The holidays can be an intense time of year for so many business owners in the province. To help you make the most of the holiday season, Small Business BC connected with Brandon Litun, Founder and Head Roaster at Smoking Gun Coffee Roasters in Chilliwack, BC, to learn more about his business and how they handle holiday preparation for their busiest season of the year.
For Smoking Gun, having an actionable mission statement has helped them to create a container of sustainable and purposeful growth that helps guide them even during the busiest of periods – Crafting exceptional coffee experiences; Coffee for all.
“From our experience, it is easy for that entrepreneurial flame to get snuffed out as your business grows,” shared Brandon. “The passion, excitement, desire, and laser focus that birthed the business … give way to endless to-do’s, thankless tasks, disappointment with outcomes, and unsustainable hustle,” said Brandon.
Here’s how Brandon and Smoking Gun avoid getting sucked in by the hustle during the busy holiday season:
What’s Your Busiest Time of Year?
Typically, November and December are our busiest months. It’s the holiday season, so people like to go out for coffee and lattes.
We also have a growing online store, and people do a ton of online shopping around the holidays. Plus, we wholesale our coffee to other cafes and businesses, so as they get busier this time of year, we feel that too.
We start thinking about the holiday season in the Summer. We know it’s going to be busy. We also know there’s going to be weather events and flu season as well. We also know it’s a huge opportunity for us, so it’s worth thinking about for months and months. We started planning in August this year, and some things still feel a bit up in the air!
What Does Your Holiday Preparation Look Like?
Number one is having a good level of staff and having a solid scheduling plan. In our cafe, we can get insanely busy during the holidays, which is great, but the last thing we want is for our team to dread the holidays because they feel overworked or stressed. It should be a fun time of year in our business! Also, with the severe weather events we see in November and December in BC these days, it’s a given that someone at some point won’t be able to make it in, so we just have to be ready for that.
Also, we found early on that having holiday-specific products that only come around that time of year can be a huge boost. Of course, we have seasonal drinks in our cafe, but we roast our own coffee, too. Our Holiday Blend is one of our best sellers, and people have come to look forward to its release every year.
We also make sure our space is as welcoming and cozy as possible. Winter [in] Chilliwack is relatively short, but it’s also beautiful. We try to really embrace that feeling and express it through our decor.
Did You Make Mistakes Before That Made the Holiday Season Extra Stressful?
We have made many mistakes, and they have guided our systems and planning as we’ve grown. A specific growing pain that comes to mind is the shift from “reactive planning” to “proactive planning.”
Early on, we were running day-to-day, reacting to events and circumstances without much of a plan – this was a recipe for miscommunication, mounting workload, and frustrated outcomes: high stress, no fun! Growing into proactive planning focuses our attention ahead of time, allowing for attainable goals, reasonable timelines, and contingency planning, making space in our brains to do what we are trying to accomplish – building connections with our community.
It took patience, discipline, and trust in staff, teams, and leaders, but we now work at least one quarter ahead, executing plans instead of reacting to problems.
How Can You Prepare for the Holidays if You’ve Left It Too Late?
Depending on the type of business, one can offer some curated gift ideas, whether they are in your online or brick-and-mortar store. Having a bundle or gift bag product ready to go can help boost sales. A lot of people just want easy, but high-quality gift ideas during the holidays – think in the realm of teachers, co-workers, bosses, etc. They want nice gifts, at an affordable price point and they don’t need to be too personal.
Also, gift cards are wildly popular. If you can still get them from your POS provider, do it. If not, explore a way to make some in-house. If you’re on Shopify or Square, setting up digital gift cards takes about five minutes and they can be sent via email, so you don’t need to worry about production turnaround time.
If you have a physical space, don’t be afraid to decorate it. It doesn’t have to be “Christmas” per se, but cozy, wintery decor can make a space feel special and timely.
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