Vacation? What is that? This is a question I get from a lot of small business owners. Recently I had the priveledge of getting to go on vacation. This is an amazing feat for a lot of entrepreneurs – especially service providers. Taking a vacation can be very difficult – especially when you are first building your business. Believe me – I know. My husband and I did not take a vacation for eight years! (To be fair we had two children during that time as well). But regardless, we spent a lot of time building our business and did not know any better on ways to keep things working so we could take a break.
Technology has played a large role in helping prepare us to take a vacation. Most of what I will mention did not always exist. But it does now, so let technology take the driver’s seat and start putting those vacation plans into action. Here are some tips I recommend for small business owners.
1. Find Back Up
Easier said than done, I know. But it is imperative to find someone who can handle your clients that you can trust. Especially if you are a service provider. Someone whose skills are comparable to your own, or at least has a working knowledge that will suffice until you get back. If you are only gone a few days, and your warn your clients ahead of time, this should do just fine. Typically, this is someone else in the trade. The beauty of this arrangement is that your Back Up will need back up eventually as well. So you can reciprocate back and forth, thus strengthening your trust in each other. I know as business owners we fiercely protect our clients. But if you are doing your job well, they will not go anywhere and will appreciate that you have found someone that has your values to watch over them while you are away.
Maybe you can hand over a lot of duties to a trusted VA (Virtual Assistant). There are many to choose from locally, but a website that I often tell people to visit is hiremymom.com. Great ladies with a wealth of knowledge there that can handle whatever you have. They are women from the “working world” who are now at home with their kids – but perfectly capable of handling things while you are gone.
2. Choose Who Will Answer Your Phone
This is surprisingly easy to do. You can forward your phone to an answering service who will answer your phone any way you like, direct your calls anywhere you want them to go, and send an email to you letting you know what happened. They could email your Back Up the message, they could call your Back Up and give them the message, you name it. The email option is nice because then you have a record of every call that came in.
You can also use Google Voice. Google Voice can be used as a third party voice mail service. It basically takes the place of your normal voicemail, but adds additional features. It will transcribe the message, and send you – and your Back Up – an email with the recording and a text message transcribing it as well. This method is free, so it is a way to go if you don’t want to hire an answering service.
If you are traveling out of the country – I suggest you get clear on what you will be charged for and what you won’t. The upcoming book I recommend is The Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling With Your iPhone. Even though it is targeted to iPhone users, a lot of the concepts apply regardless of what type of smart phone you own.
Social media lives on without you, so the best thing to do is be as prepared as you can and plan ahead. Schedule your posts to go out on certain days at certain times. Some services I recommend are obviously Hoot suite or TweetDeck which are free, or you can also use Sendible for a small fee. All of these will help you maintain your social media presence while you are away. Then have your VA or whomever monitor it just in case.
If your blog is a WordPress blog – and it should be – then you can also schedule your blog to go out while you are gone. WordPress gives you the option to publish immediately or in the future. So while you are away you can have a blog post go out as well. Click here if you need help converting your site to WordPress. Email marketing programs also give the option to schedule when your newsletter will go out. Attach a snipit of your blog to your newsletter to get extra bang for the buck on that post.
4. Prepare For EVERYTHING
I am not trying to be morbid, but things happen. Not necessarily fatal incidents, but perhaps severe weather can delay your return for a few extra days or more sometimes. Better safe than sorry. Plan ahead. Make sure important documents are somewhere where someone you trust can get to them. What about important passwords? Does anyone have access to those that may need it? I go over this at length in a previous blog post you can read here, but everyone – regardless of vacation or not – should have this stuff together.
Seems like a lot of work, especially since I have not even touched on personal items such as mail, pet care, house sitters, etc. but you can do it. Vacation is necessary. It does not have to be a week or two weeks. Sometimes it can just be a long weekend. But it is important to take the time to give yourself a breather. Clear your mind, get a change of scenery and recharge those batteries!
What are some other services you have used while on vacation? Leave me a comment and let’s help each other!