Balancing Your Personal and Professional Life Over the Holidays

Running a successful business is about balance, including time at – and away from – your shop.
Photo Credit: ATA

Author: Cassie Gasaway

The busy holiday shopping season is here! Are you worried about balancing your personal and professional life around Christmas and New Year’s? We spoke to three retailers to learn how they manage their time, employees and store hours during the holidays. Let’s hear their tips for making it all work.

Coordinate with your team members to make a holiday schedule. Photo Credit: Archery Country

Tyler Vanderkolk, owner of Archery Country in Austin, Texas

Vanderkolk manages five full-time employees and one part-time employee. He works with his staff to grant their holiday vacation requests, but he ends up working the whole season, except when the shop is closed.

“I get everyone together in November to ask about family schedules and plan accordingly,” Vanderkolk said. “Thankfully, my guys aren’t too needy. They get their time and are flexible, but I basically gun through the holiday season because we’re so busy. I bank on taking a week off in February and March to make up for it.

Vanderkolk acknowledges that this is part of owning a business. “That’s the problem with being an entrepreneur,” he said. “You don’t have to ask to take time off, you can leave when you want, but you shouldn’t leave when you’re busy. You need to grind and make money when you can because it’s not always that way.”

Vanderkolk steps out to take family Christmas card photos and similar activities during the holiday season, but said his family knows he’ll be gone most of the time.

“It’s one of those deals where everyone knows what to expect going into the holiday season,” he said. “I have to work to provide for my family, and they understand that. You have to be there when the customer wants to be. They usually procrastinate their Christmas shopping – and I don’t blame them – so our busiest time is the week before Christmas. It really ramps up and you notice it.”

Try to keep your work and personal life separate. Photo Credit: Archery Unlimited

Neal Kiehne, owner of Archery Unlimited LLC in Etna, Wyoming

“As fiscal as the archery business is, we try and stay open with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day,” Kiehne said. “Some folks are already looking forward to time off at Christmas to spend time with their kids and spouse. However, the busy time is a revolving door, so you need to be prepared for it when it comes.”

Kiehne works with his wife and one full-time employee. He said their employee works hard during the holidays, so they make sure she gets time off to spend with her family. Additionally, Kiehne said his family doesn’t live close, so they rarely get together during the holidays. This, he says, is a benefit, as he can be available when his customers need him.

“Owning and operating a successful archery business isn’t for people who feel they need time off (during the holidays),” he said. “When customers want to come to your store, it’s best if you are there. My recommendation for separating the store from your personal life is to make sure you do something other than play with bows. It’s cool to go to tournaments and such, but if all you do is spend time with a bow in your hand, you’ll get sick of it very quickly – no matter how passionate you think you are about it.”

Strike a balance between being there for your customers and being there for your own family. Photo Credit: Top of Utah

Lance Postma, owner of Top of Utah Archery in Logan, Utah

Postma said he usually has two or three employees to help him juggle his time between work and family, but this year he’s on his own. At the end of the year, one of his employees left for college, and the other went on a service mission. After the coronavirus hit, he never rehired. He closes the shop for all major holidays, including Christmas and New Year’s, but he’s undecided whether he’ll take more time off this year. However, Postma offered this advice to others:

“You have to decide if you want to make the business your life or if you want your life to be about people,” he said. “Customers should understand if you make your life about people, because you’ll be there for them. But they must realize your people and family matter, too. If you’re all about business and the sale, you’re probably not putting enough time into your people or customers. You’ll lose sight of what matters, and it’ll cost you your family and eventually your customers.”

Postma values family time and said taking off on Christmas and New Year’s is essential. He said he sacrificed a lot of his children’s younger years working late. He also said closing on a holiday is a good way to recharge because work is busy and stressful. He communicates these closures with the community to help customers prepare.

“I try to help people plan ahead,” he said. “I let them know the days we’re closed by word of mouth, social media marketing and signs on my store. We’re the busiest two weeks before Christmas and the week between Christmas and New Year’s when people bring their equipment in to get it set up. I’ll work all those hours myself, which will be a trick and a challenge, but it will make family time that much more enjoyable and rewarding.”


Strike the Right Balance

All three retailers take Christmas and New Year’s Day off. But they try to work their regular hours the rest of the time to be available for last-minute shoppers. They encourage shop owners to be present in the moment at all times. In other words, if you’re at work, be at work, and when you’re at home, be at home. Running a successful business is about balance, including time at – and away from – your shop. Determine what’s feasible for you. Your business and family both matter, so be honest and communicate expectations to both parties. If you must be at work now, remember to be with your family later – and, of course, enjoy the holiday season.

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