The holidays bring opportunities and challenges for business. We are not talking about the additional competition for the holiday shopping dollars and year-end expenditures. Instead, we want to discuss the other issues that face most business owners during this season. How you decide to approach these issues can affect your business for months and even years to come.
1. Holiday schedules and staffing
Whether or not you have a retail business, you will probably need to juggle staff from mid-November through the first week of the New Year. Employees will want to take time away from business to see friends and family. While you want your employees to have this time, you need to ensure that your business needs are covered.
To avoid surprises and disappointments, create policies that let employees know if the business will close and if you will compensate them for this time. Write clear vacation or paid-time-off policies. If you haven’t established these, there is still time. Talk with employees and / or your management team about minimum staffing levels and how to ensure customer support during these weeks.
2. Bonuses and gifts
Employers like to reward employees during the holidays with monetary and other gifts. However, holiday bonuses that are not tied to performance measures can become an entitlement. In addition, if the business has a tough year and chooses to forgo the bonus, you might find yourself reenacting a scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
If your employees are expecting a check, they don’t want to see a subscription to the jelly-of-the-month club. Additionally, the Internal Revenue Service considers many gifts to be compensation -- and therefore taxable. You may need to take taxes out of your employees’ paycheck for that holiday gift card or turkey. Check with your accountant to get professional advice.
Finally, think through your policy on vendor and customer gifts. Both giving and receiving. Do you want your employees to give gifts to customers? Is there a budget? What gifts can your employees receive? It is always better to discuss these matters in advance, so employees know how you want your company represented.
3. Parties and other celebrations
The holidays are a time for camaraderie and fun. Will you have a company party? Will you invite significant others? Will you serve alcohol? If you have alcohol at your celebration, how will you handle the employee who imbibes a bit too much? Will you offer transportation?
No one wants you and your employees to join the temperance league, but a bit of strategic thinking can avert embarrassment or perhaps tragedy. Don’t risk your organization or people. A bit of preplanning can ensure that everyone has a great time and you limit your liability.
4. Giving back
Take advantage of the season to do good for others. The season offers many opportunities to get your team together to sponsor a needy family or child or to raise funds for a local charity. Support the Christmas Mother or your local food pantry. Buy bicycles for Toy for Tots or serve food at a local homeless shelter. These types of activities can bring your staff together in a truly meaningful activity.
Remember, every experience becomes a part of your company’s history and culture. Have a great time during this precious season. Thinking through the opportunities and issues associated with the holidays will allow you to enjoy the fun without the headache.