Tis the Season for Interiorscape Challenges

Last year I had a disastrous holiday season. I experienced almost every challenge you could possibly imagine. Basically, it was the quintessential Murphy’s Law for the entire holiday set-up season.

I dealt with staff not showing up or showing up hung over; having to go back and redecorate entire fifteen-foot trees because lights didn’t work or ribbon was attached cockeyed; and two keys getting locked inside the company vehicle, which forced staff to wait three hours till Pop-A-Lock arrived before they could get started.

This year, I swore, I would be more organized and experience much less costly mistakes. Starting with hiring new help.

Interiorscape Challenge #1: Hiring

holiday interiorscape challengeI was so frustrated with my crew, I started looking for new seasonal help the week after New Year’s. Normally, I don’t begin until the summer. I also hired two extra people in the event someone didn’t show up. Another change was increasing my seasonal rate an extra five dollars an hour from last year.  This is a gamble for me, since my labor costs last year went way over budget. On the other hand, it could also entice more quality people to commit working on Thanksgiving weekend or the week of Christmas.

The last part of my plan was to bring a hangover kit consisting of Tylenol, goodies, a cooler full of liquids, and snacks like cheese and crackers. As a business owner, you may wonder why I wouldn’t just send home staff that show up in a bad condition. If you have ever tried calling people to come work the day after Thanksgiving when you have ten buildings to decorate, you’ll find that you’re lucky if someone even answers their phone and it’s a miracle if they say yes. I was in situations when I called friends and family begging for their help.

Interiorscape Challenge #2: Prepping

Prepping as much as possible is key to having a smoother holiday season. Last year, I started late. This year, I began to prepare for next year while taking down clients’ décor. Normally, it’s a rush job of hauling everything out of the building and then shoving it into storage as fast as possible. Instead, I am making sure we label every client item, store them together, and put it all away neatly for easy retrieval.

The less you must decorate on site, the more you save on labor time. I make sure to pre-decorate everyholiday decor challenge wreath, garland, and swag before installation. The only time spent is hanging and adjusting. You can usually pre-decorate trees that are nine feet and smaller as well. Just wrap them in large cellophane after decorating to transport to the location.

Unfortunately, most of my client trees are twelve feet and taller, so moving something that size in one piece and fitting them through a door or an elevator is near impossible. I came up with an idea that would help save time and make it much easier for an inexperienced decorator (which most seasonal staff are) to hang evenly.

Instead of decorating a giant tree with each ornament, ribbon, and bow individually, I pre-decorated thick nine-foot stands of garland. When it came time for the crew to work on site, they only had to wrap the garlands around the tree. This saved a lot of time, as well as making it much easier for the seasonal help to achieve a professional look. The finishing touch was adding a few ornaments to the bare areas. Although buying several strands of high quality garlands is a major investment for me, I knew it would be worth the money. For smaller trees, I invested in the plain pine branches that I can attach different décor on and change out year after year. The same concept on a smaller scale.

Interiorscape Challenge #3: Organizing

seasonal help challengeThis year, all my seasonal staff were brand new except for one person. They had no idea what to expect, how to run installations, and where I kept all the supplies. My responsibility was to make sure I explained the procedures of setting up a commercial tree fully. Checking the lights before anything goes on, fluffing the branches before adding décor, attaching ornaments securely with wire.

My responsibility also included making sure each project had every tool and material the help would need. I lost valuable hours last year having staff run around to stores or the storage unit retrieving supplies. Like weddings, I find there are a dozen things that can go wrong on a job, such as blown lights, the wrong sized ladder, or forgotten client items. If you do not prepare, believe me, Murphy’s Law will become a reality.

Interiorscape Success

I’m happy to say that this year’s client holiday projects are up and running. Being proactive and investing extra money into labor and garlands paid off. Without fail, I did have one new hire disappear for Thanksgiving weekend installations, but every other staff member showed up on time and in decent condition. Even though we had checked all the lights and they had worked weeks before, there were a few that didn’t work during installation, but I was prepared with an abundant supply of backup strands.

Overall, this year was a much smoother season. I wasn’t out of my mind with stress; I didn’t have to beg anyone for help; and, even though I paid higher hourly wages, labor costs didn’t interfere with profit because my new staff worked more efficiently in a shorter time.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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