The small business owner's guide to avoiding chaos after a holiday

Sylvia Pennington

As an entrepreneur or small business owner you’re likely juggling a dozen things at once, putting in more hours than the average salary slave and swallowing a decent dose of stress into the bargain.

Taking a break regularly to rest and recharge is vital, but is it possible when you’re running your own show? How can you ensure having a proper holiday doesn’t mean coming home to chaos?

Start by planning your break when most of your clients take theirs, says Carnegie Financial Planning founder Sheila Cabacungan, who’s been a small business owner since 2009.

If it’s over the Christmas school holidays, you may have to wear crowds and peak season prices – but there’ll be less likelihood of urgent calls or jobs that need to be done yesterday.

Deciding in advance how often you’ll check email and defining issues you’d like to be contacted on [...] helps ensure staff are comfortable with their remit and don’t need to maintain a hotline to your hotel.

Letting clients and associates know you won’t be around at least a month in advance should further reduce the odds of this happening.

“Give them a clear picture of what they need to do for you and where any work in progress is up to,” Cabacungan says.

Having a competent 2IC or a clutch of experienced seniors who can do more than just hold the fort is vital – unless you’re excited by the idea of spending your evenings responding to emails, rather than watching the sunset on the beach, or soaking up some après-ski ambience.

Works for me, says Bench PR founder Jocelyn Hunter, who credits her high calibre staff for the fact that she’s been able to enjoy several extended breaks in her native UK.

“It doesn’t matter how organised you are or how well you delegate. If you’ve got a junior or inexperienced team, the chances are that mistakes will be made while you’re away,” Hunter says.

“If you can live with that, fine. If you can’t, hire someone who can step up and be your wingman or woman.”

Have a handover meeting to ensure the team is crystal clear about what needs doing, then give yourself strict orders to chill out and let them get on with it.

Deciding in advance how often you’ll check email and defining issues you’d like to be contacted on – major new contract in the offing: yes; blocked toilet in the office: not so much – helps ensure staff are comfortable with their remit and don’t need to maintain a hotline to your hotel.

Have a handover meeting to ensure the team is crystal clear about what needs doing, then give yourself strict orders to chill out and let them get on with it, Hunter adds.

“As a business owner, you really have to stop the control freak tendencies,” she says. “You’re just making a rod for your own back.”

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

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