6 steps to prepare for summer holidays
For many business owners, the fear of things going wrong when they are on holiday prevents them from taking a well-deserved break over the summer. I get it, running a small business is hard. You set high standards and think they’ll slip when you are away. Maybe you’re right, but hear me out… taking a break is super important, and you might actually find that the business can operate fine without you. All you need to do is have a plan, and if executed well, you’ll enjoy the perfect holiday without a care.
Summer is a wonderful time in Australia. Beach time, BBQs and plenty of fun all around. Sometimes it can feel like the whole of Australia shuts up shop from late December to Australia Day. It’s a wonderful time to recharge, spend time with family and reinvigorate yourself for the coming year. For many businesses, summer also means that their customers are away on holidays, so if that’s the case for you, you are in luck!
Taking a break is all so important as a business owner because burnout is real, and no one performs at their best when they are ‘on it’ every single day. There are countless studies that show that when you take time away from running your business there are many physical and mental health benefits. Business owners who take vacations have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve their business goals.
Whilst taking a well-earned summer holiday may invoke stress and anxiety for the more ‘controlling’ business owners (aren’t all small business owners control freaks by the way!), it can actually be a good thing for your business in the long run. If structured correctly, holidays are a great opportunity to reflect on how you run the business and who indeed does what in your team. At the very least, it will force you to go through your responsibilities and find opportunities to delegate some of the tasks from your busy schedule to someone else in your team.
Even for those of you that are ‘solopreneurs’ it’s an opportunity to reflect on where you spend your time, and where your priorities really lie. Some time off can also generate new business ideas. Being free from the day-to-day grind allows your mind to wander, and new opportunities to emerge.
To help you prepare for summer holidays as a small business owner, I have collated 6 handy steps to get you on the way to your dream vacay!
Step 1. Book the dang holiday
Booking your trip upfront might seem counterintuitive. Shouldn’t you create your plan and prepare for your handover first? Well yes, but you can’t be trusted to take leave as a small business owner! So I recommend you just rip the bandaid off and book your trip. Besides forcing you to have a break, you’ll just feel giddy with excitement about your upcoming trip which is a great motivator to finalise your handover plan before you go. Once you book in your leave, notify your team and key partners, and lock in the dates in your calendar. Now, let’s start planning.
Step 2. Document your daily tasks
Now that your exciting holiday is booked, let’s get into the real prep work. Create a simple spreadsheet with 6 columns: Task #, Task Description, Links, Frequency, Importance and Nominee. Fill out the sheet with a list of all the tasks you need to handover to someone. Keep the description quite detailed and use the links column to link to any relevant materials or forms. For the frequency, you should confirm when the task needs to occur e.g. is it daily or weekly or even monthly. For importance, I like a simple Low, Medium and High. Then for the nominee, just confirm the ideal person you want to take on the task in your absence.
Step 3. Discuss the handover with the nominee
Once you have your daily tasks listed, then schedule a one-to-one catch up with the team member you would like to take on the task in your absence. For many team members, taking on this extra workload might make them uncomfortable, and depending on the complexity of the task, they might be a little hesitant. For other team members, it might be an opportunity they are ready to grasp with two hands. Either way, you want to focus on the details of the task, why it’s important and elicit from the nominee anything you can do to make them feel ready to take the task on. This first discussion is more of a heads up, and you should agree with the team member what the next steps are, and lock in a time to do a formal handover.
Step 4. Walkthrough and formalise handover
Now it’s time to really dive into the details and allow the nominee to ask any questions they can about the process. You want to allocate suitable time for this, and not make it feel rushed. Go through each step carefully, ideally in the form of a process document or checklist that you have prepared, and highlight any areas where things may have gone wrong in the past. After you have gone through the process and agreed the approach, send an email to the team member with a link to the relevant materials and confirming they will be owning this process during your absence.
Step 5. Conduct a practice run
This one is super important. Having a practice run, or actually handing over responsibility before you even go on leave, is a brilliant way to kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, it can allow you to iron out any kinks in the process whilst you are still around. Secondly, it can help build up the confidence of the team member before you go on leave, as they will already be familiar with what’s required. To implement a practice run, just agree with the team member on a date they will start taking on the task. I would generally recommend at least 1-2 weeks before you go on leave. Then get them to do it, whilst you provide support from the side. You’ll feel so much better going on your break having seen it can be done with your own eyes.
Step 6. Enjoy your trip!
Job done. Now it’s time to enjoy your trip. One final thing I would encourage you to do when you come back, is to thank the team members who took over from you whilst you were away, and make sure to have a discussion about whether that team member would like to continue with the handover tasks they completed. This is a great way to develop and encourage your staff to take on more responsibility, and hopefully now that they have done it, they will be ready and roaring to continue doing it.