It's summertime, which for many, means a much-deserved vacation is on the horizon. But we all know what the week leading up to a vacation looks like for a small business owner. It's chaotic. It's a mad scramble to get everything done and everything prepared for a few days of relaxation. So rather than winging it, we suggest making a list of things you need to square away before you hang up the "Gone Fishin'" sign...
Catch Up On Your Accounting
Bet you didn't see this tip coming, right? Well regardless of its expectedness, it's important that you make sure that your books are all caught up before you head out on vacation. Naturally, that starts with easy accounting software that's simple and straightforward to use. It doens't hurt if you've got a handy mobile accounting app or two to keep tabs on the finances as well. During the week before vacation take care of your bank reconciliation, make sure all expenses are recorded, and that all invoices that are supposed to be out to customers or clients are out. You also want to make sure that you follow up on any invoices that are outstanding, beyond your standard payment terms.
Ultimately, you don't want to have to be worrying about your books while you're on vacation. That said, entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs and that means it's really hard to fully detach—particularly from the financial side of things. So we won't hold it against you if you log in to your accounting app from, say, your iPad or iPhone. Just be discrete about it so that your fellow vacationers don't get annoyed with you because you're "checking in."
Speaking of Checking In... Define Your Process
Let's not kid ourselves: you're going to check in on work while on vacation. You're an entrepreneur. It's in your blood. You can't not do it. And that's OK. What you need to do though is set a check-in process. You'll thank yourself, but more importantly, your fellow vacationers will thank you. For some, a quick check-in over morning coffee works. (Plus it gives you the whole day to not think or worry about work.) For others, an evening check-in makes more sense. It all just really depends on your preference.
Inform Customers and Clients
For some small business owners, one of the biggest challenges to taking a vacation is that it takes them away from their customers or clients. Depending on the nature of those relationships, it might be really tough for some to not respond to things like client emails or voicemails. That said, time off the proverbial grid is important to your sanity! The key is to align expectations. Before your vacation, inform your clients or customers what days you'll be out and what that means for your business relationships. Will you respond to emails? Perhaps you'll do so in a delayed fashion? Whatever parameters you lay out, you just need to be clear and documented. In certain situations, it can be helpful to have a pre-vacation call or meeting not only to align expectations of what "vacation" means, but also to review and plan.
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Line Up Coverage
If your business can't stop that doesn't mean you shouldn't take some time for yourself. In advance of your vacation, it's up to you to line up coverage. Of course "coverage" can mean lots of different things depending on the type and size of the business, but if you have a clear sense of what you yourself would have had to accomplish in the week you were off the grid, you can likely assign those tasks or adjust related scheduling and deadlines. We're not talking high-level stuff, but rather any day-to-day tactical activity you typical handle.
Of course the question here is "Who's going to cover?" Again, it depends on the size of your business. If you've got a small staff, you're in good shape. If it's just you, that requires some more thought. (Adjusting deadlines ina advance might make the most sense in this case.)
Lining up coverage also depends on your type of business. If you're a consultant with a counterpart on the client-side, align with them to determine who's going to handle what from their side while you're out. If you're a brick and mortar retailer, the options are obviously different. Bringing on some part time help well in advance of vacation may make sense, though you want to be absolutely certain that the coverage you're lining up is trustworthy and reliable.
Set Up Out of Office Notifications
Despite how we might feel about it, email is a critical piece to most businesses. Yes, you'll have told your customers and clients that you're going on vacation, but there are others in your business universe who may need to know that you're out of the office and thus going to be delayed in responding to their inquiry. Most email apps give you the ability to set up customized out of office notifications—so set one up!
Plenty of small business owners are apprehensive about going on vacation. It creates a sense of nervousness. It elicits that dreaded "what if something goes wrong with the business" feeling? Those feelings are totally valid. After all, your business is your life—or at least a big part of it! But here are some real truths: If you're well prepared, the business will be fine while you're at the beach or in the mountains. It is very unlikely that something will go wrong because you're a pro! Secondly, even if something does pop up while you're away, you're just a phone call or email away. Disconnectivity has never been so connected—for better or worse.