It’s that time of year again. Black Friday has come and gone, and we are well into December. At this point in the month, there are several key items on our to-do list.
1) Moratorium on programming and “small jobs” through the end of the year
2) Gifts for key clients
3) Gifts for trade partners
4) Employee bonuses and gifts
Moratorium on Programming and Small Jobs
As of the second Monday in December, we will not begin any new code for projects. If we have not started yet, we will not start until the new year. If we start coding a project now, inevitably we are wrapping up the week before Christmas, so our “shake-out period” ends up being over the holiday. This leads to terrible experiences for everyone involved—myself, my employees, and our clients.
Before we instituted this policy, we often would receive panicked calls from clients in the days before, or on the day of, Christmas. We would scramble to get things working, even though we had clearly expressed to the client that there would be bugs until we could iron everything out. We were often short staffed, as employees were on vacation and the technical support desks for our vendor partners were also short-staffed for the same reason. It made the days leading up to the holidays and the week between Christmas and New Years incredibly stressful and took away from everyone’s enjoyment of the season.
Now we tell clients that we do not have capacity to begin programming until after the holidays. There is therefore nothing to breakdown, as we do not even have the system operable. Yes, this does push billings and revenue into the next year, but we have found this to be a very worthwhile tradeoff.
In the same vein, while I am a big believer in taking on smaller projects to fill in the gaps in work, we will not undertake these projects in the two weeks before Christmas. They are just as susceptible to issues as the larger projects and again can lead to dissatisfaction all around.
Last year in this space I wrote about gift giving for clients and trade partners around this time of year. This year, some of our top gifts will be the Echo Dot, Apple TV 4K (especially now with Amazon Video), Crestron HR150 remotes for a secondary room (mainly for projects we are wrapping up in early December, so it will not take an extra site visit; we can just ensure that it works and then send the client the remote as a surprise), and in some rare cases a SonosONE for those clients who have Sonos.
For many years, I was torn on paying bonuses to my team. While I wanted to reward them, a bonus can quickly become an expectation and could become an expense we may not be able to afford in difficult times. And while that is still the case, we are paying two-week bonuses to the team and have been doing so for the past couple of years.
I have been fortunate to have a very successful company, and I couldn’t have done it without my team. They deserve a reward. But I am also very specific about what they have done for the year to earn the bonus, and I include a growth percentage that goes up in good times and down in bad. If we are up 20 percent, then bonuses are up 20 percent over the standard two weeks pay. If we are down 20 percent, then bonuses go down 20 percent. That way it is tied to the fortunes of the business and should help keep expectations in check in down years.
I also use the opportunity to give gifts to employees, typically with product I want them to learn and get better with. So if they do not have an Apple TV, I may give them one so they can speak more intelligently about it with a client. Or they may get an Echo Dot to control their lighting at home, again so they can help our clients more. These gifts tend to be self-serving and not everyone gets one—only those who will benefit from the knowledge in their client interactions.
What’s on your December to-do list? Let us know in the comments section.