The Best Founders Are Already Planning How to Thank Their People During the Holiday Season
At most companies, the arrival of cold weather means it’s time to wrap up the projects of last year and look forward to the next. According to Toggl, productivity at the end of the year drops more than 50 percent below average levels.
Startup founders don’t have that luxury. Even as Christmas trees go up, startup life remains as hectic and high-stakes as ever. Small businesses that get soft during the holiday season typically return in the new year to face hungry competitors who stayed busy.
That said, the startup life can’t be all business all the time. During the holidays, founders must balance their ambitious goals against the real-life needs of their teams. You might be willing to attend a web meeting or answer emails on Christmas Eve, but your employees probably aren’t.
Rather than spend the holidays in an in-between state of some work and some play, follow these tips to keep your company pushing forward without asking too much:
1. Appreciate your employees.
Your employees work hard all year, and they deserve to be rewarded for it. Use this opportunity to show employees how grateful you are for their commitment by giving them extra time off, bonuses and other perks that make them feel appreciated.
Don’t stop at Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. When the end of the year rolls around, give employees an entire week off to recharge. Research published in Harvard Business Review found that vacations boost productivity, but vacations shorter than an entire week don't provide the full benefit. Not only will this show of generosity make employees feel appreciated, but the company will also benefit from their recharged batteries when they return to work.
2. Appreciate your clients, too.
Employees can’t hog all the holiday fun. Your clients keep your business running, so use this opportunity to thank them for their continued patronage.
The more personal the connection, the better. Make a holiday card with a picture of your team, and send it with a personal note to each client. If you work with a small number of clients, send a physical card, and talk about the year you had together. If you’re a B2C company or otherwise deal with too many people to send physical cards, send an e-card with some highlights from the past year. Make sure to mark this in your calendar early so you don't forget!
3. Adjust for holiday shopping shifts.
As you prepare to spread holiday cheer, keep your focus sharp before the vacation by adjusting your strategy to account for holiday changes in spending.
CBS News reports that Americans are on track to spend about 5 percent more this holiday season than last year, with high-earning Millennials in the driver’s seat. B2C companies already know how important this season is for meeting revenue goals. Run holiday specials to match the budget of your target audience, and collect data to see where you can improve next year. If you run a B2B company, don’t aggravate prospects with sales pushes when they aren’t receptive. Instead, send them educational or entertaining content to keep your brand top of mind.
4. Partner with charitable organizations.
The American Marketing Association reports that 70 percent of millennials spend more money at companies that support their favorite causes. The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to exercise CSR and collaborate with a charity on an issue that resonates with your brand.
Choose a partnership that aligns with your company. REI, for instance, is famous for its Opt Outside campaign on Black Fridays, which makes sense for an outdoor clothing company. Offer employees a chance to get involved to boost engagement and show them that the company cares about the same issues they do.
5. Treat yourself the way you treat others.
After you show appreciation to everyone else, take some time to appreciate yourself. Entrepreneurial circles glorify the grind, but if you don’t take some time to recharge during the holiday season, you'll burn out.
Decide ahead of time when to take your break so you don’t feel guilty when it’s time to shut down for a few days. Leave someone else in charge for a while so you can visit your family, catch up on reading or do whatever else your heart desires -- as long as it’s not work. You're just as human as your employees, and the same rules about vacation time apply to you.
The holiday season doesn’t last long. Take advantage of this opportunity to thank the people who keep your company running, then make sure you have all your business handled before taking your own break. You’ll be back at the regular grind soon enough, so don’t miss this chance to take a breath before hitting the ground hard in January.