The weeks leading up to Christmas is a hectic period for many small businesses, sole traders and freelancers. Not only are there the usual jobs to complete, but Christmas also means there are many other things to take care of before you can shut down, have some well-earned time off and munch a way on far too many festive mince pies.
To help ensure that you don’t forget anything important before you break for Crimbo, here is a handy Christmas shutdown checklist.
Christmas shutdown checklist: customers
● If you’re planning to give gifts to customers, make sure that they’re ordered and delivered in good time.
● Clients or customer gifts are not normally tax-deductible, however, Christmas gifts can be allowable as a marketing expense if they’re worth less than £50, they clearly feature an advertisement for your business(on the gift, not just the packaging) and they’re not food, drink or tobacco or a voucher that can be exchanged for goods or cash.
● Christmas cards and postage can be claimed as an allowable expense, as long as cards clearly advertise your business, because then they’re a marketing cost. Again, don’t send them too late, otherwise they could get delayed severely in the Christmas post. To save money, instead you could send thank you Christmas emails to clients.
● Crucially, make sure all customers know the exact dates that you will be on holiday over Christmas and New Year. If necessary, give them an emergency phone number.
Need to know! You can’t treat yourself to a festive celebratory meal on your sole trader business (you can if you run a limited company) or take clients out for Christmas drinks or a meal, because entertaining isn’t a sole trader allowable expense. Bah humbug.
Christmas shutdown checklist: staff and suppliers
● If you employ people or use freelancers, make sure they know exactly when they are to break for Christmas and when you expect them back at work. Send an email confirming dates, as it should remove any confusion. If you need someone to be on call during the holidays, make sure they and everyone else knows who that is (bad luck if it’s you).
● Cancel all deliveries in goodtime and let your suppliers know when you’ll be open again in the new year. Remember to thank valued suppliers for their service and support throughout the year. No harm, of course, in sending them a Christmas card or festive email. ‘Tis the season to be jolly and all that.
Christmas shutdown checklist: IT/online
● Make sure all valuable data/information is safely backed up and stored online (you shouldn’t wait until Christmas to do this, of course). Make sure all laptops and mobile devices are similarly safely stored over Christmas and New Year.
● You (and any employees if applicable) should set email auto-response messages shortly before you break, telling customers how long your business is closed over Christmas and New Year.
● Also leave a brief Christmas closedown announcement on your website and social media sites, where you should also take the opportunity to publicly thank your people, suppliers and customers and wish them season’s greetings.
Christmas shutdown checklist: premises
● Lock all valuables away safely (or take them home) and don’t leave any cash onsite, deposit it at your bank. If you have tills, empty them and leave them open to show that cash has been removed. That way they hopefully won’t get damaged should anyone break into your premises.
● Carry out a quick test on your alarm system afew weeks before your Christmas shut down. If in any doubt, call out aprofessional alarm engineer to ensure that your system is working well.
● Take home any spare keys to your premises (andvehicle if applicable).
● Empty your fridge and cupboards of foodstuffslikely to go off. Empty all bins, but especially those that contain foodstuffs(you really don’t want to come back to any unpleasant smells in the new year).
● Don’t turn your heating system off, as it can cause burst pipes if temperatures plummet. However, to save money, turn your heating system down.
● Turn electrical equipment off at the plug, because even when left on standby mode, power is used and you’ll have to pay for it.
● One your last day, when you’re closing up, lock internal doors, especially those leading to rooms containing stock and valuable machinery or equipment. Then securely lock all external windows and doors.
● When you’ve locked up, have a quick look around the building’s exterior to make sure that you haven’t left any windows open by accident.
Christmas shutdown checklist: and finally
● Take any uncollected bags of rubbish to your local tip, because arsonists could set fire to them if left outside.
● And don’t leave anything outside your premises that might help a criminal to break in (eg ladders, bricks, etc).
● If you use a vehicle for your business, park its safely outside your home, if possible. Remove all valuables and leave a minimum amount of fuel in the tank.
● Make sure you have a wonderful Christmas and use the time to enjoy yourself, rest, relax and recharge your batteries. All the best.
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