Small Business Advice: Preparing Your Business for Your Vacation
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Everyone needs a vacation, but many small business owners feel too much anxiety about leaving their business for an extended period of time to actually enjoy their time off. Their minds wander to the what-ifs: What if a piece of equipment breaks down? What if there’s an issue with our biggest client? What if there’s an emergency?
While having the right small business insurance may help ease your mind, there are some other steps you can take to help reduce the stress of leaving town every once in a while.
Pick the right person to manage the business. Handing off the torch while you’re away from the office can be difficult, so it’s important that the right person manages the business. He or she should be trained and given a test run as manager weeks before you leave for your vacation. That way, you can walk through issues as they arise while you’re still in town, and it’s less likely you’ll need to field frantic phone calls while you’re trying to relax.
Train your employees. An employee might be great at his or her job, but that doesn’t mean he or she knows how to handle issues you normally tackle. In the short term, it is important that you focus on communicating the ways to manage the business to a core group of reliable employees. They’ll need to know how to handle company matters in both good times and bad.
In the long term, take the time to develop strong hiring practices that can set the stage for a stronger workforce—one that is better able to lead while you are away. We call this “front-door management.”
Put a business continuity plan into place. A business continuity plan is a set of actionable guidelines designed to get a business operational after an unexpected event.
According to a Travelers survey conducted during National Small Business Week 2012, only 52 percent of businesses have a written continuity plan or some other disaster recovery document that identifies and mitigates potential threats to a business, its employees, and its customers in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
Before you leave, make sure that you have a plan in place and that employees know about it. They should know where they can access important information, including contact information for vendors and customers, if necessary.
Make sure managers know who’s backing them up. Also, make sure they understand proper steps to take if an accident occurs. They should know where to find the insurance policy and who to contact for questions if something goes wrong.
Give them basic information about the business’s insurance coverage, including business interruption and extra expense coverages. You should incorporate this information into your business continuity plan.
Take inventory of recent projects. You likely ask employees to report to you with updates on projects, and you should do the same before you leave for vacation. Close the loop on each project, relay recent client conversations to the appropriate people, and outline anticipated projects.
Create a list of to-dos for any important projects that employees can refer to while you’re away.
Lean on your advisors. Make use of industry experts, including independent insurance agents, attorneys, accountants, and other small business owners, before setting travel plans. Each can offer advice on managing risks while you’re away from the office and reinforcing aspects of your business continuity plan.
Fortunately—or unfortunately—being on vacation doesn’t mean being disconnected from your business. Before you leave the office, check if your flight has Wi-Fi and if your smartphone or tablet will be able to get service at your vacation destination. That way, you’ll be able to check in if necessary.
Judy Coblentz is a seasoned and highly successful executive in the financial services industry. As the Chief Underwriting Officer for Select Accounts, the small commercial division at The Travelers Companies, Inc., Ms. Coblentz provides underwriting leadership and strategy for the business unit’s insurance portfolio. Travelers is a Dow 30 and Fortune 500 company.
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