05 Dec How to Avoid a Costly (Business) Hangover
Six tips to keep you and your business healthy through the silly season
Written by Daniela Cavalletti
7 min read
I grew up in Germany, where Christmas season was marked by piles of snow, the delicious smell of Glühwein, nibbling gingerbread hearts, and very short dark days. We’d arrive back to dinner after a walk through the local Weihnachtsmarkt to get cosy in the warmth of home. Surrounded by the crisp smells of a real Christmas tree and the soft glow of candles, it was all very gentle.
Sydney Christmas Culture Shock
My first Australian Christmas was a case of pure culture shock. We had a ‘barbie’ in the sweltering sun (all slip-slop-slapped up with sun-protection, of course), occasionally slipped a shrimp on the barbie, and picked our drinks from the ‘esky’ to cool down. Plus all this happened at a beach heaving with ‘swimmers’-clad people. It all was mightily busy and strange, if fun.
Fast forward 15 years, and I still cannot reconcile Christmas in Sydney with that of my European roots. A nice way to socialise, but not really Christmassy to me (sorry, Australia!). It’s a time when I do miss ‘home’ a lot.
Having (Business) Fun in the Sun
And then there’s the business side: from early December to (controversial) Australia Day on 26 January, Australia turns into a strange place before effectively shutting down for weeks. It confuses the hell out of my European and American friends, clients and colleagues; I can tell you!
City roads are deserted, people dress more casually at work, Christmas-party hangovers are amassed – and everyone generally takes life a lot less seriously. The weeks leading up to Christmas are generally a mad-house of tying up loose ends at work, while juggling an endless stream of end-of-year plans and Christmas dos.
With all those many and often exhausting shenanigans going on, February, when it comes, can feel like quite a bad hangover.
And in more ways than one.
How to Keep You + Your Business Healthy Through the Silly Season
With year-end exhaustion and excitement at time-off soon, the last weeks before Christmas often flash past in a winding-things-up blur. Productivity is either a frantic scramble or slowly grounds to a halt. Then comes Christmas, New Year is here, … and before you know it, it’s Australia Day and the end of January already.
For two long months many of us will have mostly ignored our marketing and sales activities – yes, for two solid months. Online activities might have been scheduled ahead with the well-organised having written and scheduled blogs and social media posts in advance to cover the holiday season. But with everything else going on, our networking, sales and relationship marketing will most likely have suffered.
And now we find it’s suddenly February, our cash-reserves have dwindled and we need to get some new customers. Quick smart.
It can be a tricky time.
Since starting my business in 2009, I’ve tried a few new things every year to make the most of the December / January break – for me, and for my business.
Perhaps some of them will also help make your February feel much better than it might have in previous years.
#1. Look After Yourself
First of all – there’s nothing wrong with taking time off and enjoying yourself. Quite the opposite: without solid breaks throughout the year (including the odd doona day) we will become disengaged, sick and risk burnout. As people and as business owners, our health is our most valuable asset (yes, even more so than time).
Don’t wait till the end of a year to do what makes you happy and soothes you during difficult times. Don’t let tension build up. Pay attention to what smoothens frayed nerves and calms you; then do more of it. Simple things like walking through a leafy local park, taking The Girls to a playgound, hanging up the laundry, or tiding up my office help me get my cool and focus back; get calm. For me resetting is done by being playful, and creating order and beauty.
But some issues are bigger than a little blimp on the zen radar. What then?
I had a stressful move from my home of eight years in May, and then I was hit by a car only days after moving. Yes, that sucked. While I was lucky to escape without broken bones or life-changing injuries, recovery has been a struggle. “That’s not fair!” has echoed a lot in my head, as I raged in face of the slow progress of healing – and the things I missed out on along the way.
I’ve recently been reading and trying to practice radical acceptance and it’s been extremely helpful. I’m feeling ok with what’s happened (most days) now and am actually enjoying the slower pace and changes circumstances had forced me into. Who knew! Check it out for yourself; it’s simple yet powerful.
#2. Say No to Parties
It’s so tempting to say ‘yes’ to every invitation this time of year, but I urge you to choose wisely. All the free fun, food and frolics might sound like too good an opportunities to refuse; a chance to let down your hair a bit. After all you worked hard, now it’s time to play hard!
But remember last year? After the nth Christmas-do you were over the idea of attending your family and friends’ celebration before the actual festive days arrived. Come New Year’s Day and having overindulged, you vowed to never drink again, or even eat for the next few weeks.
I’ve been aiming to go to a maximum of three business-related Christmas / New Year events each year, and it’s been a great relief and experience. I go to a couple of key client and referral partner’s dos, and take out my team. That’s it. That way I’ve enjoyed each event; because I actually wanted to be there. At first it was tough to say ‘no’ for fear of missing out or perhaps upsetting the person inviting me. But in most cases, let’s be honest, nobody will remember who was where when anyway come the next time you see them the next year. And some gladly forget their antics from those events anyway.
#3. Respectful Communications
Come early December, businesses start sending out their Season’s Greetings emails. I’ve already had about ten messages. Many I only glance over because they are so generic, and others really stick with me – for either good or bad reasons.
Based on my own reactions to these mail-outs, I’ve made a few rules for myself over the years. By applying these rules, I want to ensure I’m not only respectful towards my clients, but also look after my business, staff and suppliers.
- If you send printed cards, don’t just sign them with your name. Send less of them if it’s a time issue (and send an electronic mailout for the rest). Then take the time to write a personalised message; something that has meaning.
- Be grateful, and say thank you for the trust you received during the year.
- Respect the different religious and cultural backgrounds of your readers, and be sensitive to them.
- Remember the recipient when sending gifts. Your vegan client will not love the leather wallet.
- Sales pitches do not belong in greeting cards.
- Give your clients ample time to get in touch with anything the might need to ask you before you close your office, eliminating stress for them (and a mad late scramble for you).
- Set boundaries, too. Clearly communicate the time you are not available (don’t forget to set up a clear, friendly and helpful out of office message).
- Be personable, and spread a little bit of joy if you can – a smile will make everyone’s day.
#4. Do Your Best Work
You’re unlikely to actually need or want to take a full two months off (if you do, hats-off to you for doing so – look after yourself and enjoy!).
And like yours, most businesses still operate during the break, if maybe only on a skeleton staff. But business doesn’t suddenly completely cease during this time. So there is actually no reason to slow down your own marketing and sales activities; especially once January comes around and people feel refreshed.
January often has been one of the best months for my business, because my clients and referral partners have more time to meet and chat, … and I’m one of the few people to actually call. And with people taking things slow in January they have more time and interest to read my blogs, posts and emails.
So make sure you don’t fill December and January with some marketing leftovers, but send out your top stuff. Marketing collateral, posts messages that give your readers something to think about.
Why not call a couple of your prospects or clients every week – and invite them to catch up over lunch or a coffee?
#5. Plan in December + January
During the long Australian summer holidays, the email flood magically slows and the daily phone-calls get fewer as many people do take off big chunks of time. The extra hours I gain per week, and the more solid, uninterrupted time I have for creative work and thinking are ideal to plan ahead.
For me, I love to work on writing juicy pieces of content marketing, especially some with a more personal angle, because they do take more time to germinate and complete. But they tend to also be the rawest, most honest, and most liked and commented on because they are uniquely my experience go beyond what can be found elsewhere. We all can write solid 5 Top Tips articles in our profession And those are important pieces of information and useful. But using the slower times to come up with topics you are passionate and knowledgeable about will take your engagement with your readers and customers – your marketing results and bottom line – to another level.
I also like to look at our processes, and see how we can tweak them to be better. During the busy days of the year we tend to just do things like we always do them. Especially when there is a team involved, changing processes often seems too hard at the time. The slower days around the holiday season are an ideal time to take an objective eye to how I do things – and make changes for the better.
For you it might be another area, and different years will present us with different opportunities, but this time is a great opportunity to grab whatever planning you can and need to do by the horns.
#6. Mix Business with Pleasure
Now, I’ve talked about saying ‘no’ to parties and invitations, and raved about the benefits of taking a proper break. So why am I now going on about ‘mixing business with pleasure’; aren’t I contradicting myself?
Well, not quite; let me explain.
There are referral partners, staff and clients – and even competitors – that I not just love doing business with, but whom I’m also very fond of as people. We’ve become friends.
So one thing I’ve started to do with them over the past few years, is to ‘mix business with pleasure’, with some rules in place to ensure it is an even mix.
We get together, sometimes as a group, during the season in a more relaxed setting and chat about how we can support each other and each other’s businesses.
Those get-togethers have created a deep trust and strengthened some very important relationships for me.
I’ve tried this, see what you can add:
- Go and grab a coffee or brunch at a cafe by the beach, in your board shorts. For that matter, why not have it right at the beach?
- Kids play sports together? Meet at a match and chat.
- Know someone with a boat? Organise a few hours on the water with them and a bunch of mutual connections. Lots of good opportunity to get to know each other and your businesses better.
- Organise a day at the cricket or ‘bowlo’ (or lawn bowls for non-Aussies) with a bunch of your connections. Plenty of relaxed time to during a lazy day watching or playing the game.
All these activities (and I’m sure you can think of many more) are building trust. And there’s no reason you can’t build trust while having fun at the same time.
Happy New Year, Frohes Neues Jahr + Buon Anno Nuovo
So … while in Australia I still cannot conjure up the cold, cosy Christmas experience of growing up in Germany, I feel that I’ve adapted well to its wonderfully long, humid and hot silly season over the past 15 years.
It did take me a few years as a new business owner to make the most of the uniquely Australian experience of a six to eight week ‘break’, but I’ve found a happy equilibrium for me and my business.
Now I know that come February, I won’t wake up with a stomping hangover of missed opportunities and empty coffers. Come February, I’ll already be having a damn fine Happy New Year!
I hope you’ll join me.