More than a third of Australian business owners work through the summer holidays without taking time off. According to our research, while the rest of Australia takes a break, small business owners are clocking up more hours per week than the average doctor.
As a small-business owner, it’s hard to take a step back – especially if you’ve built your business from the ground up. But foregoing holidays can do both you and the business more harm than good. There are some easy steps that you can take to holiday-proof your business and minimise distractions during that much-needed break. Who better to provide these tips than Aussie small business owners who have been in this position before?
Communication is key, even if this means over-communicating. Tell people that you’re going away in advance instead of abruptly disappearing. Put an out-of-office responder on and forward your office number to a member of your team or voicemail if you’re a sole trader.
Manager of Fantastic Cleaners and mother of two, Jane Wilson, recommends taking all the small steps necessary, such as setting up email or voicemail to ensure customers can reach a member of your team, even if you are out of town. There’s a lot of unexpected “life admin” that comes with holidays, so ensure you have enough time to get your business in order and prevent last-minute stress from agitated customers.
If taking a few weeks off means that you won’t be able to speak with customers for a period of time, be sure to manage their expectations. This could be the difference between losing or retaining a customer. You could take a leaf out of Nalisha Patel’s book, a freelance digital marketing consultant who hires a virtual assistant to handle customer service when she’s offline. Her virtual assistant can respond to customer FAQs and point them in the right direction or let them know a response may be slightly delayed when they have more complex enquiries.
Additionally, if you have regular orders that are due while you’re away, talk to your customers to see if they’re happy to receive delivery outside of their usual dates. If you can automate delivery for the usual date, that’s even better.
Generally, it’s good practice to be able to step back and let other members of the team take the reigns. Peter Horsfield, founder of the financial advisory firm SMARTadvice ensures that his out-of-office reply automatically CC’s in the rest of his team so that they are aware of any issues and can address them as quickly as possible. Peter holds a comprehensive staff meeting before he heads off on holiday to discuss expectations and activities for the coming weeks, and gain assurance from his team. This lays the foundations for a stress-free holiday, gives others an opportunity to step up, and builds a self-sufficient business model for the long-term.
Don’t be afraid to put together a “pre-mortem”. By brainstorming the worst that could happen and planning for it, you’ll preempt any worst case scenarios. For example, if you know that cash flow could potentially cause an issue, cover yourself with a business loan from a short-term lender. Even if nothing happens, you’ll be able to fully enjoy your holiday knowing you’ve got all your bases covered.
Most importantly, switch off once you’re on holiday. With the right tools and preparation, you can create a self-sufficient business that thrives even if you’re not there.
Anna Fitzgerald, Corporate Relations Principal, Prospa