We see it again and again; business owners rarely take a vacation or planned time away from their business. They are drawn to the fact that the business will explode or implode in their absence. How can you leave when you (or another key person on your team) are the one who keeps the business together?
First, start by asking yourself, "Why are you the one keeping the business together?" Do you want it that way? Would you actually like a planned vacation? Do you worry about what would happen to your business if an emergency left you unable to work for a week? Either planned or unplanned, your business needs to be prepared to continue while you are gone for a two day client business trip, a family vacation, a two month emergency health issue, or even longer.
You can start by planning for a few days' absence. And, to set your team and business up for success while you are away, create a reference manual for need to know information. We call it the Quick Reference Guide - QRG (quirg) for short. And to get you started, here are the basic systems needed for every business QRG:
Contact information: List the contacts that keep your business operating smoothly, or those you would need to contact in case of an emergency. These would include your utility vendors, internet provider, phone vendor, computer support vendor, equipment vendors, landlord, office supply vendors that deliver or pick up at your business. Also list those contacts you might interact with on a regular basis (daily, weekly, and monthly) that your team may not be aware of. This might include key support staff from suppliers or other relationships that you rely on to get results. Document each number, the name of the company, and the name of a contact and what they do for your business.
General information: This includes the basic systems you have for operating every day. They include systems for opening the office, where the server is located and how your computer backups are conducted. It would also contain basic ways to handle emergencies. This includes emergencies your business encountered in the past (ex. when the basement flooded, the power was cut by the city construction crew, or the front window broke).
Taking calls: Your QRG should also contain scripting for incoming phone calls and Question and Answer guides for handling basic and common questions your business receives. While this may not be needed for your current team, new employees need a quick, easy way to provide answers for incoming calls.
Daily procedures: These include systems that show how to open, close, and operate the office. Items may be as simple as when to unlock and lock the doors, how to change the ink in the copier, how to run the mail and label machine, how to turn on and off the lights or equipment.
Phone and computer information: With the reliance on technology, this is essential for everyone to do their job. How would your staff know how to get messages off the phone when the administrator is gone? How would the sales team know where the proposal software is located when the marketing coordinator is gone? Document everyone who uses the phone system and computer system, and then make sure there is a back-up plan for each user in his/her absence.
Before you leave, have a conversation with your team and discuss their concerns over not having you around to provide information or guidance. Consider the following questions and be prepared to give direction to your team on handling these situations: How do you want your staff to mention your absence? What items should they offer to help with while you're gone? Who should they direct your calls to? Also, let your staff know if you can be contacted or not. We also encourage you to list items that staff need to call you about.
Work with your team to create a QRG and make sure there is one by every phone in your business. If you make this an all team project your business will have a QRG in a couple weeks and you will be in a much better position to spend time away from your business!