If you’re like many business owners, you may be afraid of taking more than a few days off at any given time out of fear that your company will go downhill in your absence.
As a result, 59% of small business owners don’t take any vacation time at all, according to a survey by American Express. But don’t give up on your dream getaway: With careful preparation and a few tools at hand, you can ensure that even if you’re not around to supervise your staff, your company will keep running as smoothly as ever until you return.
If you have a manager supervising your staff on a day-to-day basis, leaving for vacation may not be much of an issue. But, if you’re like most small business owners, you’re likely to maintain tight control over your business’ daily operations, which makes it difficult to even take an afternoon off, let alone an entire week or two.
Before planning a trip away, focus on training your most senior employee to handle all of the tasks that you would normally take on by yourself. Allow your employee to handle challenging projects independently, while you remain available to offer assistance as necessary. Before you leave, encourage other staff members to treat your substitute with respect: Explicitly tell them that when you aren’t there, they should go to the temporary supervisor for instruction and help.
Once you’ve been in business for several years, you’ll probably have a good sense of which times of the year are the busiest. Track your company’s billing history to create a calendar of your business’ seasonal highs and lows, and plan a getaway during one of the periods when business tends to drag.
You won’t want your employees to bother you with emails or phone calls during your vacation with simple questions, so before leaving, prepare a document for your substitute supervisor that includes a daily “to-do” list, notes related to vendor and customer contacts, and any other details related to tasks or problems that may come up during your absence.
Even though your staff is well aware of your upcoming vacation, your outside business contacts won’t have any idea unless you notify them. Send out a group email (using “BCC” to mask each recipient’s address) to your contact list to tell them the dates that you’ll be away, providing the contact information for the employee that they should get in touch with in the meantime. When you leave for your trip, you may also want to set up an automated response message that includes the same details.
Because you’ve appointed a substitute to fill your role while you’re away, that individual may not be able to fulfill his usual duties. If necessary, consider hiring a temporary staff member or two to assist with simple tasks like customer service, so that your long-term employees will be able to focus on the business’ higher-level needs. Bring the temp workers in a day or two before you depart, so that you can ensure that they’ve been adequately trained in how to represent your business.
Unless you’ve made a point of unplugging yourself from all forms of technology while you’re away, you’ll likely be tempted to call and email your staff to find out how the business is going in your absence. If you feel that checking in will ease your mind, go ahead—but limit your check-in calls and emails to no more than once every few days, so that you’ll be able to spend most of your time focused on enjoying a relaxing (and well-deserved) vacation.
Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than 16 years.
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