Many SME business owners and sole traders, especially those who sell their time, find that taking time from their business to go on holiday is more stressful than having one. It can make a business owner sweaty just thinking about it.
These are top tips to get you that much-deserved break. This was one of the reasons you started your company in the first place. It is rare that everything will go according to plan, but there are things you can do to make it possible and make it run more smoothly.
1. Take a chance and do it! It will not end!
You have decided that you are going on a vacation and now it’s time to get started. Sometimes it’s that simple. You’ll be retiring before your business can run itself.
It won’t end if you’re not there. I have taken holidays as a sole trader and believed my business was doomed. However, the world and businesses continue to turn! Many businesses, including mine, are actually improving.
2. Be realistic, but be clear about your boundaries.
You won’t be able take a break if you are sole trader or if you own the business. It’s sometimes just how it is. Accept it. This alone will allow you to relax a little.
However, you should set boundaries. You must agree that you will only check your voicemail/email once per day. Stick to this. How about my clients? (in a somewhat panicking tone ?!?) Please see Setting Expectations below…
3. PLANN IT!
It will be a disaster without planning. This rule applies to all things, not just holidays. The 7-Ps are Prior Planning and Preparation. This prevents poor performance and panic. Here are some key points to remember:
a. You can schedule your time for your break around your busiest times.
You will never have the perfect time so take the plunge and find the best solution. Otherwise, you won’t get any time off. If you’re a bookkeeper, for example, it might not be the best time to start your financial year. Find a time that requires the least involvement on your part.
b. You can only delegate what you plan. You can also plan what you can organize. Businesses often work better when the owner is gone. This forces you to take a look at the business and make it better.
Make sure to delegate or systemise it! Talk won’t work. Ask your staff to tell you what they can do and how you can help. Ask them for their assistance. It’s amazing how powerful this can be…mazing, actually! But that’s another story…
c. While this may not be possible for everyone due to cost and logistics, it is worth considering before dismissing the idea. Is it possible to find a partner or partners who will work with you while you’re away? You could make a deal with someone to take care of their clients while you’re away. This requires trust and may not be an option for everyone. But, you’d be amazed at how often this is possible. You can also hire a contractor temporarily.
d. Think about your clients and plan ahead. Is it possible to take three weeks off for a client? Do you really want to be their client?
4. Set expectations
It will not end! It won’t, I promise! I’ve been scared. You may be afraid your clients won’t be able to manage without you. They will! They will manage, just like mine did while I was gone.
It is important to let them know when and how long you’ll be away. Also, be clear that you will still be available for emergency situations. But, tell them when and how often you will get back to them. Remind them that it is only for emergencies.
How many times has someone left voicemails, and been called back the next morning to say that it was OK? I have sorted it, thanks.”
It is important to set expectations. It doesn’t matter how many times I turn my off-of-office switch for a few days while I’m away from training or coaching. All those urgent emails that I feel the need to respond so quickly can wait for two days.
5. Educate your clients
Consider how you could teach them to fish. It is a powerful thing that I do when coaching clients.
Let’s use the bookkeeper example to illustrate again. If you have a client who has a weekly payroll, could you teach them just enough to get it done while you are gone? If they make mistakes, let them know that you will correct them when you return.
6. Butt out!
Retire! Let go! Butt out! Refrain from allowing your fingers to get stuck in!
You can say that you will only check your email/voicemails at a specific time or number of times per week. You will find that clients/staff expect you to be available 24/7, and you may end up taking no breaks if you keep calling and emailing them regularly.
If you have delegated responsibility to staff members/trusted persons, they should follow the agreement. Do not be like my friend the builder who gave responsibility to a trusted individual and then woke up at 1am to email his client! You have established the expectation that the client will deal with a trusted person if you need to communicate with them. You must communicate with the client directly at the agreed time. They will not expect you to be available 24/7. Respect the boundaries.
7. Enjoy your holiday!
Enjoy yourself! Enjoy your time. Although it is difficult to let go, if you continue to hold on, your arms will get tired.
You will then likely to drop off the perch while the safety net is being maintained. This will make it easier to land, although it will still be difficult.