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Black Friday Lessons

Nov 20, 2012

It's that time of the year again when many merchants hope to finally start making money for the year. Yes--for the year.

Someone asked me the other day, "why is it called 'Black Friday?'"

Is it that it's pitch-black when you begin your tour de shoppe in the wee hours of the morning (unless you're really hard-core and began the day before, eating a turkey sandwich while guarding your spot in line at the local Big Box store)?

Is it that when they open the doors to the store, all you see is a collective black swarm of people (everyone is wearing dark coats/jackets/gloves/hats), moving from huge cardboard display to the next, and leaving nothing but shredded displays, as if a swarm of locusts had just attacked the crops?

Or is it, perhaps, that there are always reports of people getting a little too invested on a $2 waffle maker, and end up giving someone else a black eye or a huge bruise in order to get such a prized possession?

No. The reason why it is called Black Friday is because when accounting was done on paper, positive figures were written in black ink, and negative ones in red. The weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday historically kicks off the Christmas shopping season, and it is on that day that many retailers--large and small--finally see a change on their bottom lines from a loss (red) to a profit (black).

As a small business owner, you'll want to make sure your staff is well-trained, courteous, and honest this holiday season.

Training is essential because there are people who will try to buck the system any which way they can (and we don't have to tell you how creative some people can be). Your employees, especially your managers, have to be well trained in your products/services, personal relations, human resources, and even security.

Have written rules and consequences at your workplace. Every employee should read them and sign a statement that they've read them and will follow them. You do not need uncertainty or ill feelings bringing down productivity and morale because someone feels wronged when a clear set of rules, responsibilities, and expectations could have helped prevent those feelings. You'll be thankful you have them during the already stressful holiday shopping time.

Make sure you motivate your staff with things like public praise, certificates of achievement, prizes and even bonuses. Everyone should feel invested in your business because they feel appreciated and like there's a purpose to them working at your place. From rookies to seasoned managers, everyone should feel your appreciation. Remember they're not your drones, they're human beings helping you realize your dream of being self-employed.

We've already had an entire blog on courtesy and decency, but it just bears a quick mention again. A customer who feels treated like royalty when he or she enters your establishment will continue to patronize your business and tell others about the good experience.

Yes, they say that negative experiences gets reported more often than positive ones, but an awesome experience gets reported more than a negative one. Just think of yourself, and how you rave about how good the flan was at ____, how quick the service was at ______, how _____ always has the accessories that match the outfits they sell, how _______ didn't rip you off when you brought your car in for repair...etc. Be the name in those blanks. You and your staff can do it. It is not impossible, many times it's not even hard---people are desperate for decent service, imagine how they'll feel when you provide them with GREAT service.

There will be a lot of money coming through your business over the next month and the consensus on the economy is that it will be a rough go for at least this holiday season. Unfortunately, that is a favorable mix for dishonesty to rear its ugly head in your business. We've heard many stories about how employees--and of course--customers, steal from companies.

The victims can include doctor's offices, schools, mechanic shops, restaurants, retailers, etc. Many times, owners are understandably shocked to find out that a person that they trusted so much stole so much from them. It could be the mild-mannered, well-liked person in the office, the new guy that you had a gut feeling needed more supervision, or even a family member. Regardless of who the thief is, it is a hard blow to take, but an important lesson to learn. Keep an eye on your business.

The more active your role in your business is, the better tuned you'll be with what the numbers are supposed to look like each day/week/month. Having a separate bookkeeping service (like us--yes it's a plug) keep your books gives you peace of mind because we provide you with financial statements that summarize the month's activity. You can spot irregularities a bit easier when all figures are in an organized format. You'll be able to focus on making money while we track it for you. We want the same thing you want--for you to make money and be successful.

There's much hype surrounding Black Friday, and you should feel really excited it's here. Let your business be known for the good deals you offer, the excellent service you provide, and for not being the place where you get a black eye from the guy who wants to buy eleven $2 waffle makers!

Category: Bookkeeping