Written by Kara Morgan
Now that the holiday season is in full swing, small business owners all across the country are doing one of two things: either planning an awesome vacation and looking forward to turning off all communication devices, closing the books and fall off the proverbial face of the earth until further notice, or catching up on all the things they let slip through the cracks during the year.
Unless this is your most profitable time of year, you’re doing one or the other – and a handful of you may even be doing both!
It really doesn’t matter which camp you fall into, what matters most is how you prepare for it. When you have good management systems in place, stepping away from your desk for a while will be seamless to your customers or clients, service providers and others who interact with you on a regular basis. Here are my tips to plan for the three key areas of your business that are most impacted by holiday downtime:
- Prepare your clients and customers for your absence, as there’s nothing more frustrating for consumers than trying to get information from a company or make a purchase only to learn that they’re gone for two weeks. Let them know before you leave.
- Post your holiday schedule or hours on your site, social media platforms, front door or wherever the first point of contact takes place.
- Set your Out of Office Email up before you leave and schedule it to kick in after you leave.
- Alert your vendors or suppliers as well so they can hold your inventory or service until you return. Alternately, you may need to have things continue in your absence. Either way, let them know.
- If applicable, update your voice message with the dates of your absence or you can have a generic one like mine which says that we’re closed on all civic and statutory holidays.
- Set up, confirm or update email automation tools just in case you get subscribers while you’re gone.
- Provide emergency contact information for internal use only.
- Remember to include your family in your communication plan, especially if they won’t be vacationing with you.
- I would caution you against telling everyone on social media that you will be away; you can never be sure who might take advantage of this information in a negative way.
- Turn off equipment that will not be in use, so you don’t continue to use energy for something you aren’t actually using. The grid will thank you.
- Turn off anything that can flood, freeze, burst, implode or explode. Period.
- Complete all your year-end paperwork, financials and obligations.
- If you lease a property, ensure you’ve provided post-dated cheques (checks if you’re in the US) to the landlord. You may also want to review the lease agreement for any clauses that kick in while the premises are vacant.
- Check for any taxation deadlines that you may have overlooked.
- Return library books – yes, it happens.
- Note the date that you set for your services to resume – trust me, you’ll forget.
- Record all login passwords on paper or in an app and put them somewhere safe – trust me, you’ll forget these too.
- If you have staff, ensure they all have the same information regarding holiday hours and dates. It’s very confusing when an employee either doesn’t know this information or has the wrong information, and provides this to potential clients or suppliers.
- All staff or team members should follow the same protocol, meaning everyone should set their voice messages and emails with similar information.
- If you’re going to operate with a skeleton team, everyone should know who will be available and how to get in touch with them.
- If you have a home office and your property will be vacant, ask a neighbour that you trust to keep an eye out for you or collect your mail if you don’t have a PO Box or community mailbox.
Now that you have all the fundamentals covered, you can fully enjoy your vacation or staycation, knowing that you’ve covered all the important stuff.
Kara Morgan is an Efficiency Specialist, Process Architect and Certified Project Manager with over 20 years of experience improving processes, systems and efficiency. She helps business owners build a solid operational foundation, plug operational gaps, and increase capacity so they can double productivity, scale and streamline their day to day activities. Find out more info on Kara and her business at planitoutsourcingsolutions.com
A version of this article previously published on Plan It! Outsourcing Solutions