Are you closing or slowing down over the holidays? The Christmas/New Year period can be a great chance to take a break to prevent burnout, improve productivity, and reduce illnesses. However poor systems, planning and preparation can damage your business. You can lose business if enquiries aren’t responded to while you are on holiday. Poor cash flow management might mean a supplier not getting paid on time. Your holiday won’t be relaxing if people are constantly calling you. Effective systems enable a business to continue to operate or be put on hold while you are on holiday. If you prepare, you will be able to actually enjoy a break instead of feeling like you have to work during it.
Here are some things you might need to sort out prior to taking even few days off.
Good organisation will enable you to switch off from your business and take a break. Planning ahead and anticipating what customers may need during this time will ensure that there are customers to come back to. Closing the business for a short period is possible if customers are informed in advance and appointments and projects are planned around the closing period. You can put a message on your website and/or include notification of your closing dates in your mail footer or Christmas card. Speak to your customers to let them know that you will be closed. Try to minimise the impact of your break on your customers. Also, let your key suppliers know you are going to be closed.
Consider your security
Make sure data on your computer, phone, website etc is backed up before the shutdown period and that your anti-virus software is up to date. Think about what you need to secure regarding your physical office space – what have you done to protect against someone breaking in and stealing merchandise, equipment, money and information?
Include an appropriate voicemail message on your phone. This should outline when your business reopens and how to contact you urgently.
If people email you, will they be wondering where you are and when you might respond? Do you need to set an out of office message so anyone who emails you will know when to expect a response? Here are a couple of samples to use as a guide:
- How to set up Out of Office Assistance in Outlook for Windows and Outlook for Mac
- Instructions for setting up an autoresponder with Gmail
- Set up an out of office message in Mail on a Mac
Make sure your invoices are up to date prior to your break. You can also set up automatic payment reminder messages for customers with your email or accounting software such as Xero or FreshBooks.
If you are working long hours and not taking a break, a little bit of planning and effective use of technology could help you get out of the office. Whether you want to get away or just take a break, you are never really far away from your business thanks to the internet, smartphone, tablet and laptops. However, I hope you can take a break and enjoy time with your family and friends. I am looking forward to leaving the phone at home when I head to the beach knowing I have effective systems and processes in place for dealing with enquiries, customer service and cash flow.
I hope your holiday season is full of good times, happiness and fun. Thank you to all who make up the Black Mouse community of readers and I look forward to connecting in 2016. I will be taking a break from writing for a few weeks while I enjoy time off with my family. Look out for my next post on Thursday 14 January 2016.