The holiday season and the end of 2016 are fast approaching. It may seem early, but now is the time to begin planning for the business aspects of this time of year.
Here is a checklist of items to consider:
Employee bonuses vs holiday gifts. There is a wide range of options for an end-of-year reward for employees and there really is no standard, but the holiday season is a good opportunity to garner some goodwill with your staff. Start by considering if you want to pay a work-related bonus or if you are giving a holiday gift. If your goal is to pay a bonus based on job performance, it is better to plan for that well in advance and share the goals with employees so they can work toward achieving them. If you decide to pay a work bonus as a holiday surprise, be aware that employees may tell their co-workers the amount they received which could trigger questions if others receive less or if some should receive more. Another way to go is to simply give a gift, which would typically be a lower dollar amount than a bonus. This could be in the form of a gift card or check enclosed in a holiday card or it could be a gift of a personal item. Be aware that the IRS requires you to treat gifts to employees as ordinary income and taxes must be paid. If you are giving a gift check of $100 to each person, you may want to increase the gross amount so the check nets out to $100 after withholdings. As you decide what to do, consider what you have done in the past. Your history sets current employee expectations.
Promote the use of flex spending accounts by patients via an email blast. FSAs must be used by the end of the calendar year and everyone wants to use their benefits. Consider sending an email blast to all patients, reminding them that eye care and optical purchases qualify for reimbursement under most plans.
Consider a holiday open house. The holidays are a festive time of year which makes it a great time to throw a party. Plan a holiday sales event in your optical and host a special day with holiday refreshments and decorations. You could include a frame style show or trunk show and offer special discounts. Send invitations to your patient base and post the event on social media.
Plan for this busy time of year. The end of year can be very busy with college students who are home for vacation and patients who want to be seen before a new insurance deductible begins after the first of the year. Add to that, more staff requests for personal days off and the days can be stressful. Plan ahead based on your experience in past years. You could delay sending some recall notices until January to even out patient demand.
Decide on Holiday office hours for Christmas Eve, Christmas, Hanukah, New Year’s Eve and Day. Consider if days fall on weekends and any special closings. Employees may welcome extra time off, but if office closings reduce their pay, they may not like it. Make a special announcement about the office hours on your voice mail message and prepare signs for your entrance to alert people.
Goal setting. The end of year is a great time to set goals for the year ahead. What is your action plan and what items are on your investment priority list?
Meet with your CPA. Be sure to do some tax planning so you can make investments in the practice and pay yourself any profit distributions to your best advantage.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.