Just the act of imagining what is likely to go wrong in your absence and what you will need to put in place to keep things steady while you are gone can produce a handy list of priorities of what you need to work on in your business, adds Govender..
“Which system will be the first to collapse when I’m not are not there? The answer will point towards the department in your business that needs the most work. Which routine work will start piling up when I’m gone for a week or two? The answer tells you which tasks you should consider delegating. Who among my staff members can I put in charge for a while? Who can take responsibility for certain processes in the business while I am gone? These questions tell you who you can bring into your management team,” he says.
Govender says the short-term plans that entrepreneurs would have to put in place in order to keep the ship afloat while they are on holiday are often a first step towards the real thing - permanent solutions that will make the business robust and less dependent on a single entrepreneur.
If certain tasks which were delegated during the entrepreneur’s holiday were carried out successfully, it can become a permanent arrangement. So too for new roles and responsibilities given to staff members. You may ask a certain department to put together a concise report of progress made and problems solved during your absence. If it proved useful, why not institute it as a regular report?
For some entrepreneurs it would be inconceivable to take a holiday. This is understandable in the first year or two of an enterprise when everything tends to revolve around the entrepreneur, says Govender.
But if it is still happening four or five years into the life of the business, it probably means that the entrepreneur has become too stuck in the operations of his business. Having failed to set up proper management systems, to delegate, and to develop and empower staff by giving them responsibilities, the entrepreneur simply cannot take a step back from the business.
Although planning a holiday for yourself can be done as a mental exercise only, nothing beats actually taking the holiday and putting your ideas to the test, says Govender.
Risks and anxiety can be managed by taking an incremental approach to holidays. An entrepreneur with a relatively young business can start off with a long weekend, and then add another day or two onto the beginning and end of the weekend so that it becomes a solid week at a time, and later more than one week.
Although some might prefer regular, short rest periods over multi-week stints, Govender cautions that only ever taking long weekends off does not necessarily prove the robustness of the business. “What could be happening is that you are simply postponing all your work to the day after the long weekend, rather than actually delegating and setting up independent systems,” he adds.
Another form of incrementalism that Govender recommends is the extent to which the entrepreneur checks in on the business while on holiday, and under what circumstances, if at all, staff and clients are allowed to contact the resting business owner. In the beginning, it makes sense to err on the side of too much contact rather than too little. Not only does it help to minimise the risks of inexperienced staff members making the wrong judgement calls, but it will probably also make you less anxious about your business and allow you to relax somewhat in between phone calls with the office.
Of course this kind of holiday is far from ideal. It is good for the business owner and the business if the strictness of the rules about contact is gradually increased from holiday to holiday. Mornings-only contact can later be restricted to once a day, every second day or once a week even if you are really confident that your business is in good hands.
What about entrepreneurs who proudly do not take holidays because they don’t want to and don’t need to? Fair enough, says Govender, not everyone needs the same amount of rest to recharge their batteries, but it does mean that they miss out on the opportunity to test the robustness, growth and independence of the business.
Govender recommends that they go through the mental exercise. The idea of taking a holiday might just start to seem enticing after all.