7 things you need to be doing to make sure you’re ready for the holidays.

Plan inventory. The worst thing ever is having a customer place an order and you’re out of stock. People want things now, and if you fail to deliver immediately, they’ll just turn to one of your competitors. Also, remember that buying last minute will leave you little room to negotiate. “Secure the best deals from vendors by getting your stock now,” advises Barry Moltz, a small business expert.

Get additional help. The good news about the economy is that people are working again and things are looking up. The bad news is that there are less good people around for your business! Think ahead about your needs and secure people now. If it’s just part-timers you’ll need to fill the gaps then reach out to the career offices at your local colleges well before Thanksgiving break arrives.

Announce “doorbusters” early. Moltz also says you should use weekly “doorbusters” to attract customers to your store or website. It makes sense. The better deals you offer now, the more interest you’ll be getting earlier. Create signage to highlight holiday promotions or create flyers you can put in bags with deals for the next week. It’s easy to do both with Staples Copy & Print services. The goal is to draw people in to your store or site before the holidays, so they’ll think of you during and after the holidays too.

Say thanks often. “Everyone gives thanks during Thanksgiving,” Moltz told me. “Set your company apart and give back every week.” This is advice for the entire year, isn’t it? I recommend giving stuff away for free. It doesn’t cost much and everyone likes free stuff. I send a client chocolates from Staples once a month, every month throughout the year – just to say thanks. This is a good tradition to start now and carry on throughout the year.

Reinforce customer and employee appreciation. It’s not just about giving thanks. It’s being loyal. And providing great service. It’s telling an employee how good they are. Or offering a special discount to a customer just to say how much you appreciate their business. The holidays are good time to reach out to the people that impact your business the most and making sure they know how important they are. I recommend sending cards and calendars from Staples Copy & Print, a great place where you can create customized gifts at very low prices for telling your customers and employees how much you care.

Get back up. Moltz, like me, is big on contingencies. What if inventory doesn’t arrive? Or the power goes out? I checked the calendar and it turns out that the holidays come in December, right? For many of us, there’s risk of bad weather. A snowstorm right before Christmas may look pretty, but it could be a killer to your business. “Have a contingency plan,” Moltz advises. Think of all that can go wrong and have plan for making it right. You are the owner. You are the leader. Your job is to think ahead and minimize surprises. That’s why you’re making the big bucks!

Finally, go social. Both Moltz and I spend a lot of time on social media. And the benefits are significant. We’ve both generated a lot of business thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. What kind of content can you provide? “Think beyond promoting deals,” he advises. “Tell customer success stories. Give your unique point of view.” You’ve been doing this for a while. You’re an expert in your field. Use social media to educate your community and make your friends and followers’ lives that much better. What goes around, comes around!

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