It’s that time of year again! Autumn weather, changing leaves and holiday shopping. Each year it seems to start earlier – and as a small business owner, there’s plenty you can do to gear up for the holiday season.

In 2016, the 10 busiest shopping days of the year fell between November and December – which means you have a little over a month to get ready this year. Prepping your staff is a great place to start. With these tips, you can count on them to help you handle the holidays with confidence.

Ghosts of Seasons Past

How did you handle the busy season last year and the years before? What could have been done differently? Analyze sales numbers and foot traffic over the last few years and take note of any increases. This data can help you predict volume for this coming year and prepare your staff accordingly.

Be sure to hold a meeting with your employees to get their input, too. “Your staff may have insight beyond the numbers, or they could shine light on an area for improvement,” says Jim Salmon, vice president of business services here at Navy Federal. “This gives you, the owner, an employee perspective while giving employees an opportunity to weigh in on the business.”

Firsthand feedback is an invaluable resource. Employees with boots on the ground should be able to speak to customer service, staffing and other improvements that could be made.

Staff Up and Set Schedules

Consider hiring seasonal help if you’re anticipating a growth in business. You could start your search with students home on holiday breaks, or use a staffing agency to hire temps. Part-time employees may also be looking for a little extra income this time of year. Ask if they can pick up extra hours or if they’d like to make the switch to full-time for the short-term.

Setting your staff’s shifts well in advance can take the headache out of scheduling. Be sure to keep high-traffic holidays like Black Friday (November 24) and Super Saturday (December 23) in mind and have extra staff on hand. Here’s a list of other potentially busy days to plan for, based off RetailNext’s 2016 data:

  • Friday, December 22
  • Saturday, December 9
  • Tuesday, December 26
  • Sunday, December 17
  • Sunday, December 24
  • Thursday, December 21
  • Saturday, December 2

Now is also a good time to ask employees for dates they’re planning to take off in November and December. Set a deadline for these requests so you have time to modify the regular schedule, and so employees who don’t usually work those shifts can plan ahead. Of course, unexpected events come up, and with cold season around the corner, employees may call out sick. Understand these things happen. Employees should find someone to cover their shifts, but hiring seasonal staff can help ensure you have enough coverage just in case.

Train and Re-train

New hires will need to be trained on business procedures, but the busy season is also a perfect time to give existing employees a refresher. “Host an all-hands training session to get everyone up to speed on opening and closing procedures, policies for finding shift coverage and everything in between. For day-to-day tasks, checklists or visible reminders in obvious spots can serve as little reminders after their training,” says Salmon.

Be sure to discuss expectations for customer service, sales goals, and any sales or special events you’ll have going on during the season. Employees should also be made aware of the high-traffic holidays you’re anticipating so they’re prepared when they come in for work.

No matter how hectic the holidays can get, remember – you’ve hired your staff to support you and your small business. With the right preparation, they’ll be ready for the rush and can help take the stress out of your busy season.