Can you take a break?

February 3, 2016

As a business owner, you know your company inside and out. You've seen it grow from an idea into a realisation and you were the driving force behind it. You know and understand all the functions of your business, perhaps at one point you did them all yourself. There is no denying that you are the most important person in your company. But…Can you take a break?

Work-Life Balance
A healthy work-life balance is important for your own physical and mental wellbeing.  A report in the Sydney Morning Herald claims that “the balance between work and life is deteriorating” for Australians and that “longer working hours were contributing to higher levels of depression and anxiety.” Just because you are a business owner, doesn’t mean that you are immune from the negative effects of working too much. But how can you go on holiday (or even have time off for illness) without everything falling apart in your absence?

Procedures, Checks & Safeguards
By establishing set procedures for common tasks of your business, not only can you dictate the way a task is performed, but your staff will have a clear understanding of their duties and your expectations. Having set procedures also creates consistency in the running of your business and the quality of the service you provide to your customers/clients. It can ensure that all staff are operating at the same standard. If the same method is applied each time a task is performed, it also becomes easier to pick up any mistakes or discrepancies as there is a point of comparison.
Safeguards should also be implemented, not only for security reasons, but also as a way to pick up any genuine errors or mistakes. An important safeguard is the separation of duties, which is the concept of having more than one person required to complete a business function. For example, the same person who opens the mail and deposits funds or cheques should not be responsible for completing the bank reconciliation. In small companies, it is not always possible for duties to be separated. In this instance, compensating controls should be put in place.

Sharing of Knowledge
Naturally there are some parts of your business that your employees do not need to know about. But if you withhold key information that will help your staff in their role, how can they successfully perform their duties? They will continue to rely heavily on you to “fill in the gaps” of their knowledge and it will be difficult for you to be absent for any time. Certain skills and knowledge should be openly shared with key employees to enable them to be effective in their role. 
A suggestion on how knowledge can be shared and accessible to relevant staff is through an office  manual. This can include the key information required for a specific business function. If any issues or uncertainties arise, your staff can access the manual which will hopefully include details on how these issues should be handled. This greatly reduces their need to contact you for minor queries.

Hiring the Right People
According to Business News Daily - 
“To hire the right person for the job, you need to look past candidates' resumes and cover letters and learn more about them as people. Employees need to have the skills and experience required to do the job, but they also need to fit in with the company culture and be willing to take direction and handle challenges as they come.”
If you fill your office with the right people from the start, not only will they present the right company image that you are after, but they will be competent in their roles. Certain skills can be learned, but personality cannot. By getting this right, you will find it a lot easier to trust your staff and take a backward step in the day to day running on your business.

Letting Go
Learning to relinquish a certain level of control over your business’ day to day operations can be difficult. You may fear that if you are not always present to oversee your staff that they will drop the ball and the result will be felt by a reduction in sales or customer satisfaction. However, a successful business cannot be so heavily reliant on one person. Perhaps you do go on leave for a period of time and then come back to chaos. Although this can be stressful, the experience can be used positively to identify any additional needs for safeguards, sharing of information or staff training.  
It is natural to worry about your business when you are not there. But as an asset and a potential retirement plan, it needs to be able to function successfully without you. And, let’s be honest, you deserve to take a break!

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