Scrambling through the holidays?
Do this today and make your life easier.
It's early December and you're in the trenches of a great holiday sales rush.
Or maybe it's not so great.
But either way, this is a high-stress time of year. For everyone.
Everyone has a list full of people to buy for and a limited amount of money. We all worry about how to show our people how much we care without breaking the bank.
Everyone is busy with parties and shopping and volunteering and decorating and tree-trimming and caroling and cookie baking and present wrapping.
And let's not forget that we're also supposed to enjoy the magic of this season with the ones we love most. We can't forget to make these memories that we'll cherish forever!
But you're a small business owner, so you have all those concerns PLUS a whole bunch more.
Most small business owners fall into two categories right now.
1. Those who are swamped and 2. Those who are dead.
Product-based businesses are taking and filling orders hand over fist.
And many service-based businesses are hearing crickets, because it's a bad time of year for anything other than shopping, eating, and drinking.
So let me single out those of you who are in the trenches right now. Those of you who wait all year for the holidays, and now that it's here, you're wondering how you're going to survive.
I spent Christmases 2009-2016 with an energetic "do not disturb" sign on my back.
I missed parties and I bought (or made) gifts last minute.
I stopped going home for Thanksgiving because I needed to be working first thing on Friday morning (and because that travel weekend-- ugh).
I counted down the days until shipping deadlines, not until Christmas. That was the day I could finally breathe a sigh of relief and begin "real Christmas," not work Christmas.
So, looking back on it, there are quite a few things I would do differently.
Some of it would have to do with the long hours; lack of sleep, exercise, or vegetables; and the coffee-and-cookie-fueled diet.
But I'm not here to tell you to eat right and exercise. That's not my jam.
What I would do differently is that I would take notes.
I would have taken notes on what worked and what didn't.
On how I felt and what I wished I would have done differently.
And not mental notes. Actual, physical notes. Or digital.
The purpose of these notes is for you to have something to look back on so that next year you're not scrambling quite as much.
I wish that in 2009 that I would have started a journal or even a Google doc dedicated to the holidays. (Were Google docs even around in 2009?)
And in that Google doc, I would have recorded data that would help me in the years ahead.
Not inspirational stuff or "keep up the hustle"-type motivators.
But tangible, hard facts.
From November 18 until December 20 we sold 219 Puppy's First Christmas Ornaments, using 9 sheets of aluminum, 230 jump rings, and 37 spools of ribbon.
I went through 432 square inches of sterling sheet from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
International Priority Mail takes 8 days to make it to Germany.
At Christmas Stroll we went through 4 cases of red wine and 8 lbs of cookies.
Started advertising for Ladies' Night on the Monday before the event. Next year start 6 weeks ahead.
And why? So that I'm better prepared next year, of course.
Being a business owner is kind of like being a teacher. When I was a teacher, everyone told me that the first year is the hardest.
And they were right.
Sure, it was the hardest because I had literally no clue what I was doing in terms of classroom management, but it was the hardest because I also had to create every single lesson from scratch.
In following years, I'd just look back at last year's Chapter whatever and do the same thing I did the year before, just with minor modifications or improvements (and maybe throwing in a movie day when my 22-year old self just. couldn't).
And your business, in its second, third, fourth, and subsequent years should be the same.
You know what you're getting into.
You have last year's notes and analytics for reference.
And you're tweaking and improving things, not reinventing the wheel.
Unless, of course, you didn't write down your lesson plans.
Which is why I'm begging you to please take those notes.
Now, with my reporting systems I can tell with the click of a button how many of each product variant I sold during any given time, and the shipping carriers are much more accurate with their quotes.
But back then, I didn't, and they weren't.
And for some of you, you're still in that boat.
So take notes.
Also take notes when you find yourself saying "I should've..."
As in, I should've sent out an email for Black Friday.
Or, I should've hosted an open house.
Or, I should've sent out Christmas cards.
Or, I should've done my Christmas shopping earlier so I didn't feel rushed when the time came.
This reminds me of a super-strict (and super-stupid) diet that I went on years ago.
It had a really restrictive period when your list of "good" foods to eat was limited, both in number and in serving size.
And the advice about the inevitable food cravings (I was SO. HUNGRY) was to write down every food craving -- everything you wanted to eat but couldn't.
And this was to be your to-do list on the cheat day (that was too far away).
This holiday journal feels like that.
You're not going to stop mid-holiday rush and make changes, or decide to host a last-minute holiday open-studio when you have hundreds of orders on deadline (or maybe you will).
But you can pause just enough to make a note for your future self. The one who, next year, will read over it (in August!) and implement all the improvements that your right-now self was smart enough to point out.
You'll read it when you're wondering how many bottles of wine and bricks of cheese you bought last year, and if it was enough.
You'll read it to remember that hiring part-time help was a good idea, but you should've done it back in October so you had time for training.
You'll read it and be more prepared and better-equipped heading into next year.
So, if you're finding yourself in the "What have I gotten myself into" boat, or maybe that's just where you live, take a deep breath and know that you can do this.
You were born for this!
And you can make your life easier next year by keeping track of what's going on this year.
Ready to get started? Download the FREE Holiday Tracking Checklist by clicking here.