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The SME guide to the holiday season

  • Now is the time for business owners to think through their end of year plans and start to prepare
  • Have you considered the security of your business and premises – crime increases at this time of year
  • Have you considered COVID-19 policies and procedures – get prepared now.

Depending on the nature of your business, the holiday season will mean different things. Some business owners will envisage the busiest time of the year - increased stock, staff and takings. Others will conjure images of a relaxing poolside at a picturesque (domestic) resort.

Regardless of which end of the seasonal scale you’re at, or if you’re somewhere in between, this time of year presents some unique challenges that you need to plan for. 

‘Tis the season… for crime

Whether you’re ramping up for the holiday season or checking out, the increased threat of crime is present for both.

“Crime tends to increase during the holiday season,” says Dave Burnage, Underwriting Manager, SME at QBE.

“Premises that are unattended for longer periods can become easier targets, while businesses that are busier may be employing new staff, have an influx of new customers and be carrying higher levels of stock than usual, which can present risks.”

Related article: Why your business needs a continuity plan

Review your premises’ security

Security is a major consideration for any business, and it’s good to review your security arrangements in advance.

“Take the time to check windows and doors and ensure they’re as secure as possible, and check that your alarm system is in good working order,” says Burnage. “It’s smart to do this at your earliest opportunity, to give you time to get anything that needs to be fixed or upgraded sorted.”

If premises are going to be left vacant, remove cash and any other valuables – such as computers – from the site. For larger valuables that can’t be relocated, store in a safe if possible, or at a minimum remove from sight.

“Regardless of whether you’re closing down for the holidays or remaining open, it’s important to make your premises less attractive to any opportunistic thieves,” says Burnage.

The summer also brings with it the threat of bushfires, storms and cyclones, so steps to mitigate those risks are important to take, too.

“It’s a good time to conduct some maintenance work, such as clearing guttering, and if your premises are in an area that has even a small chance of flooding it’s good to use sandbags to minimise the volume of water that may come in.”

If you’re staying close to your business premises over the holiday season, a frequent drive-by is advisable. If you’re heading further afield for a break, ask a friend to drop by every couple of days – and make sure you can be contacted should anything happen.

Related article: Here’s what you need to know about La Niña 2020/2021

Get ready to ramp up!

A busy holiday season, however, will be a prospect that many businesses will be looking forward to after the challenges of 2020.

For those that rely on the tourist dollar, an increase in domestic travel should plug some of the gap left by the continued absence of international visitors – and an increase in trade demands two things: more stock, and more staff.

Make sure your insurance cover is up to date and will cover the stock you’re holding.

“Many businesses need to order more stock at this time of year, and it’s important to store it correctly,” says Burnage.

“Businesses can get complacent, and start stocking items on the floor, for example, as a short-term measure. However, with an increased risk of flooding, which can occur quickly, it’s important to store your stock correctly.”

With seasonal staff, meanwhile, come the usual challenges of checking their suitability, vetting their credentials and training them on the tasks you need them to carry out.

This holiday season, you’ll also need to ensure they’re fully across the COVID-19 policies and procedures you have in place.

“While we hope businesses are as busy as they typically would be, it’s important to remember that people are still very wary of COVID-19, and they need businesses to give them the confidence they need to spend time and money there,” says Burnage.

“Demonstrating you have the right safety measures in place is important and ensuring all of your staff know exactly what’s expected of them is key.”

Young woman checking stock in a warehouse

Don’t forget about your employees

Of course, as an employer, you have a duty of care for your staff. The holiday season can generally be a trying time of year for people – this year it’s compounded by the immense pandemic-induced strain and stress we’ve all been living through.

“Some of your staff may be spending their holidays in a completely different way to how they had envisaged earlier in the year,” says Burnage. “They may be separated from their friends and family, and it’s going to be mentally very tough.”

Male and female workers checking stock in a storeroom

If you have staff who fall into that category, pay special attention. Arrange a (COVID-safe) staff event, make a fuss and raise their spirits. Actions like that will be remembered for a long time.

Related articles: How to manage psychological safety at work

It’s all in the plan

While the run-up to the holiday season can get increasingly busy, it’s a good idea to spend time preparing for what you’ll need to do to ensure a successful summer.

Our checklist can help you prepare in advance so you’re not left carrying out last-minute tasks while you should be on the road to the resort – or making hay while that sun is shining.

Read more about QBE’s Small Business insurance

The advice in this article is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You must decide whether or not it is appropriate, in light of your own circumstances, to act on this advice.

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