clarify, nearly every opportunity to maximize the likelihood of success is taken.

3. Business Loans Made Just for You

Businesses that are interested in business loans must make sure they apply at the right time. They have to account for their current financial standing as well as the future. For example, you may be able to make fixed payments right now, but what about in six or nine months? Figuring out the perfect time to apply, however, isn’t always easy. Many businesses are particularly prone to occasional dips in revenue, or random shifts in demand. This also makes it difficult for financial institutions to develop the terms and repayment structures that won’t impact cash flow.

Seasonal businesses don’t face this challenge because their busy and slow periods stay the same every year. They have one busy season and one slow season, as opposed to sporadic increases or decreases in demand. Not only does this make it easier to apply for financing at the right time, but it also allows financial institutions to develop appropriate terms and repayment structures for their cash flow. They can easily see what kind of arrangements the business would and would not be able to fulfill.

Which Industries Get Very Busy During the Holidays?

Most articles about seasonality are directed at retailers. This makes sense, as the holiday season is traditionally their busiest time of the year. Retail items are also frequently purchased as gifts. For most other industries, the holidays are their slow season. But retailers aren’t the only businesses that are putting in extra hours while the rest of the business world is taking it easy. The holidays are actually extremely busy for a number of industries.

Here are four industries aside from retail that experience significant increases in demand during the holiday season:

Restaurants

Cold weather makes people lazy. It’s harder to find the energy to cook, especially when your children are off from school. Hence, restaurants are particularly attractive during the holidays, and customers are particularly grateful for their services. Combine this gratitude with the ubiquitous holiday spirit, and you’ve got the biggest tips of the year. Restaurants must capitalize on this opportunity by offering exceptional service. After all, customers are expecting long waits, slow staff, and higher prices. Bigger tips are more likely for the few establishments that lack these inconveniences.

Hotels

The saying “There’s no place like home for the holidays” is losing relevance by the minute. In places like Colorado or Vermont, hotels experience a massive influx of skiers during the holidays. Others might fly south to Florida in search of warmer weather. December is always a mob scene in New York, only slowing down after the ball drops in Times Square. Much like going out to dinner rather than staying home, it’s become much more acceptable to travel for the holidays to avoid the local chaos.

Beauty Salons and Spas

Between parties and family gatherings, people want to look their best for holiday-themed occasions. Also, the cold weather isn’t exactly the most comfortable environment. This makes the relaxation of a massage or facial much more appealing. People visit beauty salons and spas during the holidays to essentially neutralize the effects of the cold weather on their health.

Car Dealerships

Car dealerships are known to offer major discounts during “end of the year” sales events. Manufacturers tend to increase production at this time, partially because cars will always make for great gifts. Dealers are also trying to get unsold inventory off their lots so they can carry less of it into their books for the new year. Some will even go as far as losing money on a deal solely to meet their end of the year sales goals.

How Can Small Businesses Prepare for the Holiday Season?

The key to a successful holiday season is preparation. And since there’s always more you can do to increase the likelihood of success, it’s never too early to begin this process. According to Entrepreneur, 51% of retail businesses start planning for the holiday season during the summer. Well, what exactly are these businesses doing at this time? Are they taking action or just brainstorming new ideas?

Here are some ways small businesses prepare for the holiday season:

Seasonality: Break the Holidays into Two Stages

The holiday season can be viewed as two stages, or rather two opportunities for success. Stage one consists of three days in November: Black Friday on the 24th, Small Business Saturday on the 25th, and Cyber Monday on the 27th. Black Friday is usually one of the biggest sales days of the year. Research has shown that Black Friday deals are most effective when they are released well ahead of time. The same concept applies for Small Business Saturday, when many local businesses reward customers with special discounts and deals that are only available on this specific day of the year.

Cyber Monday technically only affects Ecommerce businesses. However, you can tie it together with one of the other two days in order to entice customers to come back to you for the rest of their holiday shopping. For a piece of the pie on Cyber Monday, use combined offers, like distributing coupon codes with the receipts from purchases made on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday.

Stage 2, is the religious holidays and New Year’s Eve. Costumers have different expectations for this stage compared to the first. This that suggests your marketing and customer retention tactics should be different as well.

Seasonality: Put More Thought into Advertising?

The decision to begin preparation in the summer is likely motivated by the amount of time it takes for a marketing campaign to actually influence someone’s shopping decisions. Research has shown that people usually need to see an ad multiple times before making a purchase. You may have noticed that back-to-school-related ads have begun appearing earlier and earlier every year. Why do companies do this? It’s because when the time finally comes to buy these ads, people will remember the ads they saw first.

In summary, step one of your holiday preparation process is developing your marketing strategy. If you run a local business, you should probably invest in getting listed in local holiday gift guides. Other businesses might instead concentrate on digital channels like social media or email. Even the most successful social media campaigns don’t produce results for several months. For this reason, it’s important to set realistic goals, or “KPIs” for your social media campaigns. Your goals must also be highly specific. How many new customers do you actually plan on acquiring through social media ads? These are the kind of questions you have to answer before you begin developing your strategy.

Seasonality: Increase Online Accessibility

Your marketing efforts will be pointless if customers are unable to access your business online. Can your website handle an increase in traffic? Does your website provide all the information your customers will need?

If your customers usually discover your business through Google searches, you may consider investing in Google Ads. Think of the kind of terms people use to search for your items during the holidays. They might be looking for discounts, special offers, packages, etc. With the right Google Ads strategy, your business will show up when your target audience searches for the unique deals you are offering for the holidays.

Seasonality: Don’t Order Too Much Inventory

Vendors typically offer steep discounts for bulk orders during slow periods. They will appreciate your desire to strike a deal before the chaos ensues. It makes it easier for them to estimate the quantities they will need by the time the holidays roll around. And the less you pay for inventory, the lower prices you’ll be able to offer.

However, bulk orders aren’t the best solution for everyone. Look at your sales data from the previous holiday season. How long did it actually take to sell most of these items? Did large quantities of these items go unsold? If demand is difficult to predict, you may consider obtaining a business line of credit.  This gives you extra cash to place orders when it’s abundantly clear which items customers are most interested in.

And unlike a traditional business loan, the best time to obtain a business line of credit is before you need the money. Waiting until revenue slows down to apply can result in lower borrowing limits.

Seasonality: Hire Employees with the Right Attitude

Despite the convenience of Ecommerce, many still choose to do their holiday shopping at small businesses. This is largely because small businesses can offer an experience or atmosphere that makes shopping fun. One of the primary components of this experience is warm, welcoming employees. Maintaining this attitude is very difficult, however, when dealing with the holiday rush. It’s not easy to find employees who can be warm and welcoming amid this massive surge in customer activity.

For this reason, retail businesses begin searching for holiday hires as early as possible. They often prioritize attitude or personality rather than their ability to deal with stress. After all, you can teach someone to talk to customers and answer questions at a rapid pace. The right attitude, on the other hand, cannot be taught. If you start looking for new employees over the summer, you have plenty of time to teach them all the skills they’ll need for the holiday rush.

Hiring employees well before the holidays also gives them time to get to know you, the business leader. Employees are more likely to go above and beyond to help a trusted friend, rather than a stranger. In other words, you have to give your employees actual reasons to respect and trust you, instead of expecting them to do this automatically.

How Can Small Businesses Attract Interest During the Holidays?

Sometimes, it’s the minor details of a business strategy that make the biggest difference in regards to attracting interest. Here are some suggestions to increase the appeal of your items and maintain steady foot traffic:

  1. Start with an arresting window display. It has to be simple yet bold enough to catch the eye of a distracted passersby.
  2. Hold mini-events such as brief product demonstrations.
  3. Impulse purchasing now accounts for about 44% of retail sales. You can build urgency with daily or even hourly special discounts for lower-priced items.
  4. Pre-packaged baskets or stacks of items are a real crowd-pleaser. Busy shoppers love value-added options, like giving away clever items with certain purchases. It can be something branded or holiday-themed, like wrapping paper and ribbons.
  5. Take every opportunity to capture email addresses from holiday customers. Send them last-minute holiday offers and market directly to them in the coming year to build repeat sales.
  6. Make your storefront a comforting and stimulating environment. You could offer free refreshments (i.e. coffee, snacks), flat screen TVs playing cartoons for children, or comfortable furniture for people to sit down during a long day of shopping.

What Can Businesses Do to Make the Holidays Less Stressful?

Earlier, we noted that for many industries, the winter is their slow season. But any successful business leader knows that their time must be used constructively, even slow periods. Here are six ways small business leaders can make the best use of this opportunity:

1. Take Time Off

You’re not a machine. Don’t fool yourself. Schedule some time off to spend with your family, hibernating in a desert retreat, or binge watching some Netflix. Whatever helps you unwind and reset – take some time and do it.

Neglecting the need for time off increases the risk of burnout. But even if you don’t reach this point, you’ll probably see your energy levels and overall motivation decline. You’ll lose focus and patience with your employees.

Take some time off. Your self-preservation demands it.

2. Make Sure Employees Take Time Off

Your employees aren’t machines, either. If your team is on the smaller side, they’re smart enough to know they all can’t take off at once. But they still deserve their time off. So, talk to your clients or customers before the holidays and explain the situation. You won’t lose their business after taking less than a week to re-charge.

3. Learn New Skills

Winter is particularly slow for contractors and construction businesses. But like we said before, slow periods should be viewed as opportunities to maximize success for busy periods. Contractors can do this by investing in improving the skill sets of their employees. You’ll be able to take on more lucrative projects if your top employees have the certifications for in-demand skills. You might even consider taking a class that will help you be a more effective business leader.

Some contractors minimize the damage of the slow season by making sure it’s not slow at all. For instance, you could hire new staff or obtain certifications that would allow you to provide winter-friendly services. Examples of such services include interior landscaping, HVAC services, or holiday lights installation.

4. Simplify Holiday Party

The idea of the office holiday party always sounds better than the party itself. Save your business the expense and your employees of another holiday obligation by scaling it back.

Instead of an after-hours party, have your party during business hours. Your employees have plenty of personal errands to get done in their off-hours. Don’t take that time away from them.

Bring in a great catered lunch. Bring in folks who usually work in the field so everyone can spend some quality time with their co-workers.

Extra bonus: Since it’s an on-premises lunch party, no one will expect alcohol. That’s a serious savings to your bank account and everyone’s dignity.

5. Don’t Forget End of the Year Expenses

If the holidays are a busy time for your business, you might get so wrapped up in holiday-related expenses that you let quarterly, semi-annual or annual expenses go ignored. This could include taxes, insurance premiums, licensing fees; anything you just keep putting off because you can. You can avoid this common scenario by depositing funds for these expenses into your reserve account each month. This way, you’ll have the cash on-hand when those end of year bills are due.

6. Surf the Season’s Biggest Marketing Campaigns

The holidays are a marketing extravaganza. Between your TV, mobile phone and laptop, you’ll see a wide variety of strategies. You’ll probably be bombarded with ads on several online channels as well, like social media, email, and Google.

Only some of these campaigns, however, will likely achieve the desired results. This information could be extremely useful when the time comes to launch your next campaign. So, do some research to see which campaigns were the most successful in industries that share your target audience. You should be able to see why these ads resonated so well with the intended viewer.

Preventing Credit Card Fraud During the Holidays

During the holidays, most people are concerned about picking out gifts, capitalizing on sales, and enjoying the holiday spirit. The last thing on their minds is credit card fraud. But research has found that the holiday season is one of the best times for thieves to get their hands on credit card information.

Holiday credit card fraud and information theft is especially troubling for small businesses that use credit cards to fund operations when revenue drops. On the other side of the equation, businesses that get very busy during the holidays must take extra measures to avoid credit card fraud amid the surge in customer activity.

In this section, we’ll explain how your business can reduce the risk of credit card fraud over the holiday season:

What are the Most Common Types of Credit Card Fraud?

There are several kinds of credit card fraud that small business owners need to be aware of. Credit card fraud can take many forms, including:

  • Bait and switch schemes – Buyers buy an expensive item and then attempt to return it for a refund, but they slip in a counterfeit or cheap knock-off item. Then, the thief resells the original item for a profit.
  • Credit card disputes – A scammer acting as a consumer purchases items using a credit card and then reverses the charges by filing a false credit card dispute. The company loses the merchandise as well as the payment.
  • Unauthorized use – A thief either steals the credit card information from an unsuspecting consumer or attempts to coerce another customer into using their card to make a purchase on their behalf. Or, they just swipe the credit card data off the reader using a skimmer.
  • Identify theft – It’s been estimated that in the past 6 years, thieves have stolen around $112 billion from consumers based on their identifying information. It’s common for people to steal each other’s mail during the holidays and take advantage of all those one-time free credit offers. Problem is, the theft isn’t discovered until months later when the bills arrive and the scammers are already long gone.

How Can Small Businesses Prevent Credit Card Fraud?

Fortunately, there are some measures that you can take as a business leader to protect your finances and avoid credit card fraud. It’s important to educate both your employees and your customers about protecting their information too. Here are some steps to reduce fraudulent credit card and small business loan practices:

1 Make Sure All Credit Card Accounts are Protected

Choose a financial institution that backs up all credit card transactions in your favor as the customer. Some have programs that insure your business in the case of a breach of information, and cap credit card spending limits. Others offer free credit monitoring and alerts for suspicious behavior.

2. Use a Secure Credit Card Merchant System

When choosing the right merchant credit card processor, find out about the security level that’s offered. You will also want to inquire as you take out small business loans, merchant cash advances, and other forms of small business credit to ensure the highest level of security is protecting your data, as well as your customers’.

3. Regularly Change Credentials for All Accounts

Make it a practice to change your credit card and small business banking credentials frequently. Use a password generation software to create long, hard to discover passwords. When accessing new credit cards, set up your own PIN numbers and passwords right away.

4. Update Your Ecommerce Website

If you operate a small business that offers items for sale online, now is a good time to protect your business by updating your e-commerce security settings. Choose a checkout process that’s encrypted and doesn’t leave forms filled out with sensitive information if someone backs out of the sale process.

5. Secure a Quality Inventory Tracking System

Avoid getting scammed by knock-offs that can cost your company money and reputation. Inspect all items before issuing any credit card refunds, and make it a practice to charge a restocking fee for all returns. Assign an inventory tag to every item and make sure serial numbers or other identification is validated. Also, maintain a customer tracking system for credit card chargebacks.

6. Insist on Additional Authentication for Credit Card Sales

This includes verifying all credit card holders by asking to see a copy of their driver’s license. Update point of sales systems to new card chip readers instead of swipe card readers. This gives all clerks a chance to alert management if something seems strange.

7. Borrow from Companies with Solid BBB Rating

If you are approached by a new credit card or small business loan company, take heed. You may be dealing with a scammer. Instead, reach out to a reputable company that provides legal and reasonable small business capital products and services. Make sure they have a great BBB (Better Business Bureau) rating and plenty of positive reviews.

How Can Businesses Capitalize on the Post-Holiday Drought?

If the holidays are your busy season, late January through March is probably your slow season. It doesn’t matter how much revenue you generated over the holidays. The drop in demand that follows can ruin your cash flow if you don’t make the right financial decisions. Here are a few ways to revive your business when the post-holiday drought sets in:

Seasonality: Put Customer Data to Use

You can’t launch an effective marketing campaign without data, and the holidays supply it in spades. Once the holidays come to an end, review the success of different strategies. What worked? What didn’t? This information can be the foundation for your general marketing strategy. You can also find out which areas where you should ramp up or cut down on spending. Odds are, comparing this year’s data with last year’s will reveal a trend in customer behavior that you can capitalize on moving forward.

During normal or busy periods, business leaders might avoid reviewing all this information because they already have so much their plates. But now that you finally have some open space in your day, you can’t say you’re too busy to face the truth and actually do something about what you see.

Seasonality: Cut Expenses

This is almost always the first step for any recovery strategy. Even the most efficient and frugal business leaders will find something to cut. If your business’s revenue has taken a particularly hard hit, anything you can do to save as little as a couple hundred dollars without hurting the business should be considered. A good method of determine what to cut is to make a list of recurring or upcoming expenses and labeling each one as essential, nonessential or possibly nonessential. Expenses that fall into the nonessential category should be cut immediately. Expenses that are deemed possibly nonessential can remain unless your cash flow situation gets worse. Cutting expenses is a great start to a broader initiative because it is a relatively easy change to make, and the first step of any major business endeavor is already hard enough.

You’ll also be a lot less stressed about the future when you know you are being proactive, as opposed to letting the situation escalate by delaying what needs to be done now. It’s comforting to be able to tell yourself that while certain elements of your business cannot be controlled, at least you are saving as much as possible.

Seasonality: Put Extra Cash Away

If you’ve just finished your busy season, you’ve probably worked tirelessly for the past three months. Maybe you’ve made even more money than you thought and are therefore more tempted to spend a portion of it. But wouldn’t it make more sense to use the rewards of your hard work as a platform for expansion? Strong cash flow in the recent past and having plenty of money in the bank also increases your chances of being approved for highly advantageous small business loans.

So instead of rewarding yourself, put more money away. You can split the income into two accounts, one of which will be for slow periods. It’s also a good idea to document your success over the summer, i.e. how long it took you to conduct a certain amount of sales, reach monthly revenue goals, and what this summer’s performance says about the kind of people who are most likely to make purchases. This information will be especially helpful when applying for financing.

Seasonality: Develop A New Pricing Strategy

Seasonal businesses often lower their process to stand out from the competition with unique deals and promotions. But once the holiday buzz dries out, those low prices lose their power. Most businesses just return to their traditional pricing model and eliminate all discounts. However, this is not necessarily the best move for everyone.

Maybe you bought a little too much inventory geared towards holiday shoppers. These items must be sold as quickly as possible before they eat up any more precious working capital. In this case, you might want to maintain or even increase discounts, since this might be the only way to get the items sold at all.

Seasonality: Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Favors

If your business is in good financial shape, it’s likely because you have continuously fulfilled your obligations to your creditors and business partners. This can include vendors, marketing agencies, or credit card companies. Establishing a long track record with these companies is not easy, and therefore comes with rewards. Thus, it is not considered inappropriate to ask for lower rates, credit extensions, or one-time discounts. Yes, asking for these things can be uncomfortable. But as any experienced business leader will tell you, knowing which favors to ask for and how to ask for them will get you very far in your career.

Seasonality: Provide Incentives for Holiday Gift Cards

Right after the holidays, consumers have a cache of gift cards that they’ve received from friends and family. Encourage your customers to spend them at your store with a gift card exchange! Offer credit at your store when they turn in unused gift cards, and you can use them to fund other purchases for your retail store or donate them to charities for a nice tax write off.

Seasonality: Host an Exclusive, Customers Only Event

Get in touch with your customers through a postcard and email campaign, inviting them to a customer appreciation sales event at your store. Retail owners who do this can offer a 25% discount on everything in the store, generating additional sales before marking merchandise down. Bring in some new items so that your customers get first dibs on them. Your best customers will see how much you appreciate them with this personal move.

Seasonality: Market Your Offerings as Lifestyle Solutions

If you’re not on vacation this winter, you’re probably cooped up inside, surfing the web. Likewise, potential customers are actively searching for information or new interests. This is your opportunity to bring in new customers, especially if your offerings can be categorized (even loosely) as “lifestyle solutions.” People are trying to make changes in their lives at this time. Your business could very well fulfill one of their new goals.

If you haven’t optimized your business’s website for mobile use, there’s no better time than now to get started. Without a mobile-friendly website, you won’t be seen on Google searches from mobile devices. It’s entirely possible that your website might need a new design altogether. If you plan on using email marketing to stay in touch with customers over the summer, they probably aren’t going to be opening their inboxes from a desktop since it’s so nice outside.

Seasonality: Widen Your Customer Base

If your business is more for convenience rather than a necessity, you might want to amuse your audience with something unconventional for your industry. Consider a marketing campaign featuring people who aren’t in your target market. One example would be a company that sells shaving equipment releasing a humorous campaign involving kids or bikers with massive beards. Such advertisements could potentially expand your customer base while showing current customers that they made the right choice in giving their business to such a creative, forward-thinking company.

Seasonality: Tack Items off Your To-Do List

One advantage of the slow season is the extra time you now have for tasks that typically get put on the back burner. What are you constantly putting off? Maybe you need a new air conditioner, or you’ve been considering launching a new line of products. Well, now is the time to start tacking items off that perpetual to-do list.

Seasonality: Tap into the Power of Social Media

Social media and email marketing allow you to stay in touch with your customers when demand drops. You could share updates about your business along with news articles related to your audience’s outside interests. Social media is also where your customers can act as your greatest salespeople. Ask them to post about their positive experience shopping with you, or how they saved money by choosing your business over the holidays. Regardless of the response from your audience, you’ll undoubtedly gather a treasure trove of consumer data to put into action moving forward.

Marketing in general should be a major focus during your slow season. If people aren’t buying your offerings, you should at least make sure more people know that these offerings exist.

Seasonality: Cater to Consumer Needs in the New Year

In order to revive your retail store, think about the New Year’s resolutions that your customers may have. For example, they may be increasingly concerned with looking good, losing weight, reducing stress, improving relationships, making more money, going back to school, or getting a new job. Be sure to highlight the products and services you offer that address these needs. You’ll be a step ahead of other retail owners who don’t think on this level.

Seasonality: Partner with Complementary Business

Revenue may have slowed down for you, but a complementary business located nearby might be doing just fine. Thus, ask these businesses about promotional partnerships. For example, if someone has just finished a workout at a gym, someone could point them in the direction of a smoothie shop or healthy food café nearby. Since the gym just gave the café a new customer, this person should then receive a discount on whatever they buy at the café.

Seasonality: Establish a Product of the Month Club

Every retail owner has a unique opportunity to offer a monthly product box. Pick out 3-5 premium items to ship out in limited numbers to consumers who subscribe to your product of the month club. This can also be used as a gift idea for customers who don’t have time to shop for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. If more customers take advantage of this tactic, more steady income will flow into your business each month, year-round.

What are the Best Holiday Gifts for Business Leaders?

Everyone has a small business leader in their life. It could be a solopreneur or any of the countless Mom and Pop shops we rely on. Regardless of their industry, virtually all business leaders have a few things in common: pressure, stress, uncertainty about the future, you get the idea. These difficulties create plenty of opportunities for gift-givers.

Here are ten perfect holiday gifts for business leaders:

1. Annual Subscription to Software Tools

This could be a conferencing software, customer management system, accounting software, HR systems, etc. Many business leaders waste a lot of time and money on manual tasks that software tools can complete in a matter of seconds. These cloud-based tools are the great equalizers for small businesses. However, this gift only works best if you know the business leader and their company pretty well.

2. Manual or Digital Notebook

Entrepreneurs are always coming up with and forgetting new ideas. If they don’t have a way to written them down, ideas get lost. Business leaders also seem to have a constantly shifting list of to-dos. This creates the need for a manual or digital notebook.

There are digital options, like Evernote and Trello. Get them the premium versions; don’t just sign them up for the free versions. A lot of the digital notebooks now work with voice recording notes for business leaders who use their phones to record their random thoughts rather than write them down.

For people who still prefer pen and paper, you can choose from a variety of notebooks from high-end, leather bound portfolios to the more pocket-friendly Field Notes.  Some tools are crossing the digital/manual divide, like Evernote’s integration with Moleskine.

3. Replace Office Furniture or Equipment

How old is their office printer or storage cabinet? How much would they love an ergonomic desk chair? Small business leaders are notorious for neglecting their needs in the business. You’d be surprised what a difference a comfortable desk chair can make to their daily energy.

4. Backup Chargers

For the business leader who’s never in, or doesn’t have an office.  Instead of a desk chair, what they need is a constantly charged phone and laptop to stay connected. There are portable battery packs and chargers, including bags and wallets that charge phones.

Whether it’s needed for meetings, to post announcements or changing schedules, a whiteboard serves whatever community messaging need a specific small business team has.

A good add-on here is a small whiteboard for the small owner to use on their desk. Some business leaders still like work things out by hand, either a to-do list or quick calculations, but don’t want to waste paper. Having a small white board they can write on instead is something they won’t think of themselves, but really appreciate once they have it.

5. Great Entrepreneur or Business Book

Successful entrepreneurs are constantly learning. Many of them accomplish this with a steady stream of business-related books. This gift can be directly related to their industry, or more about personal growth in general.

Here’s a good list of “Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read” to give you some ideas. You might also want to consider a biography or autobiography of an entrepreneur they admire.

Instead of a book, you could also get them a subscription to a business or industry publication that would be valuable for their business.

6. Branded Giveaways

You can literally put a business logo on anything today. Help your business leader out by buying some branded giveaways they use. Do they own a salon? How about branded compact mirrors? A medical practice could giveaway branded pill boxes.

For them, these branded giveaways are great marketing and a great reminder of your support.  Like signing them up with a SaaS subscription (idea #1), this option works best if you know the small business owner and their business well. Since you’ll need their logo art to make the purchase, this is a gift you’ll talk about with them before buying anything.

7. Bespoke Clothes

Everyone has a uniform. Some small business owners regularly must wear full professional dress. Others can dress more casually or are often in work clothes. Whatever the uniform, having custom fit clothing always raises their game.

Let’s thank the internet again. It’s made bespoke clothing available for very reasonable rates. Men’s shirt maker, Original Stitch, will produce casual or formal dress shirts for less than $100. Sumissura is a similar bespoke service for women’s clothing.

These options can be especially good for the business leader who doesn’t normally need to dress formally, but wants to show a smart professional side when required.

8. An Awesome Experience That Requires the Day Off!

Give the gift of time. Spa days or tickets to an exciting sports event are usually good bets. You can get more creative with services like Great American Days, which is a service that can arrange experiences like bungee jumping or driving a race car around the track.

9. Make Them a Hero Boss

Give them a gift to they can give to their team. Cater a great lunch. Buy an experience for the team. Bring in a massage therapist for a day.

Hopefully you’ve already figured out which way you want to go. You can find gift options off this list from $20 to $500. Whatever is appropriate for you to spend, there’s a great small business leader gift that they’ll genuinely appreciate.

Seasonality: The Most Important Time of the Year

Whether the holidays are your busy or slow season, they are undoubtedly an important time for small businesses. It’s up to business leaders to develop a concrete plan for the holidays and take full advantage of every opportunity to improve their cash flow. The actions you take at this time will likely determine the level of success you achieve for the rest of the year.

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