As just about everyone in business knows, Black Friday is one of the most important days of the year for retail. All your hard work throughout the year pays off on this all-important semi-holiday, which usually catapults most businesses into the black and sets them up for the windfall of the holiday season. However, making the most of Black Friday means not only running a great promotion, but planning ahead to make the event itself safe and friendly for all involved. If you ask me, I’d say Black Friday is one of the most critical days of the year for businesses of all sizes, not just the “big guys.” I like to start planning for Black Friday at least a full month in advance, but there’s still enough time with two weeks to get ready! Let’s look at some of the ways you can make sure that Black Friday is worthwhile – for your business, for your customers, and for your team members. Keep It Safe The first and most important rule of Black Friday is to make sure that you keep it safe! Last year’s events were marred by all kinds of situations where people where pushed or trampled in the rush to get to the best deals. While the risk here is much higher at major chain stores, it’s something that every retail manager or owner needs to be aware of. One way to reduce the risk to your patrons and your staff members is to make the Black Friday event as long as possible. Leverage Early Bird Shoppers On the theme of making Black Friday work better and safer by making it longer, don’t forget that many people are willing to jump on sales starting late on Thanksgiving. This gives you more time to really maximize the crowds while putting the power into the hands of your patrons. Plus, it means that there will be fewer people around over a longer period of time, making it safer and spreading the deals around. Just make sure that you’re well-stocked for the big event! Be Creative There are lots of different ways that even smaller or medium-sized businesses can make Black Friday festive rather than frantic. I found a couple great examples at this Los Angeles Times article. Micro-sales, unique merchandise and truly exciting marketing campaigns are key when you can’t afford the same bone-deep discounts as a nationwide retail outlet. Remember, great customer service is an advantage any small business can have over its competitors! Make Sure You’re Fully Staffed It can be a good boost to your team’s morale to let them know well in advance if you are going to get started on Black Friday early. Give them the opportunity to earn overtime or other perks for being part of the action. Not everyone is experienced or confident enough to jump into the thick of the Black Friday fray, but by recruiting more members of your team and making shifts shorter, you can help to avoid the morale crunch that can come with the event. Use The Whole Calendar In addition to Black Friday, there’s also Cyber Monday and what’s rapidly becoming known as Small Business Saturday. You can develop separate, interrelated approaches to each day in the run-up to Black Friday, the big day itself, and the aftermath. This way, each day can build momentum for the others. Want to learn more? I’d say you’re on the right track! Read 7 Steps to Effective Black Friday Prep to get even more ideas.