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Closed for the Holidays?

Imran Saddique, Brevo’s CEO and managing director, makes the case for a company-wide shutdown during the happiest time of the year.

By

December 22, 2020

Every December, a few days before Christmas Day, my creative agency Brevo ceases all operations for a two-to-three week period during the holidays. For the past three years, this is what we’ve always done each year, and what we will continue to do moving forward.

There are a few factors that led me to this decision. One, agency life is very hectic and fast-paced. Especially for creative people—I think they need to be able to step back and breathe every now and then. On a personal level, it allows them to spend quality time with family and friends over the break. 

I honestly just think it makes for healthier and more productive employees. A lot of people want to skip the holidays, and I just don't think that's a good thing. A break lets them recharge and come back with a fresh outlook for the next year. 

This isn’t easy, considering that the Christmas period is usually the busiest time of the year. When you work in an agency, and especially when you work with FMCG clients, the holidays are a crucial sales period. And they require an agency to be constantly churning out content, especially during a period where consumers are more likely to shop more.

When I was in the US, I had a meeting with a client today who told me: "We'll probably get two days off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then we're back to work." And the same thing happened to me in the UK—me and my co-employees would bargain with each other as we arranged our holiday working schedule.

For Brevo, I didn't want to have that type of environment. I considered all factors, and saw that the positives far outweighed the negatives. Personally, I think it has even made our agency more productive. And just being able to press that off switch for the holidays has done wonders in recharging one's creativity.

It isn't a common practice, and less so for the advertising industry. Still, I looked at it from a human perspective. It's always good to take time off, and letting employees know this is incredibly important. Our yearly shutdown shows my employees that the company is human, and that we encourage them to spend quality time with their loved ones. In turn, they hopefully develop a loyalty to Brevo and our culture, and how we operate. No matter how busy we get, we make it a point to not compromise our holiday break.

I remember bringing it up with one of our clients in our first year working together, and they were admittedly very surprised. But what was encouraging for me was by the second year, they started asking me when our Christmas break will take place so they can plan around it. I knew then that I had made the right decision. 

We make it a point to reassure our clients that whatever needs to be done will be done before we go, and we have a plan for when we come back, and that it's like they won't miss a beat with us. And once they saw that, the clients all came on board. Now, we let our clients know the date of our shutdown beforehand, and thankfully everyone understands and respects it.

To date, Brevo hasn't missed a deadline due to our year-end shutdown. I credit that to much planning, especially from the accounts team. We plot our last day a couple of months ahead, and we start to plan accordingly in terms of projects and what we need to discuss with clients ahead of time. We plan out deadlines, and decide on what can be postponed to next year. Thankfully, our clients have always understood that. We haven't had any pushback from their end.

We're also selective when it comes to taking on projects during the holidays. If there's a particular project that will compromise our agency shutdown, we just wouldn't take it on. The long-term benefits to team morale and mental health far outweigh the short-term financial success. If you don't draw a line in the sand somewhere, then that line will always be moved. And that's something I always like to stand by.

Honestly, I would say to all CEOs out there: treat your team as you would want to be treated yourself. If you're that type of CEO that is constantly working, you need to understand that not everybody might be driven by the same things that you are, and you need to consider  how your employees can benefit from time with their families.

At Brevo, I can just say that the results have spoken for themselves. We've had success in terms of year-on-year growth, with a minimum growth of 100 percent year-on-year in terms of revenue since we started. Since year 1, we've observed our Christmas break religiously, and our clients and employees have reacted positively to it—and more importantly, our bottomline has grown at least double every year.

For me, the proof is in the pudding, and I think a holiday break is something all companies should be taking on. And let’s not limit it to the holiday season, a healthy work-life balance is very important to the success of a business. I would say the results have been great for us, and I think they would for other companies, too.

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