Stress Free Holidays: Eight Ways To Optimize Your Business

business_christmasFor small businesses, the holiday season can be one of the most stressful periods of the entire year. However, having the right approach to IT can make the operation of your business during this period a much more manageable task.

Below are seven tips for keeping your business together through the holidays.

Match Your Capacity to Your Expected Demand

Particularly if you are an online retailer, you might see a considerable increase in traffic to your site during the holiday shopping season.

In order to account for this, you should discuss with your service provider your estimated potential increase in site traffic so that you might increase your bandwidth or server-processing capacity during this period.

Make Working from Home as Productive as Possible

Working from home can be made quite productive through the use of mobile technology like tablets and laptops. Devices capable of connecting to cloud services can allow yourself and your employees to access work networks and files which will enable them to work at their full capacity without necessitating an actual visit to the office.

Closely Manage Your Inventory

If you are an online retailer, you will probably be seeing increased traffic over the holidays. You can use an app such as Inventory Tracker to help keep track of your stock.

With an app such as this, the manager of a small business can input new stock, track inventory, sales, payments and shipments all from a tablet or smartphone.

Implement Chargeback Management

Chargebacks are vicious creatures in the business world.  While you may be celebrating the increase in sales during this time of year, you’ll probably also be mourning the increase in chargebacks.  After all, the more transactions your company makes, the more likely you are to encounter a fraudster or persnickety customer.

Make sure your customers know exactly when an item will be shipped.  If they expect it on the 10th and it shouldn’t technically arrive until the 14th, they’re likely to file a chargeback in the meantime.

Boost your fraud detection software.  Scammers know business owners aren’t as attentive during the holidays.  They’ll use this distraction to their advantage and place questionable orders that would normally snag your attention.

If you aren’t already using them, consider adding tools like CVV, AVS, MasterCard SecureCode, and Verified by Visa.

Lastly, consider turning your business over to the professionals.  Chargeback representment (the process of fighting chargebacks) operates on very tight deadlines.  You might come back from the holidays and realize you have a mountain of chargebacks – and there is nothing you can do but pay them.  A company that automates chargeback representment can take care of everything for you and you won’t have to worry about deadlines.

Get Creative with Meetings

Many people go on vacation in the weeks surrounding Christmas, while others simply want to stay home and spend more time with the family – which means coordinating meetings that work for everyone will be very difficult.

Rather than holding a meeting for which everyone must come into the office, considering using a mobile device to hold a video conference – you can conduct a remote meeting using Apple’s Facetime, Google Hangouts or even Skype.

Put Your Business on Autopilot over Christmas

Many small businesses opt to shut down over the Christmas holiday. Your business can still continue communicating with customers while staff is not actually on-hand through the use of automated services.

Software such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck will allow you to prearrange scheduled Tweets and Facebook posts, while Tumblr and WordPress allow users to schedule prewritten posts to be made at set times.

Manage Your Holiday Expenses

The holiday season can often entail greater expenses on the part of businesses as well as customers (Christmas parties, extra driving, etc.).

Apps like Expensify can help you keep track of your business’ expenses during this period. By scanning receipts, tracking mileage and collating purchases into one succinct report assembled as you’re on the go, you can avoid being suddenly surprised when the total is tallied the next month.

Use Remote File Backup

Consider backing up important files to avoid losing important documents. It would be a good idea to use two external hard drives – one kept on-site and one kept off, providing you with the best coverage against the worst-case scenario.

You can also take advantage of cloud services to store all of your documents in a central system.

There is little you can do to avoid the hectic holiday period short of shutting down your business entirely. However, by following these eight steps you can make the management of your online business much more manageable.

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Ted Lamphere is a business consultant.  He often draws on his years of business experience to help other companies survive stressful situations.  Find him on Twitter.

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