One of the great benefits of owning a small business is having the flexibility to set your own schedule. Here are four specific factors that you should consider when determining the perfect small business hours:

1. Your Target Customer

As Small Business CEO puts it, "you have to have a firm grasp on how your target demographic thinks and functions as a consumer." It's not enough to simply know their ages, incomes, locations and processes for making purchasing decisions. You also need to have a solid understanding of when this particular audience likes to shop. For example, if the majority of your demographic works eight-hour days Mondays through Fridays, you may find that your peak times are weekends or after 6 p.m. on weekdays. On the other hand, if most of your customers are retired and living in the suburbs, then weekday mornings may be your busiest time. As a best practice, you should engage in a dialogue with your customers about when they prefer to do business and adjust your hours accordingly.

2. Your Competitors

If your competitors' businesses are open at times when your store or office is closed, you may be putting yourself at a disadvantage. As such, it's always a good idea for you to be aware of your competitors' hours of operation and customers' traffic during those hours. If you find that they're achieving high volumes of traffic during hours that you are typically closed, you may want to adjust your schedule accordingly. On the other hand, if their volume of traffic is low during your off times, you can rest assured that you're not missing a valuable opportunity.

3. Your Foot Traffic and Business Volume

It's a best practice to measure when your business is the busiest to help you make better decisions about operating hours. After all, you need to be able to generate enough revenue to cover the overhead cost for each hour that you stay open. As such, you should audit your volume of foot traffic and revenue generated so that you can get a clear understanding of your daily and weekly ups and downs. If, for example, you're open two hours later than your competitors on Friday nights, and you're not generating enough business or traffic to cover the cost of paying a cashier, then you may be better off closing earlier. You can use data from your regular audits to drive these types of decisions.

4. Your Employees

Work-life balance is important for both employee engagement and productivity. If you or your team members start to feel tired or burned out by longer operating hours, it will become increasingly difficult for you to retain your staff. This factor is particularly important because losing an effective employee presents a major cost in terms of both finances and morale.

Determining the best small business hours takes some time and consideration. Before you decide when to open and close shop, you should carefully consider your customers, competitors, employees and business volume.

Tags: Operations Management operations Business Strategy Wage and Hour