Running A Small Business: A Holiday Survival Manual

The holidays are hectic. Whatever industry you’re in, whatever position you have, this time of year always turns into a juggling act.  Between responsibilities to family, friends, and work, the final sprint to the new year can wear anyone down to the point where the season becomes more of a chore than anything enjoyable.

And owning or working for a small business only compounds all of the stress and chaos.  With fewer employees, the higher order volumes, and more frequent customer interactions generated by the holiday rush, the holidays can become burdensome to even the most dependable and reliable workers.

So it’s absolutely necessary, for the health of both the business AND its employees, to make certain that the holidays aren’t the most arduous time of year. When workers get enough time off to feel rested and rejuvenated, they will be more focused, more involved, and just generally happier.

Here are some tips we live by during the holiday season that help to keep us from being overwhelmed both at work as well as at home.

Don’t Take On More than You Can Handle

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Inevitably, along with the music, decorations, and colder weather, the holidays also bring more work.  As a manufacturer, this influx of jobs tends to come in the form of designers and brands looking to have last-minute projects completed in a very short timeframe.

While paying jobs are always welcome, and turning away potential customers for little or no reason is ill-advised, it is essential for small business owners to keep in mind their capabilities and restrictions during this time of year.  Though missing deadlines for projects doesn’t spell the end of your business, it could mean the difference between success and failure for your clients, which in turn could create one more (or less) returning customer.

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To avoid overextending your abilities, take time before the holidays each year to schedule out the projects you know you have coming up.  Not only will this give you an idea of your current workload, and thus the amount of last-minute work you would able to take on, but it will also provide a schedule to base new orders around if and when they come in.

Spend Your Time Wisely

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Even during the rush caused by the holidays, there’s always those times where you find you don’t have a specific job or project to work on.  But when you have a busy schedule, how you spend the slower periods of the day or week can significantly affect your productivity during the busier times.

Use your downtime to work on some of the smaller tasks around your facility or office.  Restocking shelves, organizing inventory, catching up on emails or phone calls, and even just buying shipping and packing supplies can all prove to be as important for the business as actual orders. Plus, it has the added bonus of keeping you focused and on your toes for when things pick up again.

Don’t Overwork Yourself or Your Employees

Small businesses frequently run a fine line between having too many workers to keep them fully employed and overtaxing the few employees they can afford to pay.  The holidays only tend to exacerbate this problem as family events outside of work demand more time and attention while work gets busier.

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It’s vital, then, to make sure you don’t wear down your workers or, especially, yourself.  And though it’s tempting to schedule overtime so you can take on a few more projects, the wellbeing of the employees should be just as big a concern for a small business owner as the company’s ability to capitalize on holiday orders.

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There is no single way to balance these somewhat competing interests that works for every small business; while hiring a few part-time employees to alleviate the seasonal workload might suit for some companies, others might be more willing to have employees work a little longer each week to handle the extra work.  But it’s imperative that, as the owner of a small business, you consider all of the options before the holidays start so you can work out your own strategy for meeting higher demand.

Make Time for Your Employees to Unwind at Work

A successful small business functions like a close-knit family.  But even families can sometimes fall out of sync with each other when things become busy.  Holidays in particular are a time when stress has the tendency to put strain on coworker dynamics, which in turn can derail productivity and focus.

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As such, it’s up to the whole group to be aware of how the other members are doing.  Parties, gift exchanges, group lunches, or even just taking an interest in what employees will be doing for the holidays are all great ways to alleviate pressure and allow people to relax in their work environment.

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Make Sure to Give/Take Time Off to Spend with Friends and Family

Finally, while it may be obvious for many people, it bears pointing out that the holidays aren’t much of a holiday if you don’t take time off.

Owning or working for a small business has the habit of spilling into other areas of life outside the workplace, and it can be difficult not to bring problems home with you.  Around the holidays, taking a vacation can not only give you time to relax and revitalize with friends and family, but also puts perspective on your business, allowing you to mull over whatever issues or projects you might be struggling with.

Vacations were invented for a reason, and giving both you and your employees enough time off around the holidays to recharge can have a lasting positive affect well past the start of the new year.

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