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Christmas is different for every business. While those in retail will see a huge ramp up in sales as competition heats up, other companies could experience their slowest time of year in December. Whichever market you serve, keeping a small business running smoothly is demanding on both time and resources and can often feel like a 24/7 commitment – according to new research, just 28% say they turn off their phones and laptops after business hours and Christmas is no different.

To ensure there are no nasty surprises for your business this festive season and to give you the reassurance to take some much-needed downtime, keeping on top of your cash flow is essential – regardless of your sector or consumer base.

Keep ahead of celebratory spending

If you have decided at the last minute to reward your team with a bonus this year, or if the Christmas cheer means some unexpected client lunches have appeared in your diary, keep note. Make sure that you’ve taken into account the bills you need to pay beforehand, and think ahead – if Christmas is a busy time for your business, be prepared to siphon money to savings accounts to help cover any upcoming quiet periods.

Whatever you have planned, make sure you account for both the expected, and unexpected costs that will rack up in your business over Christmas, from mince-pies to increasing stock.

Prepare for a flurry of late payments

The holiday season inevitably means employees will be taking time off – including supplier payment approvers. Small businesses in particular need to be prepared for late payments, as bank overdrafts can be costly and using company credit cards to bridge the gap can aggravate cash flow problems. Anticipating this delay while knowing your customers’ and suppliers’ Christmas plans will be key in ensuring you stay in the black.

Tip: Do your sales have a good profit margin? Offer a Christmas discount to encourage earlier settlements or instant payment.

The season of giving

The festive season can be difficult for every business. Keep communication going with your customers and suppliers as they will be in the same boat with the same cash flow concerns. Maintaining good business relationships is an important part of driving business success, and can go a long way if you are ever faced with calling in a favour or re-negotiating terms.

 

By Paul Bulpitt, Head of Accounting at Xero and co-founder of The Wow Company