How to Go on Vacation Without Losing Your Customers
As the weather warms up throughout the U.S., many professionals have begun longing to spend long days in the sun. It seems everyone else is packing up for a week at the beach or a long holiday with faraway relatives. Everyone but small business owners, that is.
During the early years of building a business, it can be easy for entrepreneurs to sacrifice vacation time in favor of working year round. Even if you do take a vacation, you’ll likely have a hard time leaving your smartphone and laptop in your hotel room as you head out to enjoy the sights. But too many years of missed vacation can lead to burnout and health problems over time. Here are a few tips to help you get the restorative benefits of a vacation without losing the client base you’ve worked so hard to build.
Choose the Right Time
Most businesses have busy and slow times, depending on the type of products or services they offer. B2B-based organizations may find that the days surrounding a major holiday are slow, since their customers are on vacation, as well. Customer-facing businesses may see greater demand during the summer, winter, spring, or fall, depending on the products or services they sell. You can study the patterns to determine your own slowdowns and plan your vacation to fall within those times. The longer you’re in business, the better you’ll be able to identify the best time for you to be away for a week or two.
Some businesses even choose to close their doors for a week each year. This gives all employees a week off. For one-man shops, this is in essence what you’re doing when you announce you’ll be on vacation for a designated period during the summer. Just as customers plan around the one or two weeks a multi-employee business closes each year, your customers will plan around your vacation each year.
Make a Standing Vacation
When you designated a week each year for your vacation and put it on the calendar, you make things easier for everyone. First, you’ll be able to book your venues well in advance and let the rest of your family know to plan for it. Secondly, you’ll be able to put the date on your calendar and let your customers, vendors, and, once you have them, employees know exactly the week you’ll be out of the office for this year and the many years to come.
By having this week in mind as each year begins, you’ll also be able to plan your budget well in advance. You’ll know one week out of the year you’ll be away and therefore unable to operate a full capacity. You’ll also likely find that you need to plan to be extremely busy in the weeks leading up to and following your vacation.
Give Plenty of Notice
The best thing you can do for your customers is to give plenty of advance notice. Depending on the type of business you do, this may mean four or five months of notice or just a few weeks. Customers that rely on you to provide services monthly probably will need to know that you’ll be away much further in advance than those who simply contact you when they need you.
As you’re giving notice, be sure you let your clients know how you’ll meet their needs during the time surrounding your vacation. Will you be working extra the week before and after your vacation in order to make sure everyone has what they need? Will you have someone filling in for emergency situations while you’re away? Or will you be on call for emergencies during your vacation week? Whatever your decision, you should communicate this as you let people know about your vacation. This information will show that you have already considered their own needs during that time and have put measures in place to make sure those needs are met.
Set Money Aside
If your salary comes from your business, being away for a week can be costly. Not only will you be forced to forego a salary during that time, you’ll have extra expenses related to your trip. The best thing you can do throughout the year is set extra money aside to cover that week. Then you’ll be able to enjoy a stress-free vacation.
Some banks offer vacation clubs that automatically set money aside each month for you. Then when it’s time for your vacation, that money will be in your account, waiting to be used. This will keep you from having to spend the months following your vacation paying off the credit card bills you racked up during your week at the beach or amusement parks.
Have a Stand-In
You’ve likely noticed that some people offer an alternate contact while they’re away. Your goal should be to get that person in place at some point during the growth of your business. A right-hand person can take calls for you and handle the things that can be handled in your absence. Any emergencies that can only be handled by you can also be relayed through this one person, with this filtering process giving you the freedom to keep your phone with you, knowing that if an emergency happens, your trusted assistant will let you know.
If you can’t afford a full-time salaried person, a virtual assistant could be an option. Throughout the year, you could get this person up to speed on your business, while also getting assistance with smaller tasks. When your vacation week rolls around, your virtual assistant will be ready to take calls and handle basic things for that week, charging you only for the hours worked.
Unplug and Put Family First
The most important thing you can do when you go on vacation is truly enjoy the experience. If you can, leave your electronic devices in the room and head out each day without giving a thought to the work that awaits you when you return. This daily prolonged break will allow you to get away, freeing your mind up to tackle your work with renewed vigor when you return.
If you can’t leave the office behind for hours at a time, make a deal with yourself that you’ll only check in at designated intervals. This may be once an hour or, if you can do it, every few hours. These short bursts of time can be spent with your family instead of sitting on the phone.
Without a vacation, you can easily burn out, making you ineffective to your customers. With careful advanced planning and self-discipline, you can take a full week off with minimal disruption to your business.