If you run a small business and you’re finally taking a break, give yourself a pat on the back. A 2016 survey of British SMEs by insurance giant Zurich showed that 31% of SME owners had taken 15 days or fewer off from work in the preceding year. Only 29% of SME owners had taken a break of 5 days or more and 8% did not take any holiday at all.

Taking a break from your business, particularly if it’s a one-man or one-woman show, can feel impossible; it’s easy to convince yourself the anxiety isn’t worth it! However, a break can be beneficial for you and your business. All you need to do is make sure that everything runs smoothly in your absence.

Four weeks before your holiday

Think about your suppliers and deliveries. It may not be practical for supplies to be delivered while you’re on holiday, but you also don’t want to be short of vital items when you return. If the schedule delivery of your suppliers is automated and can’t me made to fit around your holiday plans, call them. Speaking to someone in person and explaining what you need should ensure you get supplies when they’re needed and when there’s someone there to receive them. Remember, in this scenario you’re the customer and your supplier won’t want to lose your business; they should be prepared to adapt to meet your needs.

Three weeks before your holiday

Think about your customers.  Send out an email to let them know when last order dates or appointments are and request a read receipt but ensure you don’t take orders right up to the wire.

You have to process them before you leave, remember? A last-minute mad dash isn’t an ideal way to begin your holiday and in the worst-case scenario, a sudden influx of orders (possibly caused by your email!) may cause you to delay your holiday or even miss it altogether. So when you pick that last order date, give yourself a safety net of an extra day or two to ensure you can keep your customers happy (and find time to pack your suitcase!).

Two weeks before your holiday

Think about your customer service. New or potential customers may try to contact you while you’re away. Is an out-of-office email response and an answerphone message enough, or do you want to use a virtual assistant or customer service agency to field enquiries while you’re away?
Check you’ve had a read receipt or response from all the customer you emailed. If you haven’t, give them a call – and a reminder email to all customers towards the end of the week can’t do any harm!

One week before your holiday

Think about your admin. That number scrawled on a post-it note may make sense now, but will you remember what it means when you get back? Make sure you’ve replied to emails, responded to enquiries, returned any phone calls and paid any outstanding invoices. File paperwork and digital material in the correct place and ensure everything’s up-to-date.

One day before your holiday

Think about safety. If you have a business premises, make sure someone responsible has a spare key in case access is required in an emergency. If there is equipment that can be switched off while you’re away, turn it off. Don’t forget to turn on the burglar alarm if you have one.

Finally: when is a break not a break?

Answer: When you’re running your business on holiday.
Doing this means you’re not really ‘getting away from it all’, and understandably it can cause friction between you and those you’re holidaying with.

If you really feel you have to remain contactable during your holiday, strictly limit the time you spend responding to calls and emails (perhaps 15 minutes after dinner every evening?) and make it clear to customers and suppliers that you are only to be contacted if the matter is genuinely urgent. Let your answerphone take calls and your emails sit in your inbox. Only deal with them at a time convenient to you.

By planning ahead, you can reduce the anxiety of leaving your business for a week or two and ensure that you keep your customers happy. In turn, you’ll be more relaxed as you close the door on your business for a while. Have a good time!

Do you make enough holiday time for yourself? What are your tips for ensuring the business runs smoothly in your absence? Let us know you thoughts!

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