This article was first published on LinkedIn.
Summer is here and whereas everyone else seems to be planning a holiday, owners of small businesses can find it difficult to take time off. According to research by Direct Line, almost 1.5 million SME decision makers have not had any down time in the past 12 months and the average is 13 days’ holiday a year.
It’s important to spend quality time with family and friends and for the sake of your health you need that break. However, small and micro business owners often worry what will happen during their absence and fear they won’t be able to switch off.
There’s never a perfect time to go on holiday, but there are steps you can take to make it easier to achieve that hard-earned rest and relaxation.
If you’re a company director you must guard against wrongful trading, which is where a business runs up a debt with no realistic chance of being able to repay it. By law you are also required to make reasonable provision to ensure the health and safety of your staff.
Don’t be tempted to delegate your legal responsibilities. Directors are personally accountable and ignorance of your company’s financial problems is no defence if things go awry in your absence.
Always talk to your accountant to make sure no important deadlines will crop up whilst you’re on holiday.
Employees have safety responsibilities so make it clear that you expect them to adhere to best practice at all times. Keep written minutes of your meetings, as these will help to show that you have behaved responsibly.
You can’t be everywhere and do everything. So, if you really want to take that holiday, you’ll have to delegate.
Planning is key and, if possible, look to spread the risk by delegating to several people.
Consider the day-to-day activities that employees will need to take care of whilst you’re away from the business and non-urgent things that you can deal with on your return. Communicate your plans in good time and prioritise activities, so everyone knows what is expected of them and there are no unwelcome last minute surprises.
Ensure that employees to whom you delegate have access to the resources they will need to carry out your instructions and, if necessary, organise appropriate training.
Imagine the worst that can happen in your absence. You can then minimise the impact by making a plan to deal with it. Be sure to communicate this plan to your team when you delegate.
Levels of authority
Think carefully about the authority you give to employees because down the line it might be difficult to argue that they had no right to take certain actions. To avoid any confusion, leave explicit instructions as to what they can and can’t do. If staff are required to enter into contracts on behalf of the company, such as placing orders with suppliers, leave them in no doubt that they will be acting beyond their authority if limits are exceeded. This should help to drive the message home and, importantly, you will be released from any liability.
You can stay in contact via your smartphone, but you don’t want to end up running your business from the beach. Impress upon your team that you will not be available and set out the circumstances in which they should get in touch. Appoint a key contact, as it’s easier to manage requests for assistance if they are channelled through one person.
Before you depart ensure everyone knows what to do and who to call in the event of an emergency, such as fire, flood, plumbing/heating breakdown, IT problems, premises break-in and accidents or injuries involving employees or customers.
Don’t forget to tell your customers. They will understand that you need a holiday and will appreciate you keeping them informed. Explain how long you will be away and how the business will operate in your absence and assign a point of contact.
Running a small business can be stressful so use your annual leave entitlement. In reality, business critical issues are unlikely to arise and with proper planning and sensible controls in place it’s easier than you think to get away and recharge your batteries.