There are more than two million small businesses in Australia and those of us who run them know that to be successful you need to be prepared to work hard and to sacrifice some of the benefits that come from working in traditional jobs – like regular hours and scheduled leave.
As the owner of a busy retail store in South Australia that trades on all but three days of the year, I have lost count of the number of public holidays I have worked and how many nights I have stayed back when everyone else has clocked off for the day hours earlier.
But no business can – or should – rely solely on the efforts of one person.
As small-business owners, we should be able to go on an extended holiday, attend to family commitments, take sick leave or work from home – as many currently are doing due to COVID-19 restrictions – without fearing everything will fall apart in our absence.
Recently, I had to spend a week away from the store due to illness and then went straight into a four-day training program. The store operated smoothly without me. As it should. Earlier this year, before the pandemic forced us to change our plans, my family was planning to travel around the UK, Europe and Scandinavia for eight weeks.
While I never planned to fully switch off, I knew the business would be fine without me because of the systems and people I have put in place.
Whether you’re away for a few days or a few weeks, following these guidelines will ensure your business can continue to thrive.
- Processes – Every business should have “gold standard” systems in places that govern every aspect of their operation – from the way they interact with customers to how they handle complaints and refunds. Ensuring staff follow these processes, means a business will run smoothly all the time – even when the owner or manager is away.
- Staff – In my business I pay all the bills, do the wages and order the stock. My two assistant managers are in charge of rostering, merchandise and customer service. I trust my staff and give them the responsibility and authority to make decisions without me, but they also know I still keep a close eye on transactions and sales. If a business lacks staff with certain skills and experience, they should bring in outside help.
- Stock –Do a thorough stocktake and order extra ahead of time to ensure there will be no shortages in your absence. Tell your suppliers you will be away and let staff know of any deliveries that are due to arrive after you’re gone and who to chase up if there are any issues.
- Time – If you can, decide beforehand how much to let go. Are you comfortable taking business calls or answering a few emails while you’re sick or on a holiday? Are there any meetings that you absolutely have to be part of? Make your intentions clear to staff and your family so that there are no misunderstandings or surprises.
- Technology – if you don’t want to switch off entirely, or simply can’t, use technology that allows you to stay in touch without feeling like you are on call all the time. Some businesses have apps that allow owners to quickly check sales figures and other data on their mobile phones.
I believe it should be the goal of every small-business owner to get themselves to a position where they can move away from the daily grind.
Dave Strutton, Owner, Howard Storage World Mile End