If you really want to learn how to run your small business, take a vacation.
Go skiing, scuba diving, hiking, or sailing. Take off for a week or even two. Don’t call the office. Don’t check your smartphone for email every five minutes. And don’t worry about the everyday details. See how it goes while you’re gone.
The point is, if your business can run without you when you’re away for a day, a week or longer, it’s a well-oiled small business machine. But if things go awry (and they probably will), you’ll be poised to address them when you return.
Here are some tips on how to make your business run itself whether you’re away for a day or for months at a time.
- Hire great employees – Make sure that you’ve selected a very capable second lieutenant to handle all the details while you’re away. Whether you own a retail store with multiple employees or a service-oriented business with a few people on staff, train them well and teach them everything you know so your company runs just as efficiently as when you’re there.
- Prepare them for worst-case scenarios – What’s the worst thing that can possibly happen when you’re on the slopes? Discuss all of these scenarios with your employees before you leave and have a plan of action so they can hit the ground running to respond quickly to any of them.
- Give your clients some notice – Nobody likes surprises, especially clients. I let everyone know about an upcoming vacation three to four weeks in advance via email and phone. Then, we can work around my time off if I really need to be around.
- Change your messages – Leaving an “I’m on vacation until March 1 and will be checking my voicemail and email once a day” voice mailbox message is quick and easy to do on your phone, as is setting up an email autoresponder with the same type of information. It’s also just as important to let callers and emailers know whom to contact in your absence.
- Line up a “babysitter” – As a sole proprietor, whenever I’m on vacation, I don’t want to work – and my family doesn’t want me to work either. So I line up a few writer colleagues to pick up the slack on my projects, update copy from client comments, and keep me in the loop via email that I check once a day.
- Don’t be a Nervous Nellie – Finally, if you have the time to get away, check out and let your people run the show. Trust that they can do it without calling them every five minutes to check in. After all, it’s supposed to be a vacation, not a remote work situation.