Halloween is the favourite holiday of many people for a variety of reasons: you get to dress up and eat candy; it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, there is probably a Halloween festivity you can go to; and after you leave elementary school your family rarely expects you to spend Halloween with them. However, it’s my personal opinion that the big reason Halloween is such a popular holiday is that it is the kick-off for the entire holiday season. Once Halloween is over, Thanksgiving feels like it is just around the corner, then Christmas and New Year come faster than you know. For the business owner, the downside of Halloween is that it means the holiday slowdown is just on the horizon. People really aren’t interested in making long-term commitments or undertaking large projects during December, and employees are looking forward to vacation and a break from the daily grind. Basically no one wants to work that hard in November and December and that can make it very difficult for business owners to keep up the level of work through the holidays. Here are some useful tips to keep your business going strong through the holiday season so you’re not starting over with motivation and quality control in the new year.
1. Have Holiday Specials. Customers can be hard to crack during the holidays. They aren’t interested in committing or paying too much, and they are in and out of their own offices more often than almost any other time of the year. However, the holidays can actually be a blessing in disguise for many businesses to become closer with their customers. First, the holidays provide the perfect (and very natural!) opportunity to socialize with your clients. Consider hosting an open house at your place of business or having a wine and cheese tasting party where you can mix and mingle with people you may have never even met before. If you have a new product or service coming out, think of your holiday event as an informal launch party where you can discuss all the great things your business has to offer. Second, it’s very normal to reach out during the holidays. If a holiday party isn’t quite right for your line of work, holiday gift/card giving is the next best thing (and should be considered even if you are having a party). It doesn’t have to be a big or expensive gift, even an office holiday card makes the business relationship a little more personal in the least intrusive way. Lastly, using holiday specials is a great way to lure your customers in. The holiday special is so great because it lasts for a definite and relatively short period of time, encouraging people to buy quickly, and also because no one expects it to keep going through the new year. Running a special then arbitrarily taking it away can irritate customers if they don’t feel like paying the full price again but somehow, the holiday special doesn’t do that. Customers instead feel like they’re getting a great deal then when the holidays are over, everything returns to normal again. The holidays are a convenient and natural time to reacquaint your business and yourself with your customers without coming off as intrusive or annoying, the key is just to use your time wisely.
2. Incorporate the Holidays. Pretending that every day during the week is equal is a big pitfall of managers everywhere. 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday is simply not the same as 3:30 p.m. on Friday and projects assigned on Friday are less likely to get the attention they deserve than if the same project assigned on Tuesday. This same principal applies to months in the year as well. Assigning a big project in December may seem like no big deal but the reality is that employees are just not as interested in working hard when the holidays are approaching. Being an effective manager means that lots of factors have to be taken into account when creating workloads for people and to get the best quality, it’s important to consider where your employees’ heads are. The best thing to do when the holiday season is coming is to head it off by assigning projects in advance (see below) or giving a little more time than would be needed if you had assigned the same project in March. This way you’ll receive a better quality of work because of the extra time to focus, and your employees won’t feel so put-off by the project, encouraging even better quality. Also consider decorating your office for the holidays, albeit in a relatively neutral and inconspicuous way, and having a few holiday events between Halloween and New Year’s. If you simply pretend the holidays aren’t happening, your employees will get restless as they make their own plans for office get-togethers. This way, you’ll keep their focus on their tasks at hand and also give them something to look forward to at work.
3. Set Goals for the New Year. One of the best ways to motivate your employees and keep them moving forward is to set goals both for the end of the year and going into the new year. Employees are generally excited about accomplishing projects at work even though during the holiday season they are just a little more excited about the holidays, so setting up clearly defined projects will harness some of that excitement. One good way to tie the holidays into accomplishing your business goals is to have two annual meetings at the end of every year where you can all share a little of the holiday joy at the same time you are putting together your plans. The first meeting should come about mid-October and should lay out the plan for accomplishing any outstanding projects before the end of the year. You could consider having a costume contest at the same time and/or having everyone bring different candy or treats to share with the group. The second meeting should be in early December, before everyone starts leaving for vacation, and should discuss the goals for the upcoming year. This is where you can assign projects to be completed in the following year and form teams, saving you some time in the beginning of January. A small gift exchange may be appropriate at this meeting or perhaps a potluck lunch. Having projects that need to be accomplished before the end of the year and setting goals for the coming year will keep your employees engaged despite the holiday distractions. Just make sure the goals are reasonable and they aren’t all too off-putting. The last thing that will motivate your employees is making them dread coming to work in the new year.
Running a business is tough during the holidays unless of course you are involved in retail, Christmas shops, or selling turkeys. For the majority of the population that isn’t catering to the holiday shopper, keeping profits up is difficult from October to the middle of January but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Remembering that it is the holiday season and people will naturally be a little less motivated and a little more socially inclined can go a long way toward keeping your employees engaged through the holidays and into the new year. Keeping that focus is key to making your next year the best ever so when you’re planning out the rest of your year, try out some of these tips and watch for your hard work to pay off!