It’s a conundrum many small-business owners face. You want to take some time away from work and go on vacation. But you dread what will happen while you’re gone — and what you’ll face when you return. You may come back to unhappy clients, a stalled project, or piles of paperwork that didn’t get addressed while you were out. What’s worse, your employees may not have done their best without your supervision and now you’ll have to deal with the fallout. Don’t let this happen to you. Instead, follow the three tips below and relax. You can take time off without dire consequences.
1. Appoint a person-in-charge. Someone will have to step into your shoes while you’re away to keep things running smoothly. It’s important to select someone you trust who will competently represent you and your company. In your absence he or she will:
- Be the go-to person for other employees when they have questions or need guidance.
- Communicate with clients on your behalf.
- Take care of the daily tasks that you normally handle, such as reading and answering email, paying bills, and taking business-related calls.
- Communicate with vendors and suppliers to make sure products are ordered and delivered on time.
- Be your contact person while you’re away should you choose to check-in.
2. Start planning in advance. You won’t enjoy your time off if you’re thinking about everything that could go wrong while you’re away. The key is to plan for as many scenarios as possible so you’ll be able to relax during your time off. Here are four major areas that require advanced planning.
- Your finances. Determine what bills will come due while you’re gone and either prepay those bills or delegate the task to your person-in-charge. In addition, you’ll need to leave someone access to a small amount of cash or a credit card with an agreed upon limit in case something unforeseen comes up. You should also arrange for bank deposits to be made while you’re away.
- Unfinished projects. The last thing you want is to be sitting at the beach stressing out about the important project you didn’t finish before you left. Do your best to tie up all loose ends, and if you can’t, either reassign them or ask the client for an extension (see #3, below).
- Employee tasks. You’ll want to ensure that your employees remain productive while you’re gone. Set schedules and deadlines for work and projects that are to be completed while you’re away.
- Your re-entry. Make a plan for what you’ll tackle when you return so you won’t feel overwhelmed by all the little stuff. For instance, right away you’ll need to meet with your person-in-charge and get a summary of the work your employees did while you were away.
3. Prepare clients for your absence. You should let your key clients know in advance that you’ll be on vacation. One way to smooth the transition is to set up meetings including you, each client, and your person-in-charge. If you do this a couple of weeks in advance, it will give the client a chance to discuss anything they consider urgent or want you to handle personally before you leave. For smaller clients, you won’t need to contact them individually, but you should set up an out-of-office email or phone message that tells them how long you’ll be gone and who to contact in your absence.
Finally, consider the results of a study [PDF] published in the journal Applied Research Quality of Life, which found that the only people who enjoy an increase in post-holiday happiness are those who enjoy a “very relaxed” trip. Those who reported a “stressful” or “neutral” trip didn’t enjoy the same benefit. That makes it even more important to plan a trip that will allow you to relax and feel confident that your business will be run well in your absence.