How to manage workload in the run-up to Christmas
(without going crackers).

17 December 2018

It’s beginning to look a lot like… panic stations, everywhere you go. With just a couple of weeks to go, the Christmas rush is on. Everyone wants their projects finished, boilers are breaking down, rain’s stopping play and there’s about ten minutes of good light a day. So what’s the best way to manage your workload and make it through to the big break?

It happens every year, but still somehow sneaks up on us. Suddenly every single customer wants their work wrapped up, and new ones come out of the woodwork with little things they’re wondering whether you could fit in before the family arrives. The days are short, the weather’s cold, delivery dates are restrictive and you haven’t got a spare second to think about January.

By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, most tradespeople are ready to drop, let alone ready for two weeks with the kids and the in-laws. How you survive the festivities is up to you, but when it comes to managing your team through the pre-Christmas rush, we’ve got a few ideas…


1. Stop and step back. Wait, what?

It probably feels like the last thing you should do, but investing an hour in a good, solid plan for managing workload over the next couple of weeks will pay you back, big time. Do it on a dark afternoon and you’ll also be making great use of time you’d have otherwise lost.

It sounds obvious, but if you’ve been full steam ahead for weeks, it’s hard to stop and see the bigger picture. Take a proper look at what’s on your plate, the time you’ve got left and the people you’ve got on board to make it happen. Break it into chunks, looking at what each person can do in, say, half a day. Be realistic, prioritise things that really can’t be pushed back and plan it out.

Drawing out this kind of thing on paper, or even on a wall chart, can really help to show what’s actually possible. After all, there are only so many hours in a day and, at this time of year, not as many as most of us would like. Be clear on what’s doable, and then be really clear with your customers about what to expect – and your team about what’s expected of them.


2. Stick to your guns

We all want to help our customers and make them happy. It’s good business. But there’s only so far your time will stretch, and it’s better to be honest about what you can do than make promises you can’t keep. Most people will appreciate your honesty and those super-urgent building, painting and plastering jobs often turn out to be less urgent than they first seemed.

You don’t have to give people a flat no. Just explain how much you’ve got on and tell them when you could help. If something can wait until January or later, you’ll be securing work for the months ahead, when things might otherwise be quieter. If they really can’t wait, being friendly and honest still might mean they’ll think of you another time.


3. Get some little helpers

Even Santa gets an extra hand at this time of year, and he’s a magic man with a flying sleigh. Ask around and see if you can get a few more hands on deck, even if it’s just with the simpler jobs that are taking up your team’s valuable time. Christmas is a pricey time of year for everyone, so there’s usually someone out there looking for a few extra hours’ work to top up their shopping budget.


4. Light up your site

If you’re working outside, dark days make life pretty difficult. Hiring some extra lighting for a week or two can be a great way to extend your working day and make your site safer, without a big investment. They’ll allow you to start earlier, finish later and cram a whole lot more into your day.


5. Keep on quoting

Yes you’re short on time, but if you don’t keep on quoting – and following up on quotes – you might also be short on work come January. Again, use those darker afternoon hours or make the most of times when the weather’s so bad you have to stop.

It doesn’t need to take long, and tools like YourTradebase can give you some great shortcuts, like super quick quote templates, alerts when your quotes are opened and reminders when it’s time to follow up. Even if you just find half an hour a day to get back to people, pop in and price up, or chase up quotes, you’ll be helping to make the new year a better one for your business.

By Dean Taylor

Back in 2010, Dean's building business was growing. He was doing great work, making people happy and enjoying being his own boss – but he was worn out. Not by the graft, but by the piles of paperwork taking up every evening. So, he got together with his cousin Adam, a web developer, and came up with a simple way to solve the problem – and help a whole load of other tradespeople too. They called it YourTradebase. Try it for yourself with a free 14 day trial. No strings. No credit card needed.

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