Think holidays are an impossible luxury while running a business? It can be done, with some forward-planning and a bit of know-how, writes Victoria Wilkinson.
Having the freedom to enjoy a work/life balance is one of the key drivers for people starting their own business.
Ironically, a 2015 study by one of the major accounting software providers found that over half of those business owners surveyed said they had not taken a holiday in over a year.
The major reasons cited by SMEs for not taking holidays were because they were too busy, needed to be available as they were the key decision maker, and were unable to relax if they didn’t know what was going on in their business.
The good news is that it is possible for SMEs to enjoy a well-earned break if they have holiday-proofed their business prior to going on leave.
I run a bookkeeping business in Brisbane, and was recently able to enjoy a six-week holiday in Africa while my business ran smoothly in my absence. The key to taking a well-earned break from your business all comes down to forward planning:
1. Prepare your staff for your absence
Take the time to train and cross-train your staff before you leave. Cross-training staff will ensure that several members of your team are across your business and clients, and can fill in if a staff member is away, sick or busy.
Also be sure to document procedures that your staff can follow while you are away. There’s some innovative software out there that makes this easy, like Icecream Screen Recorder – a tool that enables you to capture any area of your computer screen either as a screenshot or a video file that your staff can later view.
2. Organise a back-up person
SMEs should consider organising a trusted colleague to be available to come into the office if there are emergencies.
Your staff can then feel reassured that they have someone to call if they need assistance, and you can relax knowing that you’re not on-call to field questions from your staff.
3. Let your clients know that you will be away
One of the major mistakes SMEs make when taking time off is not being open with their clients and informing them that they will be away.
Reassure your clients that your business will be carrying on as usual – let them know when you will be away and who will be looking after them in your absence.
If you are comfortable with some contact with your clients while you are away and you will have internet access, advise them that they can contact you via email.
4. Make use of technology
Consider making time each morning while you are away to have a quick check of your emails – if you devote 30 minutes a day to this, you will be aware of what’s going on and can feel reassured that your business is running smoothly.
SMEs who want to keep an eye on their business while they are on holiday have access to cloud-based software and applications that make this simple.
Applications such as Dropbox allow you to save files on your computer and access them on your phone or tablet while you are away.
A tip on internet access – purchasing a local SIM card with data once you arrive at your destination is a far cheaper option than using international roaming services offered by your usual provider.
5. Review your holiday-proofing system once you’re back
Being away from your business can actually give you a great insight into your business systems and procedures, and can expose areas of weakness.
Take the time to review how things went while you were away, and make refinements so you are ready for your next well-earned break.
Victoria Wilkinson is a Brisbane-based bookkeeper at First Class Accounts.