July 4, 2015

The Small Business Guide to Getting Ready for Vacation

small business vacation

Taking time away from your business now and then rejuvenates you.

It jump starts your creative juices.  It keeps you focused and sharp for when it counts. You come back with a fresh outlook and all fired up.

Despite all those benefits of vacations, entrepreneurs and small business owners are notorious for not taking them.

Sixty six percent of small business owners find it difficult to take vacations, according to the June 2015 Office Depot Small Business Index.

The good news is, some advance planning and the right tools will soon have you slipping out of business slacks and into a pair of flip flops.

Here are essential tips to get you and your business ready for a relaxing and refreshing vacation:

1. Pick Yourself a Deputy

You’ll need someone to be in charge when the sheriff’s not in town. It’s not a job for the faint at heart. So if you have several employees, be certain you choose carefully.

You’ll want an employee who takes the responsibility seriously, but also someone who can make the tough decisions when the situation calls for it.

You’re handing this person your business — something you’ve created with your own blood, sweat and tears. So choose wisely. But also realize that mistakes will happen. And be sure your deputy knows he or she has your full confidence.

2. Get Everything Off Your Plate

No one likes looking at a stack of unfinished projects.

And you won’t like thinking about them when you’re supposed to be having fun or the thought of facing them when you return.

And your clients certainly won’t appreciate waiting for finished work. Meanwhile you’re digging your toes in the sand somewhere with a tube of sun screen in one hand and a Pina Colada in the other.

If you haven’t got a staff to delegate to when you’re inching out the door, try clearing some of this stuff off your plate before you leave.

Sure, it will take some extra time and effort. But projects delivered before deadline make clients happy.

And happy clients are less likely to fill your email box with missives for when you get home. And they’re less likely to try to get in touch with you some other way while you’re trying to decompress in paradise.

3. Let People Know

Tell employees, clients and vendors about your plans. Notify them about a month before your departure. Then give them, another reminder a week before you pack your bags. 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 better connect to people. Your clients and others will appreciate being kept in 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.

4. Update Your Email Auto-response and Voicemail Message

You can also use the note in Tip 3 as an auto-responder for your email. Gmail 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.

5. 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.

6. Clear Your Calendar

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.

7. Wrap Up Everything You Can

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.

8. Put Together an Emergency Contact List

Make a list of your emergency numbers to give to key employees who might need to reach you.

Mobile phone numbers are best because you can be texted as well as called.  Sometimes a matter can be handled with a short text message exchange. This can be less intrusive than a voice call, yet more immediate than email.

On the emergency contact list, put important people who may be able to answer questions in your absence, like your business insurance agent, attorney, and key suppliers.

9. 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. Other procedures include 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.

10. 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.

11. Don’t Be Available (Much)

It’s tempting to take work with you on vacation, but resist doing too much of that.

If you are glued to your laptop or phone the entire time, it not only will spoil your time but your family’s, too.  Imagine the grumpy faces of your family sitting around waiting for you to get off the phone, so you can all go hiking as promised.

However, disconnecting completely is easier said than done. Seventy-six percent of business owners check their phones and email on vacation, according to the Office Depot Small Business Index survey.

Most business owners want to stay in touch just enough, yet not so much that it stops feeling like a vacation.

What’s the answer?

Designate a set time each day for work matters.

For example, you could set aside one half hour each morning at 9 am to field messages that can’t wait or check in with staff.  Once the 30 minutes is over, give yourself permission to go play with a clear conscience.

Luckily, technology has made it easier than ever to stay in touch.  Files stored in the cloud can be accessed from a smartphone or tablet.  If you don’t use the cloud, take the time to transfer critical files you think you might need to your laptop or a thumb drive before leaving on vacation.

Pack light. A tablet or even a smartphone can substitute for a laptop for a week. Yet you can still get most critical business tasks done remotely on a mobile device.

12. Reap the ROI of a Great Vacation

Remember that a little R and R can bring some ROI (return on investment).

A relaxing and enjoyable vacation is not just good for you. It’s good for your business too.  You’ll come back to work with fresh ideas and a new, positive attitude.

What seemed like crushing problems or ever-present worries get put in perspective. Most of the time they will feel more manageable after you take a week off.

Your personal life will benefit, too. So many entrepreneurs put in long hours each week and make sacrifices in family and other relationships. Use this vacation as the opportunity to reconnect with your spouse and kids.  Create great memories for years to come.

Bonus: Avoid Social Media “Dead Giveaways”

It’s good planning to let “almost” everyone know you are leaving on vacation. But today there’s a big exception: social media sites!

  • Resist the urge to tell everyone on Facebook that you’ll be gone for two weeks.  You don’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.  Burglars have been known to monitor sites like Facebook.
  • Don’t use “check-in apps” such as Foursquare or Facebook that show you at the airport or having dinner in a far-off place.
  • Avoid uploading fun family photos from some far off destination to Instagram or Twitter while you’re away. Save those photos and picturesque descriptions of that perfect beach on Maui until your return. The photos and the memories will keep.  Your colleagues, clients, friends and extended family will love hearing about your adventures just as much when you’re safely back home again.

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 PleaseKidnapMyKids.com. People just don’t think.

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