7 things to do before you go on holiday

It’s holiday time here in the UK which means both challenges and opportunities for our businesses. It’s a time of year when most of us want to take some time off but as owners of small businesses it can be difficult or stressful to take a break. Here are seven tips to ensure taking a break doesn’t have an adverse effect on your business.

Take a break.

A holiday should help you get away from it all.

1. Prioritise your ‘to do’ list
If your ‘to do’ list is like mine it will always be too long. It’s never feasible to get it all done but it’s amazing how much more than usual we get done when we are about to go on holiday. Take a look at your list now, what will cause you a major problem if it is left undone? By a major problem I mean losing a customer, losing money,  losing a service or losing out on future business because of lack of advanced planning.
Work out how you are going to get those things done. Allocate time or delegate, bring in a virtual assistant (VA), rope the kids in to help or trade time with a friend. Cross everything off the list which is ‘nice to do’ or move it on to ‘someday Isle’. What’s left? What will happen if you don’t do those things before you go away? If the result of leaving it will not be catastrophic plan into your diary for when you get back or delegate. If the outcome would be devastating it should be on your priority list. Set aside your Power hour for working on the priority list.
2. Risk assessment, what could go wrong?
Do a risk assessment a week or two before you go. What is likely to blow up whilst you are away? Are you waiting for customers/prospects to get back to you? Ring them to let them know you will be away. Ask if they can wait for your return or if they can give you what you need to make progress before you go. Alternatively or explain how you will cover the task in your absence  for example put them in touch with your colleague or virtual assistant. Brief your ‘substitute’, leave notes on files and leave alternative phone numbers but preferably not yours!
3. Delegate
I understand that it’s not easy to delegate when you are running a one man band but consider briefing a Virtual Assistant or a reliable student or relative. Leave clear instructions, preferably in writing. Check instructions are understood, discuss different eventualities and leave a contact number for absolute emergencies. Stress that you mean emergencies. There is nothing more likely to spoil your holiday than worrying about something going wrong at home.
4. Phone calls, Emails, letters etc.
If you work from home take care with answerphone messages which may make your property vulnerable. If phone calls are key to your business take on a temporary VA or answering service. Set up remote access to your answerphone if possible but only check once a day. As a last resort forward calls to your mobile (if you are keeping a mobile on to stay in touch with family then get a 2nd cheap one for business) but only check once a day.Tell regular callers/people you trust when you’ll be away & try to anticipate what they might need before you go.
We tend to be run by our emails these days. If you try to keep on top of them whilst you are away you’ll not get much of a holiday. Again delegate to a VA; consider setting up an auto responder but take care about broadcasting your absence, if you must check them yourself do it once a day, delete anything unimportant, send a holding reply to those that are important but that can wait, only answer the urgent and important. Be strict with yourself.
Are letters important in your business? Most will wait two weeks so set aside time to deal with them on your first day back. Consider having a VA or ‘friend’ open them and send an acknowledgement at least for those that you won’t be able to reply to for at least a week.
5. Web enquiries
Make sure that you don’t lose potential new business generated by your website in your absence. Set up an autoresponder on your website to answer frequently asked questions, send an ebook or white paper. Take care not to disclose the fact that you are away of it will make your property vulnerable. If appropriate set up an online ordering/booking system & if your orders need fulfilment use a fulfilment service or VA to keep the business going. You may need to arrange packaging/stuff envelopes before you go.
6. Pay bills
I had a conversation yesterday with a disgruntled supplier whose customer hadn’t paid her before he went away. She knows she will get paid but her cashflow is hit in the meantime which isn’t good for ongoing relationships. Make sure that you pay any outstanding bills before you go away or you may find yourself with fines, interest payments or lost suppliers when you come back.

7. Organise your visibility strategy
You don’t want to drop off the radar for 2-3 weeks or more whilst you are on holiday or whilst the kids are off so look for ways of maintaining your visibility whilst you are away. This months tip shares some ideas.
Next week’s posts will look at how you can use your holiday to grow your business and still have a good and relaxing time. Why not check back here on Monday and Thursday?
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