Three-Point-Estimation-2 darts 20151109

How to avoid Christmas Burn-out in your business

Have you noticed how a lot of businesses want stuff done before Christmas, and that causes a mad rush, long days and exhaustion? So much so that many business owners work so hard in the lead up to Christmas, that they are too tired to enjoy the break. They lack the energy to play with the kids and enjoy the BBQs. And by the time they’ve had a rest and got their energy back, they realise they missed most of the break.

And because they were so busy before Christmas, they did very little advertising or marketing, so they don’t have much work lined up for the new year.

We hear that a lot, and there are a few simple things you can do to set yourself up for a successful Christmas, a great break, and a positive start to next year.

But first, if you don’t have time to learn this stuff, and just want someone to do it for you, at a ‘one time only’ price that is irresistible, then book in for a complimentary 30 minute strategy session here before 27 Nov 15.

Here are the things that you can do:

1.    Remind people Christmas is coming

Christmas has been in the calendar all year. But it is important to tell people how you will be working over the Christmas period. A colleague of mine runs a printing business and communicates really well around the Christmas period. He tells his customers when they will be shut down, the deadlines for submitting new jobs in order to get them delivered before Christmas, and when they will re-open in the new year.

And the key benefits of doing this are:

·         receiving more orders in November and December

·         avoiding last minute orders that have to be rushed through

·         helping your clients to be better organised and less rushed in their lead-up to Christmas

2.    The “Need It Now” premium

Imagine this. You are well organised and proactive. You ordered some items from one of your suppliers, well in advance. Someone else less well organised places a similar order at the last minute. Yours should get priority, right? And if the supplier has to pay overtime and do additional tasks to juggle the workload in order to complete both orders, that should not affect your price; the other less organised person should pay the premium, right? Yet so many businesses just say ‘yes’ to new orders, and absorb the extra costs. And this eats into more than just the profit margin. It also makes the Christmas burnout worse.

‘For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned’ Benjamin Franklin

Instead of this, give them options. When someone wants to buy from you in the lead up to Christmas, you look at your existing workload and capacity (if you don’t have a clear view of this, we can help) and determine when you can complete their work, taking into account your existing workload and the amount of time until Christmas. You then let them know your normal price for the work to be completed within existing capacity (and this may be for completion after Christmas). You also tell them the additional price if they want it quicker (you tell them the date you can do it by). And we can show you how to come up with appropriate prices and dates.

But what if they won’t pay the extra? That’s easy. They either don’t need it earlier, or they don’t really value your stuff all that highly. For the former, that helps to fill your order book for next year. And for the latter, if they don’t see the value in what you do, or recognise the extra effort you would be putting in to fit them in before Christmas, then maybe you should consider whether you fire them as a client and make room for other clients who do value and really appreciate what you do. Customers who don’t expect you to do just absorb the extra costs.

Another great benefit of this is that you can use it all year round to make sure you don’t commit beyond your capacity. And this can only help to build a better reputation with your market.

3.    Capacity management and the three-point estimate

Three-Point-Estimation-2 darts 20151109

We all know that when everything goes right, we can get stuff done quicker and cheaper. And we also know that when Murphy’s Law kicks in, things will take longer and cost more to do. But most businesses don’t take these two fundamental planning issues into consideration with their estimating of costs and delivery dates. From my 15+ years of project management, three-point estimation is one of the most powerful and under-used techniques for meeting or exceeding expectations AND for saving costs. So here is how you do it.

Firstly, this can be done simply, without fancy tools. In fact, a spreadsheet can be a good start for many small businesses. When you normally estimate tasks, you come up with your best estimate (or guess) of the time and materials costs, think about the people who will do the work, how much work they already have on, and then come up with an estimated finish date. Then you tell the customer what it will cost and when it should be finished, right?

The is one point of the three. In three-point estimation, instead of just one cost and schedule, you have a best case, worst case and most likely estimate. For example, a builder is going to build a house. For the best case, the permits are approved really fast, the weather is great and the sub-contractors all do their stuff on time. That results in a cost and schedule estimate for the job of three months to completion and $100,000. But you know it will never go that smoothly.

The worst case is that the permits take a long time, the weather delays works a lot, and the sub-contractors keep getting other, more profitable work and seem to only work on the house a couple of days per week. That results in a cost and schedule estimate for the job of six months to completion and $160,000. But from experience, you know it is not likely to that bad. So your most likely estimate for the job is 4.5 months to completion and $125,000.

Now these are just numbers, so are you ready to learn the most powerful bit? The commitment you make to customer is based on the six months and $160,000, and you let them know you will do your best to finish earlier. And you get your team and the sub-contractors working towards the three months and $100,000 target. When you do that, then you are likely to land somewhere in between. And every time it looks like you are going to finish later than three months and over the $100,000 target, it can be reported, and you can take action to finish as close to that as possible to the best case.

Contrast that to how most businesses operate, with just one point (and noting that for many businesses, the one point is usually a conservative estimate closer to the worst case). Nobody is trying to finish in just three months, and they may not tell the bosses about a problem until a delay beyond six months is inevitable, or they have spent the $160,000 and need more money (or both).

So what are you going to do from now onwards? Use one point or three-point estimation for your work? Because that can get your work done quicker, save you money, and give you more control over work-load and commitments, as well as making for a much better Christmas. And that’s what we all want. And if you just wish that someone could implement this in your business, at a ‘one time only’ price that is irresistible, then book in for a complimentary 30 minute strategy session here.

I trust that you found this useful, and maybe you can see that if you did these three things, you could have a successful Christmas, a great break, and a positive start to next year. So go and do them now. Schedule time in your calendar for when you will action these things.

If you know this sounds sensible, but you are not sure how you would find the time to implement this in your business, we can do it for you. But we have a limit on how many new clients we are taking on with this one-time offer, and the offer will expire by 27 Nov 15 or earlier, so book your complimentary 30 minute strategy session now.

Have a great week.

Russell and the Business Time Lord team

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