How to Go on Vacation without Abandoning Your Business

By Maria Peagler

Oct 07

How to go on vacation without abandoning your business

Summer of 2014 found me traveling across the entire United States — I was literally gone more than I was home.

My younger son competed in Odyssey of the Mind world finals in Iowa (his team finished fourth!); I took a girls’ trip to an art retreat with a friend at Madeline Island School of the Arts in Wisconsin; my entire family went to a reunion on a barrier island off of the Georgia coast; and I drove 3,000 miles on a cross-country road trip to Austin, Texas.

Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, however, ran smoothly — without a hitch. We continued to get new members,  provided customer support, and updated our classes without me being in the office.

How did I do it and how can you learn to do the same?

Delegate. Then Delegate Again.

If you can’t delegate to a trusted member of your team, your business is doomed to fail. Few of us are so talented that our work can’t be done by someone else — at least for a while.

My full-time virtual assistant plays a critical role for me when I’m out of the office. She normally handles customer service issues, but when I’m away she also handles any urgent issues that need immediate attention. I created a vacation autoresponder in Gmail telling people the exact dates I would be out of the office, and provided my VA’s contact information should they need urgent help. She was able to handle anything that cropped up while I was gone.

How?

Train Your Team to Handle ANYTHING

How much time do you dedicate to team training?  Not surprisingly, because I’ve founded a training brand and was a director of the nation’s largest computer training company, I invest a significant amount of time in training my staff.

I empower them to experiment with new roles and responsibilities, improve their skills, and provide opportunities they haven’t found elsewhere. Without any training, your team is like a ship without a rudder, traveling without any sense of direction. And if they lose you, the navigator, your brand’s fate will go the way of the Titanic.

Yes, developing training takes time, but you can incorporate it into the projects you need to delegate. The next time you’re doing a task that you need to hand off,  record a video of yourself:  screencasts or audio recordings enable you to document your process easily so that others on your team can accomplish that task.

We have an entire video library for our team here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com. Not only does it come in handy when I’m on vacation, it also provides automatic training & orientation when a new staff member comes on board.

If you’re one of those “It’s faster to do it myself,” or “I can’t trust anyone else to do that,” kind of employers, STOP IT NOW.

Turn a Complex Set of Tasks into a Checklist

We use checklists often here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, for everything to uploading videos to generating reports and writing blog posts. Using a combination of a training video and a checklist, I not only allow my team to see how I do a task, but then I give them a means of going through it themselves and ensuring they’ve accomplished all the steps.

Checklists reduce complex, costly, and even dangerous situations requiring unique solutions to a set of repeatable tasks, often by people who don’t have the same education or experience as you.

I highly recommend Atul Gwande’s book The Checklist Manifesto; it’s a great read to learn how people with enormous responsibility for human life are able to reduce errors and make the world a safer, healthier place with simple checklists: doctors with the World Health Organization, engineers and architects responsible for stable bridges and buildings, and pilots who take hundreds of lives in their hands daily.

Think of the medical teams in Africa who are handling Ebola cases: the doctors who return home will eventually train emergency room personnel how to handle these critical patients at home, using what they’ve learned. If they can develop a checklist to handle life and death situations, can you honestly say “I’m the only one who can do this?”

Use Smart Automation

When you’re away enjoying your vacation/sabbatical/retreat, your marketing doesn’t have to leave with you. While many entrepreneurs love to tout “marketing automation,” you need to be smart about what you decide to put on auto-pilot.

Schedule your social media posts using Hootsuite, SproutSocial, or other automation tool, but be sure your team is ready to respond to questions, comments, or virtual high-fives. You choose whether you want to be available or not.

When I was on Madeline Island, Wisconsin at an art retreat, we had absolutely no cell coverage. For one week I was completely off the grid.

And it was awesome.

As much as I love my business, I know that I need a break.  I need time away to refresh, to renew, and to come back with energy, passion, and ideas. It was good for me, for one week, to be unavailable by phone,  email or  text.

Can your business survive without you?

Your Action Items

The holiday season is approaching: you know you’ll be visiting family and be gone from your business.  Ensure it can survive, and even THRIVE, without you:

  1. Identify the areas of your business that need to continue operating while you’re on vacation (orders, customer service, etc)
  2. Start recording training video and audio to teach your team how to handle those responsibilities without YOU
  3. Do a trial run before you go on vacation. Help your staff with challenges and solutions so they can be successful when you’re unavailable to answer their questions.

What’s your best tip for going on vacation and enabling your business to thrive without you?

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About the Author

Founder of Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, Benjamin Franklin award-winner for independent publishing, award winning author of eight books, wife, mom, quilter and watercolor artist.

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