The holiday season means different things to business owners; while some experience a slow season, others have a surge in profits. Regardless, all small business owners need to prepare for this season, or your business could be negatively affected.

Plan for Holiday Recognition and Marketing

You must plan and budget for how you will recognize the holidays; realistically consider how much you can allocate to holiday decorating and recognition so that you don’t put your business in financial risk.

Some businesses simply hang a few holiday decorations, while others transform their entire office space. If your business has customer facing foot traffic, consider getting a few estimates for hanging lights, displays and installations. If your business caters to children, you may consider hiring actors to play Santa and Mrs. Clause, which must be accounted for in your budget.

If you will be offering specials or discounts during the holiday season, allocate a marketing budget to advertise those deals. Whether you will run online ads, send out in-home mailers or give out coupons, you must have the funds to spend on marketing to alert your customers of your plans.

Plan for a Holiday Party

Most business owners put on a holiday party during the season, but you must decide how elaborate it will be and who will be included in your guest list. Some business owners choose to host small holiday parties for their employees, while others hold large events with VIP clients, employees and their families.

Even a small holiday party can cause a financial strain if not properly planned for. Since most employers typically give out bonuses and annual raises during this time, it may be difficult to commit to another large expense simultaneously, which is why it is essential to start planning now.

Investing in a larger event can provide you with an opportunity to network with business associates, partners and important clients all in one place. You can take this time to announce important company milestones and plans for the following year. Large company parties may require significant preparation and a large investment, so it may be wise to get estimates from professional event planners beforehand.

Prepare for a Slow or Busy Season

A busy or slow season can be a determinant of whether you are open or closed for the holidays; if you anticipate a slow time, consider closing your doors for a few days rather than paying operating costs. If the holidays are your busiest and most profitable time, create a holiday schedule in advance so that your employees know when they are scheduled to work. Remember that you have to pay full-time employees overtime for working on holidays, such as Christmas.

To be able to handle the holiday rush, you may need to hire additional staff as well as have the time to train them. Make sure that all your employees are aware of any holiday specials you are going to introduce, such as special merchandise, a holiday menu, discounts or sales.