How to Enjoy the Holidays When You’re a Small Business Owner
October 1, 2019
Guest Post by Miles Guidon Co-founder & CTO for DropVendor
What does this coming holiday season make you think of? Time off from work? Traveling back home, maybe? It could even be that you’re just looking forward to more time spent with family and friends – without the added edge of feeling like you have to be checking your work email for a few weekdays in a row (or weeks, if you’re lucky).
If you’re not self-employed, then you’re more likely to have some version of this positive association between the end-of-year holiday season and your work-life balance. If so, I envy you -- that’s the way it should be. For all of the purported perks of being self-employed, one of the things most of us not on some version of the 9-to-5 don’t often get to enjoy is that feeling of a bonafide, boss-sanctioned, Grade-A break from the daily grind. This holds more true if your professional stability depends heavily on self-directed work -- basically, any situation where there’s nobody to answer to if things don’t get done – aka many, many small businesses.
That last part is one of the big gripes I have with being self-employed, especially during the end-of-year holiday season – if I let myself off the hook and go totally work-free like “everybody else,” then nothing gets done. Here’s the kicker, though: there’s nobody at my desk in two weeks, looming over me, asking me where’s that thing I didn’t do -- it’s an open loop. A slippery slope. In fact, I feel myself falling through the cracks even as I’m writing this.
The holiday season is really supposed to be the time that we all get to pause from the previous year’s hard work, so of course I’ve had to find ways to strike a balance that keeps me in the right state of mind during an extended break, without the background anxiety of letting my business slip away.
I rely heavily on technology to keep me connected -- and disconnected -- from work; specifically any software that lets me keep my finger on the pulse of my business without being immersed in it.
“For me, it’s all about setting expectations for communication, and not being anchored to my desk.” - Miles Guidon, DropVendor
Stop the work texts
If you’re using text messages as your default mode for pinging colleagues -- even if it’s something short -- please consider taking a break this December. And then keep up the habit... forever. Texts are a little too intrusive, and emailing a one-liner question -- well, you might as well just send me a fax at that point.
For work-related communication, apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams could be winners. It lets me stay instantly connected with colleagues around the clock, with the understanding that a conversation can either be an immediate back-and-forth chat, or more of an I’ll-answer-this-in-two-days kind of exchange. They also continue to add truckloads of useful features -- like instantly deleting or editing your own messages -- but I mainly use it because it’s the perfect combination of fast and slow.
For freedom, lean on the Cloud
Having something like Google Drive or Dropbox is a no-brainer, and while I use these services year-round, a persistent cloud-based workspace is an indispensable tool if you’re traveling during the holidays but still want to take care of business. I don’t want to be sitting at my desk or lugging around the laptop just because I might need to put together a quote or write a quick post. Not to mention some of the hiccups that can happen with hardware like a horribly placed spill. Even though there are ways to recover and transfer data, it might be easier if all of it stays in one place.
The ability to roam around with most of my work in my pocket does wonders for keeping on top of things when you want to take a break from “sitting down and getting some work done”.
Work smarter, not harder
“Once you start defending your time like the most valuable asset it is, everything changes.”
Want to sell me something? Show me how it saves me five or ten minutes of work, and my wallet will jump out of my pocket and start dancing on the table.
I love to work. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t love spending lots of time doing it, but I do enjoy the feeling of creating something from nothing. I can’t get enough of it, so I’ve become committed to improving my workflows so I can do more of it without missing out on, you know, life.
Over the past five years, I’ve run a 3D Design business where 75% of my time went towards communicating with the customer, 15% of the time went towards the actual provision of creative services, and the last 10% went to all other back-office needs.
Three-quarters of my workday was being spent on repetitive communication with each new customer: explaining our services, defining their needs, sending proposals and invoices, following up on payment, manually engaging in the creative review, revision, and final asset delivery process -- crucial tasks, yes, but all tasks which a well-written software-driven process can easily handle. So, I taught myself how to write software, and after a year or so, I was able to offload most of my day onto an online customer account system I had built to handle the entire customer interaction. And it worked like a charm -- turns out that everybody likes to save time. Repeat business shot up, and the business has prospered.
After five years of doing it the hard way and chucking my time out the window, I decided to invest that time into something that would last. The business certainly suffered in the short-term, because I made myself less available to run it -- but the investment paid off.
You don’t need to write software applications or teach yourself an entirely new skillset to do this. If you feel like you’re wasting time with repetitive tasks and processes, take a step back and devote 10% of that time to optimizing your workflow. Even if it’s as simple as writing a few email templates or delegating those time-wasting tasks so you can focus on your priorities. Once you start defending your time like the most valuable asset it is, everything changes.
Sharing what I’ve learned
What did I do with this newfound free time and software know-how? I went with what I know, and what I know is how to vaporize repetitive and time-consuming work tasks.
As a result, I was able to move forward with my next venture, a software platform called DropVendor.
The irony isn’t lost on me: for someone so committed to liberating free time, I’m pretty eager to fill it all back up with more work. But I’m finally doing it the right way, and with this year’s holiday season right around the bend, a few simple tools and a commitment to working smart (not hard) is all I need to comfortably unplug and enjoy the end of the year with the people I care about.
Miles Guidon is a serial entrepreneur who helped found MOCAPdesign, Hollywood 3D Printing and DropVendor in Southern California. He began his career as an electrical engineer, became a tech consultant and worked off-hours to build his businesses with his brother, Philip, starting in 2011. Click here for more information on DropVendor and how it can save digital content creators valuable time.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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