How to take a stress-free break from your small business

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Taking a break from your business isn’t always easy. Even switching off at the end of a busy day can be a tall order, especially during peak times. A OnePoll survey conducted on behalf of Xero showed three quarters (76%) of small business owners and entrepreneurs have sacrificed their holidays to power through and keep their business running smoothly.

For business owners like Justina, it doesn’t make sense to shut up shop and try to relax during Thanksgiving. Just the thought of all those compromised sales and missed inquiries make it impossible to disconnect.

“It’s our busiest time of the year, so I'm not going to take any time off as I want to push my business forward and out there.”

Others close their business no matter what. That quality time with family is just too important to miss. Chad, owner of Sketches by Chad Eric Keith shares, “I pretty much work every day, but will take time for family around the holidays.”

Are you planning to take a break to spend time with your family anytime soon?

The following tips will help you prepare so that you can relax and enjoy a well-earned break, while the handy checklist at the end ensures you won’t forget a thing.

  • Announce your absence
  • To avoid a high volume of calls and emails while you’re enjoying a rest, be sure to communicate the dates that you’ll be closed to your customers, clients and providers.

    Putting signs or posters up to let people know when you’ll be closed is a considerate reminder that can combine an informative message about reduced hours with greetings for the holiday.

    This is also particularly effective for clubs, where the regular schedule is affected by the holiday. “We prepare by posting signs announcing our hours/closures for that week,” says Rebbie H of Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Cruz County.

    The same applies to your online business presence. A post reminding your friends and followers that you’ll be briefly unavailable helps manage people’s expectation of when you’ll be able to respond to their query.

  • Leave a message
  • Inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell famously said, “before anything else, preparation is key to success.” And his sage advice couldn’t be truer for taking time off from your small business. But while Bell’s legacy has afforded us a constantly connected world, it can make switching off difficult. But with a bit of planning, you can now automate many tasks to ensure your business runs efficiently while you’re relaxing.

    Staying connected also doesn’t mean you need to answer every call you receive. Record a voicemail message explaining your reduced hours of contact and ask callers to leave a message.

    Don’t forget to set your email autoresponder to communicate the same information while you’re out too. Although obvious, it’s easy to overlook when rushing to finish up but works wonders for managing expectations of what you can or cannot deliver during the time that your business is closed.

  • Use automation to your advantage
  • Updating social media accounts with a friendly seasonal post ensures a high level of reach and reminds your followers that you’re also enjoying a break. If you’d like to continue to market your business during the holiday, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are just two of the many effective tools for scheduling your posts.

    But it’s not only social media posts that can be set up before your break. Melissa B of Honeybee Gardens employs automation to get ahead. She explains, “our sales are scheduled in advance, so we do as much prep ahead of time as we can.”

    You can even take advantage of the fact that people have more downtime to read their favorite blogs and schedule a seasonal post ahead of time, so that it drops while people are relaxing post-feast on the couch with their tablet or phone.

    This is also a great opportunity to identify tasks that can remain automated when you return from your break.

  • Reduce costs while you’re closed
  • Going on holiday can be expensive. All that extra food, transportation and accommodation adds up. And that’s before you even factor in any gifts. So, even if you’re only shutting up shop for a few days, you can make a small but noticeable saving on your energy bills by turning off your computer, monitor or any peripherals like printers, scanners and shredders.

    One other thing: don’t forget to check the thermostat on your way out to avoid heating an empty space.

  • Consider a digital detox
  • If you know that your customers and suppliers are taking time off to celebrate a public holiday and your workload permits it, consider taking a break from digital. Thanksgiving is a great time to go cold turkey from your phone, email and social media accounts. Common holidays like Christmas and New Years are also good opportunities to go it old school and ditch your digital devices for a few days since so many businesses are closed anyway and the impact of your absence is likely to be minimal.

    Try other forms of entertainment that get everyone together round the table. Dust off the board games and let the healthy family rivalries commence!

  • Reset and return refreshed
  • When work starts taking up most of your time, it’s common for things in your personal life to suffer. Taking a break from your business can be an effective way to reset your work/life balance and get some perspective on commitments outside of work.

    There’s no denying it, closing your business for even a few days can be a frantic rush. The following points below are common sense, yet surprisingly easy to forget when rushing to finish up.

  • Don’t close your business until you’ve:
    • Set up your out-of-office notification on your email and website messaging system
    • Announced to friends and followers on social media that you’ll be shut and to expect a delayed response
    • Updated your voicemail message to reflect the time you’ll be unavailable and when you’ll be returning calls
    • Filed away important documents in a secure and easy-to-remember place
    • Locked all windows and doors
    • Switched off all computers, monitors and peripherals at the power point
    • Turned off all lighting, water fountains and fans
    • Checked all refrigerators are working correctly and set to the right temperature

    If you’re taking some time off, we hope you enjoy some relaxing downtime with the ones who matter most. And if you’re not, good luck pushing your business forward during the holiday.

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