Afraid to take a holiday? Here’s what to do…

Afraid to take a holiday? Here’s what to do…

Are you afraid to take a holiday?

No, I’m not joking. This is a particular problem for small business owners. One actually told me that he never took a holiday himself because, in his words, ‘I was worried that I wouldn’t have a business by the time I got back’.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. At least, not if you plan things properly beforehand…

But I am the business!

If you’re a sole trader, that may well be what you think. It may even be true. But it doesn’t mean you can’t take a break. And if you’re planning on having a life – as well as a business – then you actually need the occasional holiday. (Quite aside from the needs of others around you, who might quite reasonably like to see more of you than your back, hunched in front of the computer while you catch up with your accounts…)

Look at it another way. If you are your business, then your health and welfare are important to that business. Driving yourself into the ground will benefit no one, least of all the business. (You can’t do anything for your clients if you’re flat on your back in hospital.)

Luckily, there is another way…

Planning your holiday

As an organised person, one of the first things you’ll do when going on holiday is to make an itinerary – where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and where you’re staying when you do. And the second thing you’ll do is to make a list of what you’re taking.

(If that doesn’t sound like you, then now might be a great time to start…)

But before you do any of that, use the same process to plan your holiday. Make a list of your current projects – and any (predictable) future ones. An organised list of your current clients (that someone else can understand). And a planned schedule with a good, solid, two-week gap in it. That’s your holiday, and you do NOT accept any appointments or bookings that will interfere with it. (Go on. You can do it.)

Now share all those lists with a reliable, professional, virtual assistance service. (If you don’t know of one already, I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.) They’re the ones who will be taking your calls while you’re away. Who will be checking your emails – and sending you ONLY those that require your personal attention. Who will be setting up appointments for you on your return. And who will be fielding routine enquiries from current and potential clients on your behalf. So they will need proper instruction – hence those lists.

And if you have a business process they need to know about, write it down and share it with them. You’ll soon find you can do a lot less – and achieve a lot more. In fact you may well want to carry on using them when you get back.

Ready? Good. Now sort out that holiday (and I can point you in the right direction there, as well)…!

And if you’d like a little more guidance on outsourcing and delegation, do check out our blogs. Or give me a call on 01359 240717 and we can get together over a cup of coffee.

Delegation: if I’d known you were coming I’d have baked a cake

Delegation: if I’d known you were coming I’d have baked a cake

Picture by kind permission of Jess Fotheringham of Pickacake – Jess makes all her own cakes and decorates them, too! See more at www.pickacake.co.uk and www.facebook.com/jesspickacake/

It’s great talking about delegation in theory, but how does it work in practice? Let’s look at an example…

Say you’re a wedding cake specialist whose business is just taking off. Which means you’re now so busy that you’re working past 11 pm most nights.

So – what could you delegate?

After a little thought, you start making a list, which includes:

  • handling telephone enquiries
  • handling online enquiries (via email, Facebook, your website etc.)
  • taking orders
  • collecting (and chasing) payment
  • posting on social media
  • delivering the finished cake

Those are all fairly obvious. None of this work requires your key skills, and all of it can easily be done by someone else. But you might also consider a more radical solution. Suppose – for example – that you decide your key skill is cake decoration. In that case you might consider outsourcing the actual cake making to someone you can really rely on.

How, exactly, could you go about doing that?

Start with three questions

What are you delegating? Why are you delegating it? And to whom will you delegate?

What you are delegating sounds simple – but is it? Will you delegate just the basic cake making, or the cake making and basic icing?

Why you are delegating also sounds simple – after all, you’re already working too hard. But what is your plan? Do you want to stop work earlier but still produce the same number of cakes? Or do you want to increase productivity – to make more cakes during the time you are working?

And the questions don’t stop there.

You have a good reputation, which you want to keep. So are you going to specify a particular recipe? Will you insist on free range eggs? Will you specify the source for those eggs? What size – or sizes – of cake do you want made? Are you supplying tins, or are they? How will you keep in contact with your supplier? (Phone? Email? SMS? Messenger?) And will you want them to acknowledge all your orders – in detail?

Sounds finicky? Not really. Just consider a realistic example…

You place an order for ‘an 8-inch cake, wanted Monday’. At this point you know exactly what you mean by that – but your supplier doesn’t. For instance, are they delivering the cake, or are you picking it up? Do you need it cooled before collection or delivery, or could it still be warm from the oven? Do you want it in a tin, or wrapped in greaseproof paper? And when, exactly, do you want it? By 10 am on Monday? By close of play on Monday?

There’s a lot to think about – and we haven’t even considered what’s probably the most important question – to whom?

Can you trust your new supplier?

You’re delegating a job that is vital to your business. If your new supplier gets it wrong, you will lose customers – and, more importantly, you could lose a reputation that’s taken a long time to build.

So you’ll want to spend some time checking them out. You might even consider placing a trial order to see how they perform – ordering a cake you don’t intend to sell, just to see for yourself that it’s a good cake. And once you’ve made your choice, you need to listen to your customer feedback, and check that the change works for them, too.

In short, delegation involves a lot of questions – including quite a few you may not have thought of. Because it’s all about process. And that’s my speciality.

So if you’d like a little help, why not book a chat with me today? No pressure, no fee, no obligation.

Time to delegate…

Time to delegate…

If you keep just one New Year resolution this year, here’s the one to stick to: ‘You will delegate the work you don’t need to do yourself.’

In an earlier post you’ll find ideas to avoid being a ‘busy fool’ – by deciding what to do, what to delegate, and what to dump. But when you’ve made that important decision, the next step is even more important. Because you need to delegate the right work, to the right people, for the right reasons – and get it done in the right way…

The right work

Good – you’re clear about what task you want to delegate. But now you need to take a long, hard look at what, precisely you are doing, and how you are doing it. How would you describe it to someone else? What, exactly, would you ask them to do?

It may sound like a silly question: after all, you probably think that the answer is obvious.

But is it?

If it’s obvious, you should be able to write down what’s needed in a sentence or two. If you can’t, it may not be as obvious as you thought…!

Puzzled? Don’t be. In all likelihood you’ve been doing that job for months or even years. You know precisely what to do and how to do it. But all that information only exists in your head. And until it exists somewhere else, in an accessible form, you can’t really expect anyone else to do it for you.

So – write it down. And, perhaps, discuss it with the person you’d like to do the job. They may well have questions. They may also have suggestions: other ways of doing the work that are simpler, or more cost-effective. That’s the benefit of bringing in someone to help you, after all!

But only, of course, if they’re the right someone.

The right people

If you value your business, you don’t want just anyone to work in it. You’ll want people with genuine, proven ability who can make a real contribution. In fairness, that could include members of your family, but they may well have other things to do which they would regard as more important. (Like doing their own job. Or feeding the cat. After all, they may not want to work for you…)

If they’re an employee, be sure they are a good ‘fit’ for the job you’re asking them to do – and that they feel willing and able to do it. If they’re the right person in principle, but lack the necessary experience, you’ll need to invest in training them. That may well be a good investment, but you need to be confident that it’s worth making.

If you’re looking outside the business, at someone you don’t know well – such as a Virtual Assistant – you’ll need to check out their credentials. (And, ideally, what other clients think of them – perhaps via social media). Anyone can talk the talk, but you need the substance. And you need to get on with them on a personal level, as well – after all, they’re effectively going to be a part of your team.

The right way

Of course, trust is an issue, too. Depending on the nature of your business you may need your outsourcing supplier to sign a confidentiality agreement – especially given the more stringent rules around data protection from May 2018. And consider any terms and conditions you may need to apply – including, for example, permission for them to outsource work which, for any reason, they cannot do themselves.

Think of ‘trust’, and inevitably the next word you are likely to think of is ‘risk’. So what are the risks of outsourcing the work you have in mind? If something went wrong, what effect might that have on your business? Your answer is likely to shape your initial agreement with your new partner.

If the risk is relatively low, the best approach is probably to arrange an agreed trial period so you can see how the arrangement will work. If the risk is greater you will certainly want to set specific terms and conditions around the trial, and arrange for regular performance reviews. You will also want to have a Plan B available in case it doesn’t work out!

Inevitably things you haven’t thought of will come up (they always do) but a good, responsive outsourcing supplier will be aware of that and respond to feedback. If they don’t – or if their response is less than helpful – then it’s time to move on and find someone else! Every good business welcomes feedback. (You do – don’t you?)

Need a little help? Then please get in touch for a free fact-finding consultation.