The Small Business Guide to Getting Ready for Vacation

Despite the often high levels of stress that come with small business ownership, 66 percent of small business owners find it difficult to take off during the summer months. And 76 percent feel the need to stay connected with the office when they do.

On reason may be that entrepreneurs have difficulty setting up their businesses to run smoothly in their absence. Another could be that, when not possible to disconnect from their businesses completely while on vacation for the summer, they lack the necessary tools to keep in touch when necessary.

caribbean vacation

To be sure your ready to take some time away from your business no matter which category you fall into, here’s a quick lists of tips for getting you and your business ready. There are also a few simply safety tips entrepreneurs should use while traveling thrown in for good measure.

Tip 1: Leave Someone in Charge

If you have employees, decide who’s the best candidate to carry on business as usual in your absence. Give that person the ability to make decisions, and encourage them to do so confidently, so they don’t call you for approval on every little decision. Recognize that mistakes may be made, but they’re a small price to pay for a little down time with your family.

Tip 2: Plan Early and Get Ahead of Schedule

If you don’t have an employee you can leave your business decisions to while on vacation (and even if you do), the best thing you can do to keep customers happy is finish as much work in advance as possible. This works best if you have a preset task list that you complete each month for clients. Finishing early keeps clients happy, and usually keeps them from needing you or bugging you when you take time off.

Tip 3: Let (Almost) Everyone Know You’re Leaving

Notify your employees, clients and vendors that you’ll be taking a vacation about a month before you go. Send a short email reminder a week before you take off, and include contact information for people who can be reached in your absence. Here’s an example:

Just a short note to remind you that I will be on vacation  August 1-15, enjoying the blue beaches of Hawaii. If you have questions about sales, contact Stan at [phone number.] For any product-related issues, Ivan can assist you at [phone]. I’ll touch base when I return.

A short mention of your plans helps you connect to people better. Your clients and others will appreciate being kept min the loop. And discussing your vacation plans makes you a bit more human, not just the owner of a business. You may even get travel advice from clients about destinations you mention in these emails.

Tip 4: Update Your Email Auto-response and Voicemail Message
You can also use the note in tip 3 as an autoresponder for your email. Google Mail lets you set up vacation responses for whatever period you want to set it up for.  And don’t forget your voicemail! Leave a recorded message directing callers to the appropriate people, and let them know when you will return.

Tip 5: DON’T Tell Your Social Network!
Tip 3 mentioned letting “almost” everyone know you are leaving — but there’s a big exception: social media sites!  It’s tempting to tell everyone on Facebook that you’ll be gone for several weeks, but resist that urge. You won’t want to take the chance someone might break into your home — or your office, if you don’t have a regular staff — while you’re away.

This includes resisting the urge to post fun family photos from some far off destination and details of your experiences on Facebook or Twitter while you’re away. Save those photos and picturesque descriptions of that perfect beach on Maui or that great ski weekend in Aspen or the Poconos until your return. The photos and the memories will keep and your colleagues, clients and family will love hearing about your adventures just as much when you’re safely back home again.

Tip 6: Plan Ahead for the Problems
Don’t automatically assume everything will go wrong in your absence, but do sit down with your employees to review potential scenarios that might blow up or become complicated while you’re out. Explain what you would do in each situation and make sure they’re comfortable taking action while you’re out of the office.

Tip 7: Clear Your Calendar
Before you leave for your vacation, make sure your calendar doesn’t have any forgotten-about appointments lingering. Also make sure you cancel any recurring meetings or teleconferences while you’re out. Let other participants know you won’t be there so they can plan accordingly.

Tip 8: Wrap Up Projects
You know how those lingering projects or tasks stay on your mind? All the more reason to take care of them before you go on vacation so you don’t waste energy worrying about them while you’re trying to relax. Finishing up everything before your vacation will also reduce the temptation to take work with you (and your family will be glad for that).

Make a plan the week before your vacation so that you have plenty of time to wrap up projects, from the most urgent to the less important ones.

Tip 9: Put Together an Emergency Contact List
Make a list of your emergency numbers to give to key employees who might need to reach you in case of an issue that can’t be resolved without you. Also include important contacts that might be able to answer questions in your absence, like your business insurance agent, attorney, and key suppliers.

Tip 10: Review Critical Procedures and Processes
Make sure to go over important business procedures that you will be delegating in your absence, such as opening your shop in the morning or closing your office at night, setting the security alarm or turning it off in case it was accidentally tripped, running credit card transactions, running payroll, or any other processes the person is not used to handling.

Make sure the key employee you’ve assigned is well versed in completing the tasks without your assistance.  Ask him or her to perform the procedure for you before you leave (memory is a tricky thing). Leave detailed instructions on the procedures as a backup.

Tip 11: Pay Your Bills
Leave for your vacation with a clean slate on accounts payable. Pay all invoices, credit card statements and bills that will come due while you’re gone. Make sure payroll is set up to be processed while you’re gone as well.

Tip 12: Don’t Be Available
It’s tempting to answer your phone on vacation, or peek at your email, but resist! Do respond to the channels you’ve set up for emergency contacts, however. For example, you might give a personal email to a key employee so you can resist getting immersed in work email while on vacation. But this will still allow you to stay in touch should anything come up.

One caveat to consider here is that, while you don’t want to end up working while on vacation, technology has made it easier than ever to stay in touch — even from a sleepy little bed and breakfast on Cape Cod. So if an urgent situation that demands your immediate attention does come up, you can quickly jump on Skype, Google Talk or other platforms to  clear it up.

Tip 13: Have a Great Vacation!
Most important remember that a relaxing and enjoyable vacation is not just good for you. It’s good for your business too. Sometimes small business owners forget how rejuvenating it is to step away from their companies for a short while. You’ll likely find that you come back to work with fresh ideas and a new, positive attitude as a result of getting a little R and R.

Family time, too, is important. So many entrepreneurs put in long hours each week, and sacrifice family and other relationships too in the process. Use this vacation as the opportunity to reconnect with your spouse and kids, and to create great memories for years to come.

Vacation Photo via Shutterstock


Susan Payton - Awards Communication Mgr.

Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

12 Reactions

  1. Wow, thanks for tip about the ‘Please Rob Me’ website. These things had never occurred to me!

    • Hi Nicola, I know of someone who was robbed after posting something on her Facebook profile about the family leaving for vacation.

      In my neighborhood, the neighbors are very good about keeping an eye out for anything suspicious (we do the same for them when they go away). And we can also notify the police, who will make extra patrols.

      It pays to be cautious.

      – Anita

    • It’s not something most of us think about while we’re posting photos. I don’t put my address on my site for that reason so no one can connect the dots. But as Anita says, better safe than sorry.

  2. Tip #3 is absolutely the best in this list!

  3. I have a hard time with #12, so I usually schedule one or two check-in times. I give myself 15 or 20 minutes to just scan my emails, looking for anything that is urgent or can be quickly handled. I don’t allow myself any more time. If the issue needs a more thorough resolution I shoot a quick note to the person who needs to handle it. That eases my mind a lot.

    • Robert,
      I find I’m not nearly as needed as I think I am when I go on vacation. So far, no “marketing emergencies” have happened in my absence! And it feels good to not check email! Try it next time.

  4. “Don’t tell your social networks” is an excellent idea. It may not go far enough. I’ve seen some frightening lapses from people I’m connected to that I don’t even know. One man sent out a Christmasy type email to all his LinkedIn connections, thousands of people. It talked about where he worked, where he lives, his kids (ages and descriptions!), where they go to school and so forth. Maybe I should set up People just don’t think.

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