Do you want to be able to fulfill client work without being stressed about clients requesting last minute work and potentially ruining you and your team’s holiday plans?
Are you such a “good boss” that you take on client work so that your team can have time off over the holiday and then feel like you’re drowning in deliverables?
Does taking time off from your business feel depleting because you know you’re just going to have to work twice as hard when you return?
Taking a break or time off should be a regular business practice for you and your team members, not a “luxury” that you decide isn’t worth the effort. The truth is: you need a break in order to be able to deliver your best work, but you need to learn and implement practices that make it easier!
If you’re wanting to do things differently this holiday season, specifically when it comes to how you and your team interact with your clients, then this episode is for you!
Join our Free November Masterclass: How to Grow Your Agency the Right Way in 2023. Learn how to stop “winging it” and step into the CEO role of your business. Learn more here: https://nicolejacksonmiller.com/masterclass
Delegate 50 – 90% of client delivery in 12 months or less: AGENCY Program Site
Hey everyone, Nicole here and welcome back to the show! Today we are talking about how to better prepare your agency for the holidays.
Now, depending on what type of agency you have, you may find that this particular time of year, and I’m talking specifically around November and December, things tend to pick up and get very busy. I find this to be especially true for any type of agency that does some form of marketing. There are certain holidays, there’s Black Friday, there’s lots of little opportunities for clients to want to do promotions and so I find for a lot of my creative agencies, this tend to be a very popular time. For other agencies, it does slow down.
So preparing for the holidays probably depends on the workload that you have during this time of year. Regardless, I think that there are definitely some things that you can do to better prepare yourself and your team to have the experience that you and your team want over the holidays while still being able to deliver for your clients.
I remember back when I was running my project management agency, when the holidays would come along, I would kind of avoid making any plans for my business. I operated as I usually did. I supported my team, I supported our clients, and I held my breath around the holidays hoping that we wouldn’t have a last minute emergency or that things would go well.
We would try to prepare as best as we could, but it always felt like something would pop up. And the reason why is because I didn’t proactively set boundaries around what it was that we were going to do or not do, during the holiday season. And so this really led to clients not knowing. There wasn’t that clarity. And therefore, they might send us over an email or they might request a meeting. And my initial reaction was to be frustrated, but I could really only blame myself because I hadn’t done anything to prepare for having some time off and being able to enjoy it with my loved ones.
So I want to take this opportunity to share some ways that you can create what you want to create over the holiday season for both yourself and your team and your clients. And I want to talk you through some strategies that you can implement to make it actually happen.
So the first thing that I want you to ask yourself is what exactly do you want the holidays to look like? Do you want you and your team to be able to take time off? Do you want to be able to travel? Do you want to be able to have maybe two days off, but be able to take another three to four days, maybe even a week or two to be able to work on your business internally and not service your clients?
What does that look like? I want you to take a moment and really write this down. I think that when things go wrong, during certain times of the year, it’s easy to get really frustrated and then to just keep things going, get through it, move on, and never really take the opportunity to reflect. So if in the past, the holidays have not been what you have wanted them to be, maybe you’ve worked more than you wanted to, or clients didn’t really quite understand what your office hours were going to be, jot it down.
And then ask yourself, “Well, what is it that I do want to create this time? Do I want to take time off? Do you want your team to be able to take time off? Depending on the structure and setup you have with your team, do you want to continue to pay everyone, or maybe even give them bonuses over the holiday? What does that look like financially?
And I really want you to tap into what you actually desire regardless of what your situation is right now. I think sometimes when we’re so in it, it almost feels impossible to implement any of these things, but I want you to remove yourself from your current situation and say, If I had it my way, what would this look like?
Because, just because this is your dream now doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be something that you implement this holiday season. Maybe you just implement one or two of those things, but you’ll then know moving forward and you’ll have an entire year to prepare for the next holiday season so that you can really get what it is that you ultimately dream of.
Another thing that I recommend is actually talking to your team. Asking them questions, seeing what it is that they like to do over the holidays, how do they like to spend their time? I know that some teams are comprised of both contractors and employees, or mixture of both. Just employees, just contractors, and depending on your working relationship with your team members the hours could vary, the expectations can vary. So really getting on the same page with your team to understand, if they’re a contractor, what are their policies inside of their business? If they’re an employee, what is it that they desire over the holidays? I had a client share on a recent AGENCY call that some of her team members, don’t really celebrate the holidays that much or they preferred to spend some time working. And so using that information, she was able to set aside some internal projects that they could work on, even though they weren’t necessarily working on client facing projects. So just because your team is providing this feedback doesn’t necessarily mean that you will absolutely implement what they share, but it can help you co-create what it is that you want to put in place for the holidays in the future for your company. So once you have that jotted down, once you take the time to figure that out for yourself, talk to some team members.
I want you to write down what do you think would need to happen to make that possible. What would need to happen? What would a plan look like so that you could fulfill client work and also allow you to take time off? This was something that came up for us inside of my agency where we did have some clients who wanted to have a course or program launch during the months of November, December, or even January, and so we had to work with them to see how we could still get that work done while also honoring our time of taking time off and being able to have those conversations in advance and being able to plan in advance and share when we would be working and when we would not be working was really key to making that a success. So it’s not necessarily true that you need to stop your business completely and stop providing services to your clients over the course of these weeks.
But how can you form a win-win so that your clients’ needs get fulfilled and your company’s needs are fulfilled? So this is where we like to come up with creative solutions, and sometimes it can feel like there’s no win, and this is when I think it’s a really great opportunity to think outside the box.
You can get around other agency owners, other community members that can help you brainstorm other solutions. This is what I love about my AGENCY program, is that we all can get together on calls and inside of our community to share what we’re going through and then be able to get different ideas, to be able to brainstorm and to be able to walk away with a solution that we hadn’t even thought of at the beginning, or that maybe you thought of, but you weren’t willing to fully step into that you needed that encouragement from the other people around you.
So some ideas, if you do want to take time off and you do want to fulfill your client’s needs. Could you batch work? And when would you want to start batching that work? So for example, if you have a podcast production agency and your clients want to continue to publish, let’s say, weekly episodes, how can you set some deadlines with your clients in advance so that they can get you that raw audio so that your team can batch all of the episodes maybe in the first or second week of December?
So that your team is fully able to take off that time at the end of the month, if that’s, again, what the plan is that you can create, you want to create, you don’t necessarily have to do that. But again, it’s trying to figure out what can I do so that I can still fulfill my client’s needs? And also make it work for our company.
So that goes hand in hand with setting deadlines for your clients, and for your team. So based on the time that you want to take off or the amount of work that you want to be focusing on over the holidays. Maybe you could push up some deadlines with your clients and your team so that while your team is still producing potentially the same amount of work or even delaying things to the New Year, you can have what it is that you need to get the job done and you’re not waiting last minute for clients to be delivering things, and then you feel stuck having to deliver during a time that you wanted to take off.
This goes hand in hand with sending out emails to clients, letting them know what the holidays look like, what the plan is to serve both them and your team, and really making sure that everyone is on the same page moving forward. And I find that this is especially helpful if you’re able to start these conversations or at least seed the conversation as early as September, as early as October.
And the way that you can start seeding these conversations is if, let’s say you or your team member has regular conversations with your clients, whether that be monthly or weekly, they can mention, “I know right now we’re in the months of September, October, we are coming up on the holiday season. We want to let you know that because of this, we’re going to be moving up some deadlines a bit so that we can all enjoy a little bit of space to spend time with our loved ones or do whatever we want.
That way the client understands is like reminded about the holidays. And then you also are seeding that things might change up a bit so that when you bring it up again, it’s not a total surprise.
And, you might be sitting here thinking, “Oh jeeze, I guess by the time this episode airs, it’s probably going to be almost November. Do I have enough time to implement it? Is it too late?” And like I mentioned before, it’s never too late. You can always implement things. It just depends on what you’re implementing and then also the how you’re implementing it.
So if you desire to take a full two weeks off at the end of the year and you’ve already committed to your client that you’re going to be supporting them with things at the end of the year, this is obviously going to be a different conversation than if you hadn’t committed to already doing something for them.
But like I said, it’s not impossible. There still can be some boundaries around the work, and so that’s where you can have a conversation with them. You can set out an email to say, “Hey, I know the end of year’s coming and we have these items that we would love to wrap up for you before the end of the year. This is what the next few weeks will look like, so that our team is able to take some time off. And you’re able to have some space as well. We can discuss this during our next call.” Or you could even present this during a call, right?
So it’s not that you are just totally leaving them high and dry and saying, “good luck with your business, but you’re actually acknowledging what it is that you have committed to and sharing with them what the plan will be so that you’re able to complete what it is that they need and also have some time and space for yourself and your team members can have some time and space as well.
Sometimes I have clients who share they don’t feel like some of the plans or items or scope of work that they’ve committed to is going to be possible to complete before the end of the year, before the holidays. It’s just not going to work. And so this is where I really recommend stepping out of the day to day, stepping out of you having a very specific ongoing relationship with the client and taking a look strategically at what makes the most sense for both your company and the client.
For example, if you work in human resources and perhaps the client that you have wanted to make a few new hires at the end of the year, I have heard from people in human resources that it can be challenging to hire over the holidays because there’s not as much momentum in terms of people applying for jobs. Now, this could change at any moment. Who knows what’s to come in the future, but that could be a great conversation to have with your client, “listen, I know that you have these company needs and this is what I recommend. We’re probably not going to get a whole lot of applicants towards the end of the year. So what I would like to propose is us prepping these job posts, these applications, these interview questions, posting it and making it live, but giving it more time so that come January we can people to get back from vacation or wherever they might be traveling from, get some applications up so that we actually a larger pool of applicants to be able to review.”
So you can take a look strategically to see – does even the plan we have in place make sense for the client? This has happened before with marketing agencies as well, where they’ve had clients who want to do all sorts of different marketing efforts before the end of the year.
And when they really step back and take a look strategically, it doesn’t make sense to do more. Sometimes it makes sense to do a bit less, but be more specific and strategic about it.
That’s where we can really step out of the role of just doing, doing, doing, doing, and really put on our CEO and strategy hat to figure out, again, how can I make this work for both the client and myself too.
And that might mean changing the scope of work a little bit to make it work for everyone. And the key is actually getting excited about the fact that it does work better for everyone so that you’re actually able to then sell that to the client.
Sometimes people get nervous to have these conversations with clients, and I will always say, you have to sell yourself before you can sell the client. This comes up a lot when I have clients who are growing a team and are going to be introducing new team members to their clients. They get really nervous thinking about what the client will think about them and their team members and all of this stuff. And, if we can get out of that frame of mind and really focus on what are the benefits for the client because of this, then we show up completely different on calls.
This is true for both professional and personal conversations. It’s like, how can we get excited about this? How can we bring that energy to the call? And then we’re better equipped to answer any questions that may come up.
Holidays have been something that I’ve been discussing with members inside of my AGENCY program and during a recent call they mastermind and shared a few ideas as well.
I have a client who in the past was not really preparing well for the holidays and would just constantly feel burnt out at the end of the year. And so what she did is she actually put a calendar invite in her calendar for the following September that said, “plan for the holidays now.”
I think this is really great advice. You may be already very deep into just getting work done, or maybe you’re listening to this episode and it’s already the end of December or even January and you’re like, “Ah, I wish I listened to this back in October or September or even earlier in the year.”
That’s okay. What I want you to do is take what you’ve learned and apply it to the future. And a great way to do this is by putting a reminder somewhere that you will access. And I know my calendar is the place that I do that because then it automatically pops up. I don’t have to constantly worry that I’m missing something that’s already documented.
Another thought that a client came up with that I shared a little bit about before is that they ask their team what the team wants for the holidays. So some actually want to work or have the opportunity to do some just, you know, low pressure tasks, and so, What she will do because she wants to be able to make it work for her team, she also likes to continue to pay the team over the holidays and she’ll come up with a few projects that are almost like cleanup internal projects so that if somebody does actually want to work and that is what they desire, she has that ability for them to do that and those projects for them to work on.
Again, this completely depends on your business. You might not have cleanup projects, and so this would not probably work well for you, but I like the idea of co-creating with your team and getting that feedback. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to implement everything that they share, but at least understanding where your team is at, seeing what they desire, what works for them, you’ll be able to come up with maybe even a better solution.
Sometimes when you are able to be able to discuss things with your team other people will come up with ideas or solutions you hadn’t even thought of that you think are great. I have other clients that just simply have weeks off or days off during the year, and no one works. And that’s totally fine too. They’ve already implemented boundaries with their clients. They’ve already implemented boundaries with their team and it is what it is. So that also works as well.
But if you’re in a position right now where you’ve struggled with setting boundaries or maybe where you had boundaries in place, and it just didn’t work out quite as you planned, this is a really good opportunity to be able to reflect and see what it is that you want to change.
And implement for the coming holidays, and this doesn’t just apply to the end of the year. This can apply to any time during the year. This could also apply to if you want to take a vacation or if your team members want to take a vacation. Really starting to implement this thought process and this way of asking yourself questions and implementing plans and communicating in advance. This works for any time that you wanna take off.
Alright, everyone. I hope this was helpful to you. I hope you were able to have some takeaways. My next steps for you are to really reflect on what it is that you want. Ask those around you, what they want and desire, and then start coming up with some creative solutions to make it happen.
You might not make it all happen this year, but implement as much as you can and then set that calendar reminder so that you are able to come up with a plan, an improved plan for the 2023 holiday season. I will see you next week.