If you’re wondering how to grow your business, stay on top of things at home, and enjoy the holidays – all at the same time – you’re probably in the wrong place. Haha. But seriously, today we’re chatting about a few things that have made a huge difference for me over the past seven holiday seasons in business, and I’m bringing this all up with the hope that you might feel encouraged and empowered to simply embrace what matters this season. So if that sounds like something you might need, then let’s get started.
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Podcast Episode Recommendations
- #69: 6 Difficult Lessons I’ve Learned After 6 Years as a Mama Business Owner
- #48: Have 5 Minutes? 7 Ways to Use Small Pockets of Time to Grow Your Business
- #27: Are You Saying Yes When You Should Say No?
- #14: Are You Showing Up Where It Matters? How to Clarify Your Priorities as a Busy Mama
How to Grow Your Business AND Enjoy the Holidays, Too
Well hey there and welcome to the Mama Business Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Brumley, and I just want to say that I’m thankful you’re here because it means that you’re working hard to show up where and when it matters – at home, in business, and in life. We don’t always do it perfectly, but every little attempt moves us in the right direction. You listening to this podcast episode today – that’s a great step to take.
In the U.S., this week marks the start of the official holiday season with Thanksgiving Day coming up, followed by all of the December holidays. Between shopping for the perfect gifts, writing out those holiday cards, attending school concerts, and planning those gatherings with family and friends, it might seem a little overwhelming to think about managing a business at the same time – especially if you’re kinda new to the game.
But that’s exactly why I wanted to take a few moments to talk about some of the ways that I survived the early years in business, a few things I wish I’d done differently, and what I do now to ensure that I remain focused and attentive to the things that matter most to me – so that it truly can be the “most wonderful time of the year”.
Lesson #1: Give Yourself Permission to Be Present
One of the first things I wish I’d done differently or at least learned more quickly in the early days of my business was to give myself permission to be present with my family, with the things happening around me. To take time off from my business.
And if you’ve been around the podcast for a little while, then you might know bits and pieces of my “getting started in business” story, but the truth is that my business took off very quickly. Like so quick that I didn’t have systems in place and I felt like I was drowning in nearly every direction most days.
At the time, my older daughters were in elementary school, so I actually had plenty of uninterrupted time throughout my days to get work done. And I used every bit of it and much more. I worked during the day, I worked on the weekends, I’d sneak away while my family watched movies…you get the picture.
So, when the holidays came around that first year, I honestly didn’t even know how to approach them and I didn’t think I could afford to take a break. My clients needed me, right? If I took a break I’d lose momentum and get behind on tasks? Nothing I did was automated so I really didn’t have a choice – at least in my mind. If I wanted to get paid, I had to keep on going.
Boy was I wrong…but that first holiday season – that was a wash. I worked my way through it and quite honestly, I started the New Year exhausted, with no real end in sight.
The second holiday season went very similarly to the first. I wish I could say that I learned from the first year’s experience and got smart about it, but I didn’t. The only exception to that is I took two weekends off during that holiday break, practically apologizing for doing so. I emailed my clients to let them all know, and – looking back – it was all so pathetic. And embarrassing to think about, truly.
By the third holiday season, I didn’t even want to anymore. I was burned out and I really just wanted to sit in a corner with a good book, listen to some holiday music, and be present with my family. Thankfully, I’d spent a good portion of that year putting systems into place, automating where I could, and focusing more on boundaries around when I worked and how much I worked. Obviously that prep work played a huge role, but that holiday season, I took one week off completely and worked just a couple hours per day the following week. And you know what? My business survived. My clients still loved working with me. And actually – by doing so I found a renewed creativity and excitement for my business upon my return.
But you know what, I had to give myself the permission to take that time off. To allow myself to be rejuvenated. Because I didn’t start this business to be a slave to it. I started it for the freedom to be present with my family, right? And I wasn’t doing that well.
So, definitely a lesson in what not to do.
Fast forward to present day holiday breaks, though, and I’m easily taking two weeks off. Sure, I plan out a bit of content ahead of time so that my podcast episodes go out or my clients have what they need to get through the holidays, but because my systems are in place and my marketing machine is working for me – I don’t have to worry about lost leads, lost clients, or lost revenue because I take a break. In fact, last year I came back from holiday vacation to three new clients!
That, my friend, is freedom.
Now, I know that you might be in a spot where you don’t fully have your marketing systems up and going OR you don’t have systems in place to ensure that your clients get the result they need if you aren’t present. Let me just say this: take a break. Not only is it good for you to have a time of refreshment, but it’s good for your clients to recognize that they should take a break, too.
And maybe it’s not a long break. Maybe it’s you saying you’ll work shorter days, or take on fewer appointments, or whatever it is, but make sure you schedule some time in there for rest. Your future you will appreciate it – and your family will, too.
Lesson #2: Don’t Start Something New
Another lesson I really wish I’d learned earlier on in my entrepreneurial journey is not to start something new in the middle of an already crazy season.
I feel like this should be a no brainer, but let me tell you – there’s nothing like realizing that it’s almost Black Friday to make me want to jump on the bandwagon, send out all the emails, and make a “can’t miss it” offer that will result in a gazillion dollars worth of sales. If you know, you know.
And while that might not be a bad thing in and of itself, if you have NOT put the prep work in ahead of time – I mean like started back in August or September to make sure that your systems are in place and your emails are written ahead of time and that you can actually OFFER whatever it is you’re about to – if you can’t say all of that, then just don’t do. There’s always next year. I promise.
The same goes for after Christmas and New Years specials. It’s great if you already have it up and running, but if you’re going to sacrifice other areas of your life or business to make it happen – it’s time to just say no. Put some plans on paper and make a note on your calendar to revisit it next August. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did.
Of course, that doesn’t apply to everything, right? It could be that you’ve made the decision to push forward with learning a new platform or embracing a new system. That’s all well and good, and I highly recommend doing so if you know it’s going to make a difference or grow your business going forward, but just make sure you’ve given yourself the bandwidth to actually get it done. And the grace to take a little longer to accomplish the task if needed.
Lesson #3: Communicate Your Priorities
And I could probably go on and on with all of the lessons I’ve learned over the years, but I think for the sake of time, I’m going to share just one more. And that’s to communicate your priorities.
- With your spouse
- With your kids
- With your family
- With your friends
- With your clients
- With your employees or contractors
…with anyone that will be involved in helping you stay on track and accomplish or engage with what matters most to you.
I think a lot of the stress that we place on ourselves around the holiday season comes from lack of communication. Your spouse and your kids probably have different ideas about how the holiday season will pan out, right? Maybe your spouse really wants to spend time playing board games with friends or your teenager doesn’t want to leave the basement television for the entire school break. Maybe your parents expect that you’ll travel to come see them or show up for several holiday dinners in a row.
Whatever it is, if you haven’t communicated what’s important to you – and then placed it on a schedule – it’s unlikely to remain the priority.
To combat this in our own home, I like to call a family meeting the week or two before Thanksgiving. We pull out the calendar and we make decisions about what really matters to us together and individually. Not only does that help me dictate what time I’m going to take off from business stuff, but it helps us make note of activities we really want to participate in as a family and schedule those accordingly. We also block out key days that we don’t want to plan anything. These are days that we use to embrace our own things – like reading a series of books, watching that non-stop television marathon, or completing some last minute shopping.
Another bonus to this is that it can help with the financial end of things as well. For example, if you’re going to host a large Christmas party, you can make sure you’ve budgeted enough to cover all of those expenses. Or if you know you need to drive a ways to visit your parents, then you can ration the gas money over the upcoming weeks to make sure you get there.
From a business perspective, having this clear communication in place then allows me to then communicate my expectations and plans to my clients, contractors and employees. That means I can notify them of the times I won’t be available and make sure that if they have any needs ahead of time, we can get those taken care of.
Then, when I am off doing things with my family or friends, I can unplug, feeling confident that I’ve prepared my business and my clients for my absence, and just enjoy being present in the moment.
So, highly recommend taking the time to communicate your priorities – especially ahead or throughout the holiday season.
How to Grow Your Business AND Enjoy the Holidays, Too
Alrighty, mama – that brings us to the action part of this episode. And we all know that action is where the dreams turn into the reality. And today’s action step is this:
ACTION: Whether this is your first or tenth year of business, if you are already overwhelmed thinking about the holiday season, I want you to take a deep breath and think about what I’ve offered you today and then contemplate which, if any of these lessons might be for you this year as you work to grow your business.
Maybe you need to give yourself permission to be present and take some time off. Maybe you need to just cut yourself some slack and not start that new thing that you haven’t prepared for ahead of time. And – even if you have prepared but it’s just not feeling right, maybe it’s time to set it aside for now. Or maybe you need to be better at communicating your priorities to and with those around you.
It could be all three, but I just want to encourage you to really think about what this season means to you, what you’re prioritizing, and what really matters long-term. It’s these little decisions that will have huge lasting results.
No matter what you decide, just know that I’m cheering you on! You’ve got this! Have an amazing day and I’ll chat with you again next time.