Start-Ups

Startups: How to handle your business and take care of your people over the holidays

The holidays are often a stressful time for businesses, especially startups. Here are some tips to help you get through the season with your head above water.

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Image: iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

Whether you're selling Tickle Me Elmo or a CRM suite, the holidays are a busy time for a business. Trying to keep the company afloat while providing your employees with time off and wrapping up the end of year finances takes a lot of work.

Startup founders, many of whom are doing this for the first time, can find the holiday season particularly challenging. You want to maintain productivity while still keeping the relaxed atmosphere and cool culture that startups have come to be known for.

Here are some best practices to keep you on track when the holidays roll around.

Plan ahead

Early preparation is key in making sure that the critical days around the holiday are less hectic. Chet Kapoor and his team at API management company Apigee begin preparing for the holiday season in July to make sure they can support their enterprise customers on high-traffic days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

"Because our engineer team has done their diligence, when those days come around we know our side of the technology will be ready and our main job is monitoring to alert and assist our customers if something goes awry on their end—providing the best digital experience for shoppers," Kapoor said.

Most businesses can't shut totally shut down over the holidays. Therefore, communication is absolutely crucial in determining how the critical aspect of the business will be covered during the break.

"By delegating necessary work before the holidays and effectively communicating how each employee should proceed, it will again eliminate unnecessary calls and emails, and allow your employees to complete all critical work and enjoy their remaining holiday," said Brad Harrison, managing partner of VC firm Scout Ventures.

When it comes to divvying up the work, Codeship CEO Moritz Plassnig recommends employees take turns providing support at different times during the break.

Make it fun

Holidays are supposed to be fun, but they often carry their own stresses and frustrations. To ensure that holiday stress doesn't carry over into the workplace, do what you can to help eliminate it at the source.

Much of the pain points come with shopping for gifts and planning parties or travel. Dane Atkinson, founder and CEO of SumAll, said founders should try kicking their employees out of the office early on a Monday to give them time to catch up on their errands and avoid the major holiday rushes.

Of course, the fun can happen in the office too. At Codeship, Plassnig said they have a company retreat to foster fellowship among the employees. Kapoor said Apigee encourages team members to bring family into the office if they are around for the holidays.

"That's what the season is about, and we make it a priority," Kapoor said.

Startups often require a lot from their staff so, if you plan on giving gift, consider giving one to an employee's spouse or partner as well.

"Give gifts to your teams husbands and wives as a supportive thank you—can be something small but do something that shows you care about the family, not just your team member," Atkinson said.

Encourage rest

Unfortunately, another thing that startups have gotten a reputation for is overworking their employees. Generous vacation policies help, but there are other steps you can take to make sure your team gets adequate rest over the holidays.

Plassnig said Codeship encourages employees to disconnect as much as possible during time off to stave off burnout. Additionally, Harrison went as far as to recommend declaring a "no email" policy for the time employees are on vacation.

"By instituting a no email policy, it will eliminate trivial emails, and ensure that your employees are fresh and ready to work come the first of the year," Harrison said.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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