Vacation time is a luxury many business owners don't have the opportunity to enjoy. As the holidays grow near, vacation is on the mind of many a service industry pro. It's hard to take the time to recharge on vacation when you're still responsible for your company. However, as business owners, we know that taking time off is essential for our wellbeing—and our businesses. Don't worry: with the right mindset and smart planning, you can enjoy a stress-free vacation without losing ground on your business.
Here are some tips for keeping your business running smoothly when the boss disappears for a week or two:
Ensure your entire team has a plan for while you're away.
If you have a team of people who can step in while you're away, they must know exactly what to do in your absence. Ensure that your entire team is aware of any changes while you are away. Make sure they understand what's happening and know their responsibilities during this time so there is clarity when you return.
Don't be afraid to ask for help if you're unsure.
When you're getting ready to go on vacation, don't be afraid to ask for help. Ask your team, customers, and suppliers if they'll have time to step up in your absence. You may be surprised at how willing people are to pitch in and help make things run smoothly while you're away.
You don't want your vacation to feel like a burden, or that it's taking away from the life of someone who steps up to help. Try handing off tasks that can easily be delegated so there isn't too much stress on any one person. If not all of those things can be outsourced—and most likely some can—maybe consider bringing someone on board full-time who can take care of them for now. This can also help them build relationships with clients they may have access to one day down the road!
Test your communication channels.
Test your communication channels before you go on vacation. Test them while you are away, and then test them again when you return.
Make sure they work. Could you make sure they are secure and reliable? If there are any issues, have a plan to deal with them ahead of time so that no one has to worry about the problem while dealing with other things on their plate during the vacation period. If necessary, ask for help or delegate tasks to others who can take care of them in your absence (or at least know how much more work needs to be done).
Be clear on what to do in case of emergencies.
You'll want to do a few things to prepare for this. First, ensure that you and your team know what to do in an emergency. It is best to have a plan that everyone is aware of. Additionally, if something happens while you're away, the next person in charge needs to know the steps to correct the situation.
To help with this process, create a shared document where everyone can keep notes about progress toward completing their tasks or projects during your absence. This way, people can go straight to the document instead of having long phone calls or meetings where everyone has different versions of the events taking place!
Regarding who is responsible for handling these situations during your vacation time, designate one person on each project as the main point of contact. This way, everyone will know who they need to ask if issues pop up while no one else is around (though hopefully, this will only happen sometimes!).
Have a plan for what to do when things go right.
Preparing for the worst-case scenario is crucial when planning to take time away from your business, but you should also plan to handle the good things!
If a client calls and pays their invoice—or makes an inquiry about booking another job—make sure someone is available to handle it immediately. You don't want to miss out on potential revenue or opportunities while away from work.
If no one has access to this information while you're away, consider contacting clients beforehand and letting them know they can reach one of your team members should anything arise while your away.
Plan and adjust your deadlines accordingly.
Planning is key to a stress-free vacation. If you have a job deadline, ensure you have enough time to meet it before leaving. If that's not an option, add the project to your vacation schedule so that you'll know exactly when to check with your team when it comes due.
Be creative with auto-responders.
Automation can help you in many ways, but communication is the first place to focus your automation.
Luckily, there are a few ways you can automate your responses. You can use filters to automatically respond to emails with certain words in the subject line. For example, if someone sends you an email asking for advice about a project they're working on, you could have the filter send them a response that says something like: "I'm happy to help! Send me more information, and we can set up a time to connect." This way, if the person wants to schedule an appointment or get advice from you—they won't need to wait for your response!
You can also set up rules so that when certain people send emails (or when specific keywords show up), your email will handle them in a certain way. For example, I can filter my incoming mail and set aside all of my client inquiries into separate folders within Outlook. This way, I'll know where all the client inquiries are going without having them clutter up my inbox unnecessarily.
Update your clients with email and social media.
Email and social media updates will be some of the first things people see before visiting your website. It's essential to communicate your status and tell them what to expect.
You can also update any other marketing materials that you have in circulation. For example, if you have business cards or postcards on hand with old summer hours, get rid of them! You don't want anyone getting confused or thinking they can hire you when you aren't available.
If you're an owner-operator, it's still okay to take a vacation!
Many of us in the service industry are owner-operators, meaning we don't have teams to rely on when we're gone. Being a business owner, that definitely creates a certain amount of stress knowing that you're the only one there to run things. But that doesn't mean you're never entitled to a vacation! Burnout and overwork are both very real. Taking time off – even if it might mean shutting the business for a week or more – is essential to keep you and your business refreshed and restored.
If you don't have a staff in place and it's just you, consider designating a specific period during the year as your holiday break. As long as you give your clients advance notice and tie up any loose ends before that period, it's okay to close the doors for a time. The main thing to acknowledge is that prioritizing rest and vacation doesn't make you a bad business owner. The rewards from taking a break will benefit you and your business when you're back: reduced stress, clearer thinking, and increased productivity. Proper time off is a more sustainable solution to keep you functioning at your best.
With all these tips, it can feel like you need to be a master of business management. But don't worry! Just focus on what's most important to you and take the time to plan for any unforeseen events. Take the proper steps to ensure there are no fires to put out when you're back so that you can adequately relax on your vacation instead of returning more stressed. Then use some of these ideas to automate your workflow so that even when things go wrong (and they will), it won't affect your time away.
Finally, remember that taking time off is good for everyone - including your employees!