The prospect of leaving your SME while you take a holiday can be daunting. Will things fall down without you there? What if someone forgets to check the company email and something important is missed? Or they accidentally annoy your best client? Thinking about leaving your fledgling business in someone else’s hands can be downright stressful. But what’s the point of investing all this time and effort if you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labour? Taking a break will allow you to reflect on what you’ve achieved and where you want to go from here. So if you want to switch off and enjoy some rejuvenation time, keep reading. We’ve compiled a list of steps to take right now, so you can jump online and start planning that well-deserved break.
1. Realise there’s never a perfect time to take a break
A recent survey found that three quarters (76%) of small business owners in Australia forego holidays in order to keep their enterprise running smoothly. But you know what, there will always be things happening that make taking time off hard. If you wait for the perfect break in operations you might be waiting until the business is no more. Obviously be realistic with when you should go, but don’t put off a break for things that will always be a part of the day-to-day operations of your business.
2. Contact clients and customers in advance
Your clients are human too, and they’ll understand your need for a bit of time off. Let them know as early as possible in advance so you can come up with a plan together about what they might need while you’re away. This might include fulfilling some orders early, doing some proactive maintenance work or working out what they’re likely to need while you’re away. It’s also a good time to talk to them about getting someone you trust to stand in. Speaking with customers won’t just help manage expectations when you’re not around, it also shows them that you care and that you’re on the ball – this should help build relationships too.
3. Schedule what you can
Take advantage of today’s technology to schedule what you can in advance. There’s tonnes of stuff you can manage that doesn’t require you to be near a computer. You can schedule emails, social media posts and payments, allowing your business to run to an extent while you’re sipping cocktails by the pool. You can even set up banking alerts to get messages when your bank account balance is high, low, or when you’ve just been paid. “Automating key tasks gives you the confidence to step away from your desk without worrying about work piling up while you’re away,” says Matt Perkins, head of SME engagement at FreeAgent, which provides cloud accounting for freelancers, contractors and micro-businesses. He recommends using an automatic email responder and a tool such as Hootsuite to schedule social media posts. You can even set up email reminders to chase outstanding invoices while you’re away.
4. Delegate what you can
Think of this as an opportunity to give your employees some extra responsibility. It’s easy to fall into the trap of underestimating their capabilities, but they might be keen for the opportunity to show you what they can do. As well as being an encouraging step for them it could also help your business in the long run. Sit down with staff and ask them for ideas on how they could step up while you’re away. Asking for their input will lead to them feeling valued and like you trust them to run the show. Plus they might be able to continue with particular responsibilities when you return. No employees? Find freelancers or contractors and reach out to them early. Build relationships where you can lean on each other if either of you needs to take a break. You could even have friends on standby for emergencies. Brian Whigham, managing director at full-service digital marketing agency Venn Digital, says handing over the reigns to take a holiday can also boost your team, and it’s a mistake to assume they can’t cope without you. “If, after three years, you can’t leave your business alone then you’re doing something wrong,” he says. “It’s empowering for my team to know that they’re trusted to make the right decisions – without me ringing in every day to see what everyone’s up to – and it’s great to see my business carry on as normal when I’m not there. That’s how I know I have a successful business,” he explains.
5. Finalise the plan for how you’ll manage contact
So you can either choose to stay connected to your email 24/7, connected for only certain periods, or completely shut off. While there’s no right or wrong, it’s important that everyone involved is across the procedure for when you’re away. Making a clear decision allows clients and employees to know what to expect. Part of this process is identifying potential problems before you go. Then, clearly set out the circumstances under which you should be contacted. Create contingency plans for what to do if something goes wrong. Think about appointing someone to act on your behalf and take charge if any issues come up.
We all know it’s important to take time out to recharge so you can come back with renewed focus and energy to run your business. After all, quality of life is often the reason people make the entrepreneurial leap in the first place. Done properly, instead of being risks to the business, you can reframe holidays as being good for the business – and you too.