Tips for Throwing a Great Holiday Office Party

My clients have built some amazing businesses yet tell me that they are stymied about putting on a successful company party. It feels like there are so many details and that it’s tough to do it right.

It might feel easier to order pizza and leave it in the kitchen, but with just a little bit of effort you can create an event your staff will thank you for on Monday and remember for months. Here are my top eight tips for a simple and enjoyable office party:

   1.  Define your objective. Yes, even parties have an objective in my book! Decide if your goal is to build camaraderie, show your appreciation to your staff, or to let the staff burn off some stress together. Being clear about your desired outcome will make your celebration choice easier and a successful event more likely to occur. For example, if you’re looking to create more synergy amongst the staff, a night of games (laser tag, anyone?) is a great idea. If your staff has been under the gun and has produced beyond your expectations, a relaxing and perhaps luxurious night might be the ticket.

   2.  Enlist your staff to create the event. Give them a budget up front, tell them your goals, and let them know how the final decision will be made. If possible, let the staff make the decision as long as it meets your parameters. It gives your staff a shot of fun in their day and reminds them that you trust them.

   3.  Before the event, make a point of remembering your teams’ family member names and important events in their lives. If that’s not your strong suit, enlist the help of a trusted employee.

   4.  Mingle with your staff and their guests. Just like in high school, we can all get stuck in a rut with who we chat with, those with whom we have common interests. Every single one of your employees, though, wants a personal connection with you, a chance to tell you their thoughts, what’s going on in their lives. Small talk may not be something you love but honestly, this is one of those times you just need to suck it up and do it.

   5.  If your company is out in public together, it’s a public event. Sure, the event may be a chance for the team to let their hair down but like it or not, it’s also a window into your company culture to potential customers and clients. As the business leader, set the stage and show guests how you expect them to behave.

   6.  Let the financial piece of the event be transparent to your staff. Let the facility know ahead of time that you are financially responsible for the event and ask them to be discreet when it’s time to settle the bill. Go back to your objective; hopefully, reminding staff of how much you do for them (hear the violin?) is not on your list. Every moment of the event makes an impression on your staff; make sure it has the impact you want.

   7.  Communicate with the facility staff if any guests have issues; besides insuring that your guests enjoy themselves, this also reminds staff how you want your own customer concerns handled. Thank the facility staff personally at the conclusion of the event.

   8.  Thank the staff who put the event together. Point out one or two aspects you especially appreciated about how it all came together.

The most important element of a successful business party is to enjoy the time outside of the work day with your staff. These are the people who are creating and building your livelihood, the people who help your business vision come true. Thank them and enjoy the time with them.

Create Black Friday Magic; Small Business Marketing

black-fridayBlack Friday; Small Business Saturday; Cyber Monday; and the latest – Giving Tuesday. Some business owners are feeling a bit frantic, wondering, “How do I capture some of this business?” Rather than sitting on the sidelines wringing your hands, you can end the year strong with some brain power applied.

Ask a devoted shopper why they leave a warm bed in the wee hours of the morning and chances are they say something like “It’s fun being out there with other crazy shoppers!” or “There are some great deals if you get there early!” The magic of these marketing events for customers are the sense of belonging created; being part of a special group, a scarcity mentality and the fear of missing an opportunity. Rather than trying to fit into one of these marketing days, focus on the human needs they address and your business can capture some year-end traffic.

  1. Sense of belonging. Everyone likes belonging to a club and feeling included. If you’re a B2C business, consider a holiday open house with refreshments for “special guests” (everyone!) and their friends.
  2. Scarcity. For the same reason parents want to be the first at Target to get that limited edition toy. Customers will flock to your business if they believe there is a limited supply. Advertise special offers for the “first fifty” (this one can backfire – choose wisely) or a discounted, yet valuable, service available for a limited time.
  3. Opportunity. Part of Black Friday’s magic is the sense that the greatest deals of the year happen on this day, and if you miss it, you’ll have to wait another year. For B2B businesses, consider assembling a package of services or products that are available only during your year-end.

Finally, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now Giving Tuesday exist only because someone said they exist. You can do the same – announce your special day or event and, with proper planning, create your own small business marketing magic.

Business Year End, Are You Ready?

Summer is starting to wind down, families are talking about back to school, and your business may be transitioning from one season to the next. For many businesses, August can be slow and that can cause even the most seasoned business owners into a panic. That panic is easily avoided, though, if you know where you are with respect to your goals what you need to do reach your goals. Follow these three simple steps to feeling at ease as business year end approaches:

  1. Compare year-to-date results to your 2012 goals. Even if you never wrote down your goals, you had a number in your head. Are you where you need to be? Calculate how much business you need to do between now and December to reach your original goal.6156635313_a8dfb335b6_n
  2. Decide if your original goal needs to be adjusted – up or down. Just as it doesn’t make sense to shoot towards an overly optimistic goal, it also makes no sense to aim towards a goal you’ll reach by October. It’s just not fun! Make sure your 2012 goal feels “right” – the right amount of a stretch to energize you without overwhelming you. With your new goal in hand, determine the amount of business needed per month.
  3. If you’re running behind your 2012 goals, you can no longer convince yourself that “things will turn around” just as long as you stay the course. Decide on up to three courses of action you will take to meet your monthly target. Here are some examples:

          To increase my monthly sales to $12,000 from $10,000, I need to: 

  • Reach out to all former customers by mail by 8/31 followed by a targeted e-mail campaign by 9/11 with a bundled product/service offer. Remember to make it time-sensitive!
  • Create, test and implement a system to shorten the customer’s buying cycle by at least 1 week
  • Meet with staff to hear their business building ideas by 8/22; create an employee incentive program for one of those ideas and kick-off on 9/1. Make this fun and exciting!

Once you’ve created action goals, share them with a colleague, a friend, or a coach. Ask them to hold you accountable and set check-in points in your calendar. 

Business panic is most often caused by not knowing where you really stand and by the lack of a plan. Define those two and your fear will decrease; take action and see results and your panic disappears.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach


photo credit: Krissy.Venosdale via photo pin cc

Small Business Holiday Strategies; increase customer traffic

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Mother’s Day is right around the corner. A radio ad the other day went something like this:  “If you have a mom, know a mom, or are a mom, come on down…” Seriously? Just a little more creativity, thought and insight could yield this business credibility, recognition, and increase customer traffic. Consumer spending is up generally this spring, and small businesses can benefit at the same time as doing  a good turn for moms and those buying for mom.Mothers Day

Whether it’s Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, back-to-school time, or Hanukah, the key to reaching potential customers is the same: know your strengths and know your customer. Here is how you can increase customer traffic now, and any month of the year.

  1. Know your business’s strengths. What makes you unique? What attributes cause you to stand out from your competitors? Be specific – “great customer service” does not make you unique; it allows your doors to remain open. Consider advanced training, personal experience of the owners, or a specialized niche for which you are known.  For holiday purchasing, expanded hours and proximity can be considered strengths and also be key decision factors.
  2. Know your customer. Understand why your customers come to you and look for behavior patterns or demographics that drive their purchases.
    1. Use keyword research to understand what potential customers are searching for; use their language in your marketing. A common search this week might be “unique gifts for Mother’s Day in New Hampshire”. If you have that language on your page or in your social media campaign, not only do search engines like you but, personally, I will feel understood by you and that your offerings are a perfect match.
    2. Use your internal systems to sort customers by seasonality. If they purchased from you before the holidays or the weeks just before Easter, chances are they will be gift shopping for Mother’s Day.

Knowing your strengths and understanding your customers are critical whether you are placing a local print advertisement, Facebook ads, or developing other social media campaigns. Spend focused time creating clarity around your market and you can increase customer traffic by developing credible marketing for any season or holiday.


 – Helen Dutton, Business Coach

‘Tis The Season!

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This season,

  • Mend a quarrel.
  • Seek out a forgotten friend.
  • Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust.
  • Write a love letter.
  • Share some treasure.
  • Give a soft answer.
  • Encourage youth.
  • Manifest your loyalty in word and deed.
  • Keep a promise.
  • Find the time.
  • Forgo a grudge.
  • Forgive an enemy.
  • Listen.
  • Apologize if you were wrong.
  • Try to understand.
  • Flout envy.
  • Examine your demands on others.
  • Think first of someone else.
  • Appreciate.
  • Be kind, be gentle.
  • Laugh a little. Laugh a little more.
  • Deserve confidence.
  • Take up arms against malice.
  • Decry complacency.
  • Express your gratitude.
  • Say a prayer.
  • Welcome a stranger.
  • Gladden the heart of a child.
  • Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth.
  • Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak it still once again.

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Holidays! – Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.