End the Year on a Good Note

2015loadingReposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.

The year is winding down, and the holidays are upon us.

The remaining days of your 2014 calendar are likely filled with parties, dinners and family gatherings. It’s time to put business on the back burner and spend some quality time with loved ones. You deserve a break!

If you are planning to switch off from your business around the end of December, you’ll need to do a little planning ahead to ensure you don’t lose any momentum as we transition into a new year.

1. Send holiday cards to customers
If you haven’t already, send a holiday card to your valued customers, clients and subscribers. You don’t have to be William Shakespeare — a simple holiday greeting and a note of appreciation will suffice. Keep the message short and fairly generic and avoid cards that are religious or humorous.

Sending an e-card for free may be tempting, but it will not be nearly as effective as a traditional card hand-delivered by the postal service. Emailed cards could be mistaken for spam, and they just don’t have the same personal impact. Customers want to do business with companies that make them feel appreciated. By sending physical cards, not only are you spreading some holiday cheer, but you are keeping your company in your customers’ thoughts.

Because the postal service is busy around the holidays, try to get your cards in the mail by Dec. 13 so they arrive before the end of the year.

2. Schedule your social media posts
Many social media platforms allow a business to create a post and schedule it to be published at a later date and time, effectively putting your pages on auto-pilot. You can also sync many of your social media pages so that, for example, when you publish a new blog entry, it is automatically posted on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Check out each site’s FAQ or help sections for detailed instructions on these processes.

3. Organize and clean your inbox and computer
Clean up your inbox and computer files and attend to those less-important items that you’ve been putting off. Archive items you need to keep but to which you do not need immediate access. File documents into their proper folders for easy access later on. Having a clean office environment and computer will do wonders for getting off to a good start in 2015.

4. Get your financials in order
Make time to go over your 2014 budget and your actual revenues and expenses. This will help you plan your finances for 2015. Are you over-spending in any areas? Adjust and get back on track in the new year. Are there any outstanding invoices you need to send out? Send them out now. As a bonus, by getting your financials in order now, you are getting a head start on tax season!

5. Set up your out-of-office systems
Customers may have questions over the holidays, so make sure they’re not left waiting for answers. Change your voicemail message to explain your plan for the holidays and when you will return. Also set up an automatic email reply with the same information.

If there are any files or documents you want to work on during your holiday break, email them to yourself or use a digital drop box to make them available wherever you are. However, I do recommend taking a real break from all work-related activity. It is perfectly OK to take a step back, relax and recharge your batteries!