As a business owner of an engraving workshop and ecommerce website I always love the runup to the Christmas period. The amount of work goes up 4 or 5 times the normal amounts and it puts strain on your systems, staff, equipment, procedures, finance, and capacity. It exposes the holes and the weaknesses of the business that would not normally be quite so obvious when drifting along during the day-to-day work through the rest of the year.
As Christmas gets closer, as the intensity of the work ramps up and the cracks begin to show I like to make notes which I then rewrite into an ‘end of year, Christmas review’ I’ve done this every year since I’ve worked independently either as a sole trader or Limited Company.
I find this process focuses the mind and gives a good list of aims and problems to tackle going into the new year, which hopefully by the next Christmas period all major problems will be fixed and the minor problems will be at least more optimized ready to do it all again the following Christmas.
An example of this in action is Last year, we had the Royal Mail postal strike in the UK so the whole delivery system was stretched to the point of collapse and while this year strikes were not the issue I went through a period in September and October, a non-busy period, where several parcels simply disappeared under the stewardship of Royal Mail. I made the decision early to register a non-binding account with FedEx thinking Royal Mail would not cope with demand at crunch time and since mid-November we sent all our Glass, Tankards, everything non large letter size by FedEx and had all but 3 issues with almost 300 parcels sent. Everything arrived the next day with full end-to-end tracking and customer notifications. The feedback I received from customers about this service has been overwhelmingly positive so the first thing on my list for the new year is to reduce the costs as FedEx is a premium courier and not cost effective for us to use all year round and investigate what alternatives maybe available in regard to end to end Tracking specifically. Something I am unable to provide with our current dispatch processes.
This is just one aspect that can be improved this coming year. We have identified around 10 other areas, major and minor, where improvements can be made to improve efficiency, improve workflows, and ultimately reduce costs and effort on our part.
In 2020 with the pandemic supply chains were a complete nightmare and stock was hard to come by, since then I have made a habit of building stock up from early October and have been optimising this process in the proceeding years. Along side the Review documents I also use audits each year to work out exactly what products and approximately how many units we will require for the Christmas period, as well as a good estimate of the financial outlays required.
These are two examples of why this time of year is important to a business like ours. Aside from the financial injection it brings it’s a good time for reflection and laying the foundation, targets, and ambitions for the new year.
We hope you are all having a lovely holiday season and roll on a bigger better New Year; now id better get back to actually writing the yearly review now.