5 ways to finish the end-of-year strong

Two small business owners share their tips for getting ready for whatever the end of the year holds.

At a glance

Here’s a snapshot of the advice from our interviewees:

  • Refine your offering and streamline your processes for simple customer journeys.
  • Be ready for the unexpected and adapt whenever you can.
  • Consider changing up your usual plans to take advantage of end-of-year opportunities.
  • Put the customer first. Now is the time to build loyalty.

“With so much uncertainty and so many variables we don’t have control over, it’s easy to focus on the negative,” says Mustafa Ali, co-founder of The Chosen Bun in Stonefield and The Fry Guys in Glen Innes. “So we have to stay grounded in what we can control, adapt as much as we can, keep things simple and stay as positive as possible.”

For two local businesses, making the most of end-of-year even amid that lack of clarity comes down to controlling what you can and doing the simple stuff well. Here’s how they’re doing it.

1. Refining their offerings

“When COVID first hit, we tried a bit of this and a bit of that to see what would work best,” says Barb Milina, who is an eco celebrant and, with her husband, founded Warblers Retreat in Auckland. “But we’ve since made our offering really succinct. Instead of trying to be everything to everybody, we focus on being an eco couples retreat that offers small, non-traditional eco weddings in nature with a low carbon footprint.”

As a result, Warblers is in a unique position to deliver COVID-appropriate events, with fewer attendees and a preference for outdoor settings.

For Mustafa too, refining both businesses’ offerings has also been key to their continuing success during lockdown.

“Having a menu with 50 things on it might work in normal times, but now is the time to simplify,” says Mustafa. “Choose a few things and do them really well. We only have about 10 burgers, a few sides and a few shakes. That’s it. But we do them like no one else.”

NZ EOY Warblers Retreat

Warblers Retreat

2. Going the extra mile for customers

“Because we are a small business, it’s easier for us to be flexible. And that’s so important for our customers at this time,” explains Barb. “We offer a refund or reschedule and always let our customers know that we want to work with them to make their special occasion happen. For brides especially, it can be quite an emotional time. With the uncertainty of lockdown, it’s even harder. So the best thing I can do is be there for them and give them the confidence to know we can deliver a stress-free experience.”

Mustafa embraces the customer-first philosophy in his businesses too, always seeking to understand what will get the customer through the door – from their point-of-view.

“We are really good at dealing with criticism. If someone doesn’t have a good experience, we go through everything that happened, every process, to see where something went wrong,” says Mustafa. “And if everything was perfect, we still provide a refund and give them an incentive to return – who doesn’t like an offer of free fries! It’s so much easier to retain an existing client than to find a new one. And we want our customers to be satisfied and happy with their experience.”

NZ EOY The Chosen Bun

The Chosen Bun

3. Streamlining their processes

“When we first opened, there would be an hour and a half wait on a Friday night,” remembers Mustafa. “But now we operate like an orchestra – everyone knows their part and we have each process really refined. So, even with the demand for take out during lockdown, we can deliver the same amount of food in much less time. We’ve increased our output by more than 50%.”

Barb has used any downtime she has over lockdown to refine the business processes as well – rather than a goal of reducing wait time, Barb’s aimed to provide clarity and comfort to potential customers.

“We’ve streamlined and simplified every part of the customer journey, from the first time they make contact, through the booking process, all the way through to when they leave,” says Barb. “And we’ve restructured the website so it clearly reflects exactly what we offer.”

NZ EOY Warblers Retreat

Warblers Retreat

4. Getting more bang for their buck

Mustafa meets with his suppliers every month to keep costs in check by developing relationships and making the most of everything the suppliers can offer.

“Cost margins are razor thin in hospitality,” says Mustafa. “It’s worth speaking with suppliers about what they can do a better price on, what specials they have, what’s seasonal that we can make into something really special.”


NZ EOY The Chosen Bun Menu

The Chosen Bun menu items

5. Be flexible going into end-of-year

“We usually close over Christmas and New Year,” says Mustafa, explaining that the locals his team serves every day tend to travel away for the holidays, making it a good time for staff to have a break.

“But this year might be different. We might stay open and take advantage of more people being home to recoup some of our losses from lockdown then have our break later in the summer. We’re ready to adapt to whatever the situation is – you just have to stay flexible.”

This willingness to adapt is also Barb’s approach to the end-of-year. Traditionally, it’s a very busy time of year – she would even have weddings booked on New Year’s Eve – but this year is very much up in the air.

“If restrictions change again we want to be ready to catch the ball,” she says. “A lot of couples are tired of waiting for lockdown to end and borders to open – they just want to get married. So we need to be ready for that.”

Speak with one of our small business lending specialists about how a Prospa Small Business Loan could help your business stay flexible in the lead up to the end-of-year.

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