‘Tis the season to stress test your small business

The festive season is peak commerce time for many small businesses, but it’s more than just a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a bumper sales period.

The festive season is also a great time to stress test certain aspects of your business – an opportunity to watch and learn how your business functions during peak season.

If things go wrong then try not to waste this valuable learning insight – so much of building a successful business is being able to notice and learn from mistakes. Those willing to watch and learn tend to be the most adaptable, long-lasting, and successful companies.

Any small business will have their pain points which will flare up over Christmas and the festive season generally.

One business area which is famously stretched over the festive season is the parcel delivery function – a cause of untold stress as goods need to be shipped for an immovable deadline. In fact, for businesses that rely heavily on delivering goods on time, parcel delivery success during peak periods like Christmas can be make or break.

But your festive season pain points may well be different – it could relate to personnel, customer service, inventory, or supply chains. No matter what stresses emerge, the keys to successfully stress testing your business include:

Being honest: If an aspect of business isn’t going so well it can be awfully tempting to find something or somebody to blame.

Aim to honestly understand the potential weak points in your business, free from judgement. Try and measure your performance wherever possible. Some things are easier to measure than others, but looking at data over periods of time can be illuminating. You may see patterns emerge which surprise you.

Honest communications with customers and/or stakeholders may also inspire crucial feedback, such as anonymous surveys, which allow them to share their thoughts freely and be more critical than if you asked them face-to-face.

Naming the main causes of stress: If you’re honestly watching, measuring, and seeking feedback then it will soon become apparent where your business is experiencing poor performance.

It’s important to acknowledge the areas which are letting you down at peak times, to fully understand how they are operating and where the weak points are. By identifying and understanding the areas which can be improved, there is opportunity to track performance.

Taking meaningful steps to address your pain points for next festive season: After an honest appraisal of your business, highlighting key areas of concern, it’s time to think about rectifying them. But the steps toward a seamless next festive season need to be taken earlier in the year. If you know where the key problems are then you’re already on the way.

For example, you may need to re-evaluate your suppliers if they have been letting you down repeatedly. Or maybe it’s time to outsource certain aspects of your business to specialists so you can concentrate on your strengths.

Make stress testing a habit and you’ll continually improve, and make the most of each festive season.