People with small businesses – especially the really small ones, with only a couple of staff – often forget to structure their companies to run even if the founder isn’t there. I’m not referring to an Exit Strategy, which is a plan to leave a business completely. I mean setting up a company so you can take a vacation and not have to check your email three times a day (wouldn’t that be nice?).
A micro business is really only as healthy as its owner, so it’s important to take time off. But your business is your baby, and it’s very difficult to leave it behind completely for any length of time. You don’t want to have to fight fires upon your return. So here are a few ways you can plan your business to keep going (or even growing!) so you can get your much-needed R&R.
1. Write Down Your Processes
If your business’s systems are in your head, no one else in your company can replicate them. So take time now to write things down and create clear procedures so anyone else working in your business can do things just like you do while you’re away.
2. Tell Clients You’re Leaving
If you won’t be checking email (or you don’t want to), tell clients ahead of time that you’ll be unavailable. An amazing thing will happen: they won’t email you. When you sneak a peek (you know you will) halfway through vacation, you’ll be relieved to find a much smaller inbox than you’d normally see.
3. Use Out of Office Replies
Even if you will be available by email, use an Out of Office reply to tell people that you might not respond as quickly as they’re used to. This frees you up to enjoy sightseeing, knowing there’s nothing urgent that needs your attention.
4. Set Boundaries
It’s okay not to be available 24/7 – you just have to set the expectation. Once your clients know how you work, they’re likely to respect your boundaries, as long as you’re also respecting theirs.
5. Ingrain the Separation of Work and Pleasure into Your Business
If you can do it, so can your staff. Once it becomes part of your company culture, it’s there forever. You can enjoy more balanced employees and you’ll all feel less guilty about being away.
If you’re just starting out and you’re worried you might not be cut out to be a workaholic, that can be okay – as long as you, your staff, and your customers all understand that when you’re away, you’re away.
You can write these types of organizational goals into your business plan, if they are key components of your mission or vision. Think about your big entrepreneurial vision – do you see yourself living a freer lifestyle, or chained to a desk or a phone for 16 hours a day? If it’s the former, you can start creating the systems now that will eventually get you to that goal. Sounds like a winning business plan to me.