Take It And Run!

'Tis The Season

Should you start your new business during the holidays?

A popular holiday song calls this "the most wonderful time of the year," but does that apply to starting a business? While it obviously depends on the type of business, starting up during the holidays usually involves considerations that don't apply at other times of the year. "If you're planning a business, retail or otherwise, you must know the seasonality of your product or service, be realistic about how much business you can expect to capture in the first [few] months and not have [unreasonable] expectations," says Ed Crow, president of E.L. Crow Inc., a market development consulting firm in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania.

Some issues to consider:

  • Seasonal sales. Although many retail operations can take advantage of the holiday season to kick-start their businesses, be realistic about those sales and what they mean for the future. Don't let seasonal buying patterns mislead your revenue projections. If your business is subject to seasonal sales fluctuations, be sure your plan realistically reflects both early and long-term sales projections.
  • Customer contact. Business-to-business operations may find it difficult to reach customers during the holiday season, especially during the last two weeks of the year. "It's a totally different world between December 15 and January 15," Crow says.
  • Holiday distractions. You'll have to deal with distractions both on a personal level and with your employees. A new business requires tremendous energy and focus; be prepared to sacrifice some of your personal holiday fun. And plan to accommodate your employees' personal needs during this time of year.
  • Weather. Winter storms can devastate even the best start-up plans. A severe snowstorm can take the "grand" out of your grand opening. Downed power and phone lines can halt regular operations, keep customers away and prevent suppliers from making deliveries. Have a weather contingency plan in place before you need it.
  • Year-end issues. While you're dealing with start-up tasks, your customers and suppliers are dealing with year-end chores such as inventory, taxes, and a range of other internal and external issues with a December 31 deadline. Realize this can affect your operation in ways you may not have anticipated.

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This article was originally published in the November 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Take It And Run!.

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