How to Take Time Off From Your Small Business, Part 1

It’s vacation season. For many people, summer vacations are a reason to celebrate. But you are a small business owner, and summer vacations invoke a feeling of dread. What is going to happen to my company if I go on vacation? Who will run day-to-day operations if key employees want some time off? What if there is an emergency!?

You and your employees occasionally need to take time off. Of course, things will always be a little hectic when your company is short-handed, but there are some things you can do before the vacations start to help the company run smoothly while you (or your valued employees) are gone. Here are some tips for getting your company through vacation season.

Owner/Partner Vacation

You own a small business. You pretty much run day-to-day operations and you make all the “big” decisions either alone, or as an integral member of the decision-making team. How can you possibly get away for even a few days? First and foremost, take a vacation! Studies show that a little time off can make you happier, physically and mentally healthier, and more productive at work. Yes, it’s going to take a little planning to pull it off, but you really, really need this vacation. Consider these guidelines when planning your own vacation time:

  1. Take your vacation in the off-season. If there is no off-season, you can still plan your vacation around big deadlines and other events. For instance, you may know that the end of each quarter is busy for your business, and is therefore a bad time for you to be away.
  2. Be realistic about “working vacations.” Sometimes, you can pull off working vacations, but don’t promise your team back home that you will be available when you know you are going to be backpacking through Nepal with no cell phone or internet access.  Your employees need to know whether or not you will be available, and you need to plan accordingly if you’ll be off the grid.
  3. Designate a hierarchy of substitute leadership. Designate a person in charge in your absence, and then designate a couple of back-up substitutes, as well. Make substitute leadership decisions clear by announcing them at company meetings and follow up with an email. Do not wait until the last minute to make these decisions! Give your substitute leaders a chance to ask you questions before you leave. Whatever you do, do not just assume that your team will work it out themselves while you are gone.
  4. Create an emergency plan. You should already have emergency policies in place, but before your vacation, it is especially important that you make sure your business has emergency policies.  Review emergency policies with your employees and your substitute leaders. Also, keep in mind that emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. For instance, the roof may blow off the building. On the other hand, a business dispute may arise which requires immediate legal action. “Business emergencies” are still emergencies, but probably not the type of emergency your company policies address. Talk to your team about business emergencies and make sure your substitute leaders are comfortable making emergency business decisions. It is advisable to provide your team with a list of resources they can contact in your absence, such as the company’s legal counsel, and even other trusted business owners or professionals in your field that you feel could assist in case of a business emergency.
  5. Delegate your daily tasks. You are probably more efficient at your job(s) than anyone else is going to be, so divide your usual tasks among multiple people in order to maintain manageable workloads. The key here is to be as clear as possible. Provide written instructions. Again, do not wait until the last minute to make these decisions so people have time to ask you questions before you leave.
  6. Let your customers know what’s going on. Everyone needs a vacation now and then, and your customers will understand that. You don’t need to shout your intentions from the rooftops, but people may occasionally contact your company looking for you. Instruct your team to let people know what’s going on by telling customers: you’re out of town, when you’ll be back, and who they can contact in case they need urgent assistance. It helps to set up automatic email and voicemail messages, as well.

Check back soon for Part 2 of this post, “How to Take Time Off from Your Small Business.”

The law is always changing.  We cannot guarantee that the information provided herein is current and accurate.  Every situation is different.  Do not refrain from seeking legal advice from a lawyer because of anything contained in this blog.  Consult an attorney for individual legal advice regarding your own situation.