On any given day, small business owners are pulled in many different directions. With busy schedules, it’s easy to lose sight of those little pieces of planning and strategy that can make your life easier and your business more successful.

By Sydney Ivey

To help make sure you’re thinking ahead and avoiding unwanted surprises, consider this list of common pitfalls small business owners face – and how to avoid them.

1. Holiday Hours: Weigh the pros and cons of staying open

Since more than 60 percent of small business owners work more than 40 hours a week, it can be difficult maintaining a healthy work/life balance, especially around the holidays. Depending on the industry, some businesses may profit from keeping their doors open during certain holidays, while others could benefit from a few days off.

To decide what’s best for your business around the holidays, take a look at your sales data. Consider: Will staying open during the holidays encourage some of your most loyal customers to stop by? Could extended hours before and after the holidays cover your needs? Will the benefits of closing and having a worry-free holiday season outweigh the possible sales you could get if you stayed open?

Your business is unique, so your decision will be too. To help, see how different industries performed during specific holidays.

2. Your POS System: Make sure it has the features you need

You ask a variety of questions when researching a new POS system. Whether you’re about to launch a new business or replacing an old system, think about where exactly you need to accept payments. New devices can process card payments virtually anywhere, which can be perfect if you’re a plumber, contractor, food truck operator or other mobile business that’s constantly on the go.

Some point-of-sale systems come with built-in management tools, which can help with everything from employee scheduling to inventory management to sales taxes.

As you’re shopping, create a list of functionalities you need your POS to have, then compare different options. And be sure to ask these five questions to help you decide the best solution for your business.

3. Card Processing Costs: See what it takes to manage the rates you’re charged

Your monthly processing statement isn’t as impenetrable as you might think. There are steps you can take to help manage payment costs and lower your fees. It all starts with maintaining discipline at the point of sale.

For starters, a daily schedule for settling transactions can help you lower the risk of disputes and the potential assessment for higher fees.

Another best practice is to match your transaction authorizations and settlement amounts as much as possible. Variations between authorization and settlement amounts usually trigger additional charges and may cause transactions to be rejected under certain card networks (unless your business is one that commonly processes tips).

Want to go deeper? Check out three more ways to help you manage the cost of card acceptance.

4. Data Security: Protect your business at the point of sale

The cost of data breaches isn’t going away. In 2019, over 40 percent of small businesses that suffered a data breach spent at least $50,000 to try to resolve it. And when words gets out about even one incident, you could end up losing almost 30 percent of your customers. Fortunately, there are steps business owners can take to improve security.

To start, you need to be familiar with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). Depending on the size and complexity of your business, it offers standards you can meet to help protect your business. While some of those standards can be complex, others are fairly simple.

For instance, one standard involves changing the default password on any new POS solution. Make sure you incorporate uppercase letters, numbers and symbols in your password, and avoid words or phrases that may be easy to guess. Also, create a schedule to change passwords every 60 to 90 days.

Also, make sure your POS software and firewall systems are up to date. Without the latest software, POS systems can be vulnerable to malware attacks that can increase fraud threats.

The more informed you are about payment security, the more protected your business will be. Consider these additional three tips to help prevent point-of-sale fraud.

Sydney Ivey serves as Bank of America Merchant Services’ general manager for small business. In this role, he manages all aspects of the company’s development and delivery of small business solutions and service.

Open late stock photo by photocritical/Shutterstock