Small business owners often find it difficult to disconnect during the summer months. On one hand, you have the freedom to take time off whenever you choose. On the other hand, while your employees, colleagues and customers all seem to be “on vacation,” you may be so consumed with running the business that you think you can’t afford a single day away from the office.
If you find it challenging to remove yourself from day-to-day operations while ensuring things run smoothly, you’re not alone. Less than 50 percent of small business owners actually take vacations. We are big believers in the positive power of downtime, so we are offering some tips to put your mind at ease and help you feel confident your business will survive while you’re away.
Prioritize time off.
Small business owners who want to take time off must make it a priority. Just like accomplishing any important task, putting a vacation on your “to-do” list will help ensure that you allocate the time.
If you need justification, there are numerous reasons why getting away is good for your physical and mental well being. These range from reducing stress and the risk of heart attack to returning with renewed energy and motivation. The bottom line: if it benefits your health it will benefit the health of your business.
Plan in advance.
Start planning your vacation as early as possible. Determine the best times of year to step away from your business, such as a slow season if there is one. Mark your calendar and tell employees, vendors, and colleagues you will be out of the office.
Giving plenty of advanced notice before taking time off will allow you to set clear guidelines around what can be expected during your absence. For example, you may want to let people know you will not be answering your cell phone or checking emails unless there is an emergency, or that you will be scheduling work check-ins at certain times of day.
It’s important to be proactive when communicating with clients. Tell them you’ll be taking vacation a few weeks ahead of time so schedules, deadlines, or meetings can be adjusted accordingly. Be sure to share details about who they should contact while you’re away, and reassure them that your team is well prepared to meet their needs.
If necessary, put in extra time or extend your hours of service the month before you leave. Completing assignments, delivering ahead of schedule, or simply letting clients know you care will allow you to feel better about taking the time off, and your clients will appreciate the effort.
Don’t be afraid to delegate.
Some small business owners are afraid that by delegating responsibilities, they are putting their businesses at risk. In order to ensure “business as usual” while you’re away, it is critical to temporarily assign essential tasks to employees or part-time staff.
Meet with managers or team leaders to review what they’ll be working on while you’re gone. Some business owners designate a staff member to manage daily activities and other employees. While this may feel like a gamble, it can have long-term benefits. Having a second-in-command to handle operational tasks can free you to work on expanding the business and exploring new opportunities.
If you own a very small business or are a sole proprietor, consider paying a business partner or trusted friend who understands what you do to manage emails and customer calls. Ask them to alert you to any emergencies or time-sensitive issues.
You may not want to give an employee or outside partner complete access to your financial accounts. If bills are due while you’re away, schedule the payments ahead of time rather than delegating this task.
Prepare for “what ifs”.
Planning for worst-case scenarios and preparing contingency plans can help ensure that you aren’t disturbed on your vacation. Brainstorm as many “what if” situations as possible with your team and create step-by-step instructions for how to respond. Problems can range from what to do if a customer threatens legal action to who to call if the company website goes down. This will help minimize or eliminate calls or emails from your staff and empower them to discover that you are not the only one who can manage the day-to-day.
Connect only if you need to.
With laptops, tablets, and smart phones, it’s easy for small business owners to stay connected during trips. You may find it more relaxing to check emails or your cell phone a few times each day, or you may feel that this adds more stress and frustration so you’ll need to completely unplug. Determine the best option and stick to it.
If possible, avoid forwarding business calls to your cell phone. If you’re unable to have anyone pick up your calls, arrange for a VOIP service provider like Grasshopper or RingCentral to capture and retrieve voice mail messages.
It’s important to trust your team to handle things while you’re away, as well as to trust that your clients will understand that they are in good hands. The hardest part of letting go is realizing that, with few exceptions, there is really no business emergency that only you can handle. The more you’re able to delegate, the less time you’ll spend connected to your business and the more you’ll benefit from your vacation.
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