While getting run over by a reindeer may be low on the threat list to your small business, the analogy is apt in that MANY things can go wrong during the holiday season that can affect any businesses, small or large. This time of year, businesses need to be especially wary of and prepared for threats that may cause a disruption and have plans in place to minimize the impact as much as possible.
Large corporations have “peak season” protocols to ensure maximum uptime of all systems and customer service during the holiday season. Here are some facts about how large companies typically manage “peak season” protocols:
· Peak season normally runs the day before Thanksgiving to the day after Christmas.
· All major system changes, upgrades, modifications etc. are suspended during this period. They will ONLY allow emergency changes to correct issues and have to be approved by senior managers.
· Daily health check calls, reports and meetings are published by operations teams to ensure ideal system stability.
· Employees are engaged to be “on call” at alltimes in order to respond to any business disruptions.
System/credit card outages: Systems are strained to their maximum capacity during the busy holiday season. Add to this a complex network of suppliers and system outages such as ordering systems, sales systems, point of sales terminals and credit card processing is ripe for disruption. That is why banks and credit card processors put a lot of effort into minimizing the chances of a disruption during the holiday season.
What can you do about it?:
1. First, respond QUICKLY. Engage your suppliers and make sure they are aware that you are impacted.
2. Have backups: If the credit card point of sales terminal goes down, make sure your employees have access and training how to input manual purchases into your systems. For that matter, sign up for a second credit card processing service. If you use Stripe and it goes down, make sure you already have a Square or WePay account ready to quickly slip into its place until your primary systems are restored.
3. When in doubt….go analog! Keep a supply of notepads and pens in your store and office. When all else fails, pens and paper will be a lifeline for your company. Write down orders, purchases, etc. and then take the time to input them into your electronic ordering and sales systems when they are restored.
Employee illness/vacations: The beginning of winter is the ideal time for communicable illnesses to rear their ugly head. Covid, Flu, RSV, it all explodes around the holiday season, especially as more and more people crowd into indoor spaces like malls and stores. Add to this an already strained employee base, vacations so people can enjoy time with their families and an increased workload during the holidays, this is a perfect recipe for staffing issues.
What can you do about it?:
1. Create on call schedules and shifts and offer incentives for employees to be on call should the need arise.
2. If you operate a retail space, encourage masking, gloves, frequent sanitization and other protective measures to cutdown on the amount of sick time employees may take.
3. Make sure you have a succession plan including cross training for critical functions at your business.
4. Ensure you have quality, up to date Standard Operating Procedures so if a new employee has to jump in to help with a task, they have reference materials and instructions to work from.
Winter weather: Snow and ice can make driving dangerous causing inventory delivery delays or employee lateness. Power outages can be common from ice on power lines and water main breaks are more common this time of year.
What can you do about it?:
1. Get a backup generator or at least a large battery Uninterrupted Power Supply that could power some of your critical equipment during a power outage. This UPS will power a desktop, monitor and internet router for a couple of hours and ensure that you never have any data loss from a sudden power loss
2. Have an emergency supply of water bottles and food such as cliff bars in the office or store in case employees are snowed in and need to attend to basic needs.
3. Keep a back of road salt/melt and a wide shovel handy.
4. Make sure you have an emergency communications plan and tools in place to communicate any closings or delayed openings. Develop the messages you plan to send by email, social media, text, website etc well BEFORE the emergency. Craft these messages in a way to ensure stability, trying to insert some humor or levity into your messages. Customers will remember that you did your best and will probably plan another day to come to your store.
Don’t be a grinch! With these holiday preparedness tips, you can help ensure maximum uptime, productivity and sales while your competitors panic and lose customers.
Andy Ziegler and the team at Tempest!
Many clients Tempest Risk Management works with need help with developing policies and procedures that demonstrate compliance within a regulated industry. So how does one go about writing policies and procedures for a company that hasn’t even opened it’s doors? While this can be a tricky process to navigate, often requiring several revisions of the policies and procedures, here are some best demonstrated practices that we have found can help produce the documents that regulators are looking for.