Tag: business advice

 

Christmas, Business, Life Balance – Aarrgh!

Christmas + Business + Life Balance =

  1. “Bah humbug”
  2. “Life’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”.
  3. “There are no winners in life, Only survivors”
  4. No problems – I got it sorted!
  5. Love Christmas, this is my favorite time of year.

 

Now, I don’t know your response. But I can tell you over the 34 years of Christmas, my response has changed.

Businesses are generally in one of two categories.

Category 1. This is our busiest or most stressful time of year.

Category 2. We close down for business.

I am sure you can see your business in one of these categories.

So why does Christmas create such stress for so many of us?

  • Personal memories or anniversaries
  • Paying of monies without income
  • Extra costs and delayed income
  • Super Busy
  • Trying to fit so much in with limited time available
  • Un realistic expectations
  • Business anniversaries – End of Year, budgets, reviews, planning etc.
  • External commitment increases, e.g. where you volunteer or assist, end of year functions etc.
  • Balancing staff with holidays, religious and cultural anniversaries

Just to name a few

So how can you achieve all this and have a good Christmas?

There is no magic answer, as it is different for everyone.  However I do have some suggestions that have made my Christmas’s much more enjoyable.

  1. Pre Plan – Lists, Budgets, Basically treat this as a project and plan, plan, plan.
  2. Set a budget and stick to it. – Easier said than done, but include in your budget a bit of a buff zone.
  3. Plan time out for yourself. Without this you will most likely not enjoy christmas
  4. Allow yourself a bit of selfishness. Get yourself a small treat e.g. a massage, or hair appointment, or good book.
  5. Be at peace with saying – No. Everyone will want something from you, feel OK about refusing every single request.  In short, you really will only increase your own burden if you are not OK with saying No.
  6. Look after your health, your spiritual, your mental wellbeing. This is important.

Now, for 33 of my 34 business years, I have improved on Christmas each year. However each year I strive to get better at this.  However, Last year, I finally found my magic formula.  So I am going to let you into my secret.

I have a Category 2 business.  So we close down, have no income, have expenses, increased demand just prior to Christmas, and know we are coming back to a full load in the New Year.   Each year I have planned, budgeted, and even given myself some time off e.g. a holiday.  But each year I have felt stressed – until last year.  I tried something totally new, and for me – wow, what a difference.  So much so, that now I won’t do Christmas again by choice without this new step.

Here is what I do.

  1. Plan, budget and organize.
  2. Watch my health, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.
  3. Express in advance all the steps with my key staff, so we are all on the same page.

Here is the magic for me.

I disappear and float down the Murray River for the 5 days to a week leading up to Christmas, only returning home on Christmas Eve.  So I no longer deal with the stress on the road, with last minute shopping, Christmas wrapping, extra drinks and dinners.  I am either ready a week before, or too bad.

This really works for me.  I had everything ready either around the tree, or in the freezer ready to pull out.  The fresh food I need, I pick up on the late afternoon of Christmas Eve.

So in simple terms, I found my “opt out” option that suited me.  I took it, to escape the worst time.  Why has this been the worst time?

  • I used to get extra requests to meet, catchup, do something. – Even if asked, I just can’t do anything.
  • Last minute shopping and dealing with all the stress that involves. Being away in a river with no shops – this is not an option.
  • I forgot something – too bad. We will have to live with this fact.  It is surprising how little of this matters, or can be easily solved, when you have to.
  • People start realizing you are not there and they stop asking you to help. Now, that is nice for a week.
  • You are planned and organized and you are prepared to leave. So you just let go on the mental pressure.

My suggestion, is for you to find you’re off switch, and use it at the best time for you.  So if you are a category 1 business, this may be before the Christmas build up.  You may also need another one after Christmas.  If you are a category 2 – like me, consider your own opt out.  It may be a simple as demanding a day or two to sit in the back yard and read a book – without phones or family demands, so this may take a bit of pre thought – but you can do it.

For those of you who face a bad anniversary Christmas, such as a family loss anniversary.  Sharing your pain can often help.  I know of a few people in this boat, and friends to these people we keep in our prayers, in our Christmas plans – so that life is easier for them during this period, and we are open to allow them to share or talk when they need during the difficult times.  So if you wish to share, please comment on this blog, and share.  Sharing this information often reduces the pain dramatically.

I know this will sound selfish, but I have found my solution, and I plan to have a really blessed and peaceful Christmas.  I hope that if you read this, you will “like” this, and have the Christmas you desire.

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How a Business Cope with Staff Loss

image from saveup.com

image from saveup.com

2 weeks ago, one of my Key staff  in fact a person I have been training for 3 years to replace myself was head hunted and decided to go with the offer given to him. This was a shock and a blow not only to myself, but to clients and fellow employees. So how does a business recover from this?

In the IT trade, moving jobs is a common occurrence. This is not something I am proud to express, but it is a fact. So many people are working on contract today, and the demand for quality programmers is so high, that contracts constantly overlap each other, that a person can really choose not only where they wish to work, but the type of IT work that they wish to do. So at all times I prepare for staff to leave and make sure that all people duplicate each other and that all information is recorded.

We have systems that cover for staff turnover. So the core work is always being achieved, and clients are not being disadvantaged by changes of staff in a technical sense. However the human sense is affected.

This occurrence can cause impact on current staff, as they have to learn to work with a new staff member.

CRM in word tag cloudSo one part of the solution to this problem, is that for core work, you need to have good systems, in fact a good database. What can you expect from such a system? A CRM or customer relationship management systems can control not only your customer, but generally link the data you need to retain about your customer, your contacts, your quotes, your invoices can link to this as well if it is a good system.

At Accede we have recently been interfacing off the shelf CRM’s to Accounting products, estimation packages and other products. By creating this interface for the client, it is a seamless way to see the whole of the customer’s information.

Other places I have created solutions for include knowledge based systems. These systems in fact hold expertise, experience etc. from key people. Knowledge bases for a user is like talking to the expert about a problem. The knowledge base take a person through a potential issue, what questions they should ask, what possible answers they may get, and what to do next. It is a like having the expert right beside you without having them there. I have noticed, however, that this is generally the main reason that the loss of Key staff is hugely impacting.

The other part of the equation, being the human affect, is solved only by communication. This communication is essential if you wish to retain clients, build new clients and retain existing staff members.

Losing staff and clients is a fact and generally not in your control (unless you need to review your management). However retaining clients and staff is something you need to constantly work on. The key to this retention is communication. Take the time. Discuss. Share. Find ways to openly communicate in a respectful manner. Praise where praise is due. Discuss problems without being personal or denigrating. Work as a team.

Insurance of key staff, often helps with the financial aspect, but good systems will help with the core work and management. Plus make sure your staff’s work is overlapped, so that people can take holidays and the loss of a staff member can quickly be covered.

 

Cate Schafing is a successful Australian business woman in the IT field serving as CEO of Accede Holdings Pty. Ltd. makers of Ezymeetz, ICE and Virtual Gym. She develops innovative new technological products as a programmer and entrepreneur. In gratitude for her success her company supports NFP’s by donating $5000 per month in programming time for NFP’s requesting work.

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