Holiday – how to prepare your team for when you go awayNatalie Lewis
For small business owners, taking a holiday, at least one where you don’t spend the whole time tethered to your smart phone or computer, may seem nearly impossible.
Do you worry that if you do go on holiday you’ll need to spend hours hunched over your laptop in your hotel room or take endless business calls whilst you’re on the beach or sightseeing?
As much as I’d love to tell you it’s possible to totally unplug yourself from your business while you go on holiday for a week or two, I can’t. That’s because I’m one of those small business owners who won’t leave for any kind of trip without my smart phone and my laptop.
Even though I check in on things while I’m away, I’ve learned ways to minimise the time I spend working and you can too!
Prepare Your Business In Advance for Your Holiday
The key to making your holiday a real pleasure is to prepare your clients and your employees for your absence.
If you have individual clients that work with you personally (rather than with any of your employees), alert them in advance to when you’re going away and tell them that you will be unavailable to do their work during your holiday.
If you have clients who tend to procrastinate, tell them you’re going to leave (or will be unavailable) starting several days before you actually plan to leave for holiday. That way, you won’t have to deal with their last minute requests when you want to be packing and getting ready to leave. Tell them you’ll be back at work two or three days after you actually get back, too. Doing so will give you time to catch up and get back in the swing of things before dealing with clients and new issues.
Prepare and Train Your Employees for Your Absence
Over the years I’ve learned that if there’s anything in the office that could possibly break down or go wrong, it will do so while you’re away!
If the office internet connection is going to go out, it will happen when you’re gone. If your website is going to go down, it will do so while you’re away and it’s guaranteed that your biggest client will have some sort of crisis!
For those who don’t have employees, I’d recommend asking a trusted business buddy to be on the end of the phone to smooth out any incidents that may occur whilst you’re away.
For those of you who have employees, firstly assign responsibility for handling problems to one employee but let the others know that if that person was out of the office, they could and should handle any problems that needed immediate attention.
Then prepare a list telling them how to handle various problems and emergencies for when you aren’t available. For example:
- Steps to take if any of the computers won’t start in the morning, when to call in help, and who to call.
- What to do if the internet connection goes down, including where the router is, who your internet provider is, what to look for and how to reset things.
- What to do if the company website goes down and who to call to troubleshoot and fix the problem.
- A list of important phone numbers such as building maintenance, phone providers, the company bank, service providers for your company etc.
- What to do in the event of a client complaint.
- How to handle a problem with a fellow colleague (contact HR)
To avoid having employees sending you multiple emails every day, tell them what kinds of things you want to be notified about and when. Unless there is a really urgent and important matter, ask them to send one email at the end of the day briefly summing up anything you need to know about before you get back.
Set Holiday Rules for Yourself
All the advanced planning in the world won’t help if you allow yourself to be sucked into work on your small business every day. To avoid that, set a time of day and a time limit for checking in on the business. Choose a time of day when you’re likely to be just hanging around the hotel room anyway. I find that half an hour early in the morning and perhaps another 45 minutes in the evening works best for me.
If you can possibly avoid it, do not call forward your business line to your cell phone. Empower your employees to pick up your calls for you, use a virtual office answering service or a virtual PA.
Don’t spend time posting to or reading social media accounts while you’re away. If posting to social media is part of your daily business routine, create and queue up the posts in advance with a tool like Hootsuite, or have a virtual assistant or employee create and post them for you.
This tip is more a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ piece of advice. Save the great photos you take for posting when you return. Posting holiday photos saying “we’re having a great time here” could make your home a target for burglars. But if you have someone to look in on your house when you’re away, like I do … crack on!
Finally, remember, the less time you spend connected to your business while you’re away, the more you’ll enjoy your holiday and benefit from it.
This is a good time to empower and trust your team to handle things in your absence. You might actually learn just how good they are!