Holidays are here! Time to take some time off, cook and make the most of the free days with the kids.
But there’s just that little voice at the back of your mind…”the show must go on!”
Yes, whatever the season, your clients need you. And in order for your business to keep performing, you need to prepare your team.
Team delegation can be a challenge for many small business owners. How can you be confident that everything will continue like clockwork when you’re not around? How can you step out of the business with minimum anxiety? And, most importantly, how can you address the unexpected?
Worry not! Here are 8 steps you can action right now to prepare your team for 100% autonomy and 200% customer happiness when you take a well-deserved break.
Step 1 – Get out of panic mode
If you haven’t prepared your team yet, the first thing you should NOT do is to try to resolve everything at once. You are not going to be away for years! Make a short list of urgent vs. important tasks. Add to this the key elements of your normal business routine, and the tasks that have a direct client impact. This will give you your “non-negotiable” activities.
Step 2 – Review who’s already in charge of critical tasks
Time to identify the best match for those tasks. Which member of your team is already familiar with some of these activities? Who could handle it with a little bit of additional training or supervision? Could the more experienced staff mentor the juniors to keep things running smoothly?
Related: Why trust is key to lead with confidence
Step 3 – Prepare your team with clear standards
Do you have a standard process for each of your “non-negotiable” activities? Is there any documentation your employees could refer to? Having things documented clarifies what needs to be done. You can ask each task owner to draft a basic checklist, including the normal point of contact, the main activity steps, and what “good” looks like. It might come in handy if the regular task owner falls sick!
Step 4 – Make priorities transparent
Another challenge will be to assign the right priority to each task. But equally, you don’t want to spend hours deciding what should come first if one client has a complaint when another has issues with product shipping!
Here’s the secret to keeping it flexible – start with “themed priorities”. For instance:
1 – Client communications
2 – Sales support
3 – Content publication
4 – Promotion
Then, rely on your team’s experience and understanding of the situation to decide which task comes first within each category.
Step 5 – Get everyone on the same page
Having a few “prep meetings” before you go is a must. Make sure everyone knows who’s in charge of the regular activities and identify any additional skills of individual team members. You want to make sure each person is fully confident they can turn to a colleague for a question (and not you). Need a refresher? Check 5 rules to make the most of your meetings!
This small difference can make a big impact on the overall efficiency of your team (and on your time!)
Step 6 – Cater for the extraordinary
What will trigger the most questions from your team?
Something they’ve never seen before.
In order to prepare the team (and yourself) for a possible “no SOS call” rule, get ready. What can you do to anticipate the unexpected? What is the main source of information your crew might need to resolve an issue? In what circumstance should they wait until you’re back?
You’ve probably faced similar situations in the past. But you can help your team members gain confidence of the unknown.
Why don’t you dig out and write your own FAQ’s?
Think of the best response to maintain customer satisfaction until you can take over.
Here are a few examples:
– Client reclamation
– Technical failure
– Request for interview, a question from an influencer
– Payment to make / receive / chase
– Product unavailability
A clear message, and clear initial steps, for each possible situation are enough to help your team handle the unexpected.
For instance, a prospective customer has a specific question following a previous conversation. Instead of a standard “please contact me when I’m back in 2 weeks”, why not ask your team to schedule a short 15 minute call? It’s a courteous way to buy some time, show interest in the customer, and avoid the dreadful “please come back later” (you never come back later – no one likes to wait).
Step 7 – Get prepared yourself
It might be the first time you’ve had to completely let go of your activities.
Sure, you want to prepare your team. But don’t forget yourself in the process! You do care for your business, and giving the keys to someone else can be stressful. In the few weeks before you go, observe your team at work. Spot what your own confidence cues are. In other words, what works well without your intervention? For the grey zones, think of “the one thing”.
What is the one small tweak you can make NOW to improve the way the team operates?
Step 8 – If by then, you can’t switch off…
You might be someone who finds it difficult to step away. That’s fine! It will improve over time. But instead of spending your holidays worrying about what’s going on, why not take a different approach?
Ask your team to send you a daily digest.
Then, set aside 1 hour per day to go through it. This way, you won’t lose control of the day-to-day and if there’s something wrong, you’ll know right away.
Stepping out for a while is necessary for you to recharge and come back with fresh new ideas. But it shouldn’t be source of stress for you! Having your team to run the show when you’re away has more benefits than simply giving you your time back. You develop their autonomy and prepare them for a time when the success of your business will prevent you from being hands-on.
Got another quick-win tip for taking a vacation from your business? Share your story below!