JOHANNESBURG -  For many South Africans, public holidays present an opportunistic, and much welcomed mini-holiday. However, for small businesses owners, public holidays can result in sleepless nights due to interruption, and the significant impact that this intermittent break in trade can have. 

There is also the possibility of customers going on holiday and spend their money elsewhere.

As small businesses compete for customers with different needs, it is important to be creative and use these mini ‘holidays’ to their advantage. Herewith five pointers a strategy during the period:


Staff can be a company’s greatest asset, and it is imperative for small business owners to ensure that their staff feel valued. If the business is quiet over public holidays, allowing staff leave may be beneficial and contribute to increasing productivity in the long term. However, if the business peaks, leave should be approved sparingly.


There is no excuse for poor planning as most South African public holidays are on set dates every year. It is key to plan ahead and prioritise work schedules in advance to ensure that important jobs are completed ahead of public holidays. Plan for less urgent, timeous work to continue over the mini-holiday season.


There are ways to capitalise on commemorative days. Look at each public holiday throughout the year, and plan how the business can leverage off the specific public holiday, perhaps through a special offering or competitive trading hours.

Although offering discounts can be beneficial to businesses in terms of generating interest, increasing foot traffic and moving products, ‘retail discount holidays’ can result in stock shortages.


Small business owners should review ways in which they can increase their own, personal productivity during periods of back-to-back public holidays. By assessing how they can incorporate good habits to their daily routine, such as waking up earlier, holding less and/or shorter meetings, and prioritising important work, business owners can ensure that they utilise their work hours as efficiently as possible.


Both seasonal and non-seasonal businesses experience downtime within the year, and it is crucial for small businesses to plan for this and make the most of it. Seasonal businesses can use extra profits made during the “high” season to pay back debts and reinvest in the business, whereas non-seasonal business owners should use the downtime over this season to review their business plan, implement new strategies, catch up with admin, and manage any repairs or renovations which may need to take place. 

Public holiday periods need not hamper an entrepreneurs’ ability to succeed, and can present the opportunity for much needed rest for business owners. Taking a holiday is good for the owner and good for the business and entrepreneurs should also take a holiday themselves when possible. The freedom that a robust, stand-alone business gives to its hard-working owner to take a proper holiday is just as much a sign of success as profit. 

All in all, when planned appropriately and effectively, these mini-holiday seasons can work to a small business owner’s advantage, adding value instead of woe provided the business owner has planned ahead.

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited. 

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.