Holiday Planning for Small Business Owners

Holiday planning for small business owners

For the small business owner, the summer holidays can bring challenges.  It also brings with it an interesting dilemma:  do you or don’t you book a holiday. 

The sun is out and your thoughts turn to holiday planning.  You want to take the family away for a break.  You need to relax and unwind.  You are tired.  You’ve read all those articles about burnout and stress and the importance of a good work-life balance.   So, spurred on by your family, who are eager to see you for more than five minutes a day, you book the holiday.  Then the worrying starts.

How will you manage to find time to actually take the holiday.  And enjoy it without worrying when you do get there.  There is just so much still to do.

Planning ahead is the key to a relaxed and relaxing holiday.

holiday small business planning

I’ve booked my holiday

As soon as you have booked your holiday, work back from the date of your holiday and create a list of your commitments, tasks and deadlines.

Move meetings and renegotiate deadlines that fall within, or two days either side of your holiday.

Plan to meet project milestones early so that they are completed before you go on holiday and are not in the back of your mind, niggling at you, whilst you are on holiday. Or agree to move the milestones so they fall after you return from holiday if that is possible.

Let clients know about your holiday dates in plenty of time.  That way they will know when you will be unavailable.  You can discuss alternative deadlines for tasks and agree on a plan that will work for you both.

Schedule your marketing ahead of the holiday.  Write some extra blog posts or social media posts as you think of them during the year and keep them in reserve.  Bring them out and dust them off, tidy them up a little perhaps, and then schedule them to go out whilst you are sunning yourself on the beach.  This will keep your business front of mind with your clients.

Book your pet’s holidays too.  Book the pet sitter or kennels.  Arrange for a family member or neighbour to pop in to feed and check on caged animals if you aren’t sending them away on holiday to a pet care centre.

With one month to go before your Holiday

Write a list of things that still need to be done before the holiday.  Just list the things you have to complete, deadlines that must be met and the tasks that you have left to do that will impact on your paid work.  Leave the “nice to have” stuff for after your holiday.  For more information about harnessing the power of lists to plan your activities, go here.

If you haven’t already done it, schedule your marketing items so you aren’t trying to do that at the last minute.

Keep your diary clear for two days before and two days after your holiday.  This will feel strange but if a super urgent task comes in at the last minute it gives you wiggle room to deal with it without stress.   It also gives you time to pack and get organised for the holiday itself.

The two days after the holiday allows you to come back to work, deal with things that have come in during the holiday, clear down your inbox and get back into the swing of work in a measured manner.  Knowing you will have space to do that on your

return will mean you don’t spend the last three days of your holiday panicking about what you are going back to.

Plan the domestic things into the diary so they don’t end up being a mad rush the day before the holiday.  Fridge emptying. Suitcase packing.  Foreign currency purchase.  Find your passport.  Arrange a time to take the pets to the kennels.  Buy a new bikini and some sunscreen.  Get your prescriptions filled.

Just Before the Holiday.

Ask your VA to keep an eye on your inbox and social media, reply to any routine enquiries, and send a daily update of any items that need your urgent attention.

Finish your last minute tasks.  Use your two spare days if you need to but ideally try to keep that last spare day for actual holiday preparation.

Delegate the tasks you want your VA or your team to do in your absence.

If you have a team, check everyone knows what they are responsible for.  Do they all have the information they need to complete the tasks you have delegated to them?  Are they clear about deadlines that must be met, calls that are expected, and work which remains outstanding?

Set the out of office reply to your Email telling people you are away.  Explain who will answer emails in your absence, or, detail your return date.

Set an out of office message on your phone.

On Holiday

Yay.  You’ve done it.  You’ve got away.  Hopefully, you are feeling relaxed and calm as you step into the car to drive to Norfolk for that narrowboat trip.  Or you are feeling free as a bird as you fly off to sunny Spain.

One final suggestion.  A digital detox is always a good idea during a break.  Don’t check your email and social media constantly.  Plan to check once a day.  If you’ve left staff running your business, or your VA is keeping tabs on things, agree a time when they will email you an update so you don’t feel compelled to check every five minutes to see if it has arrived yet.

If it makes you feel more secure, agree on a method which a trusted staff member or your VA can use to contact you in an emergency.  I use WhatsApp with my clients if they are abroad and text them when they are in the UK.

Enjoy your holiday, secure in the knowledge that you have planned things so that the business will survive for a week without you.  Have fun.  Make memories.  Sleep a lot.  Eat and drink well.  Relax.  Don’t think about work.  It will be there waiting patiently for you on your return.  None the worse for your absence.  And when you do return you will feel relaxed.  Refreshed.  Productive.  Enthusiastic.

So, what are you waiting for?  Book that holiday.  You won’t regret it.

If you’d like to learn more about how a VA can support you before, during and after your holiday, please get in touch here.

5 Spells to Streamline your Time Management

spells halloween time-management time management, save time, VA, admin help

Soon it will be Halloween.  Then it will be Bonfire Night.  Then we are on the countdown to Christmas.  There are costumes and candy to buy for Halloween, Fireworks to purchase, bonfire night parties to arrange, then the Christmas planning is upon us.  The thoughtful gifts, the stocking fillers, and creating a cake early enough to allow it to be fed an entire bottle of brandy without it turning to mush.  The latter is not only possible, but it is also delicious.   The list goes on and on.

Time, always at a premium, doesn’t stretch to accommodate all the extra tasks you need to complete at home or in the business.   We all sit down some nights and wish we had a magic wand that would allow us to stretch time so we could get more done in a day.   Most of us don’t have a magic wand but these time management tips can help you to make the most of the time you do have available.

Multi-Tasking: Please Don’t.

Although it is tempting to tackle several things at once to get things done quicker, your brain is not set up to work that way.  It works best if you allow it to concentrate on just one task or group of tasks.  By minimising your brain’s need to keep switching tasks, you feel more in control and your brain works more efficiently, allowing you to get more done.

Avoid Interruptions

Interrupting your work to read notifications breaks your train of thought.  Daniel Leviton, author of “The Organised Mind” calls the desire to read notifications and Emails “The Novelty Bias”.   It can take several minutes to recover focus following trivial interruptions and over a whole day, those tiny interruptions can add up to quite a bit of lost time.

If you struggle to ignore notifications there are apps that will block access to Social Media for set periods of time so that you won’t be tempted.  Or, do as I do, leave your phone downstairs when you are working upstairs.

Is it the right time?

If you set aside particular times of day to work on tasks this can really add to your productivity.  Working on complicated or creative tasks when you are feeling fresh will ensure they get done more quickly.  Most of us experience a post-lunch dip in energy and this can be a really good time to check Emails and do routine housekeeping tasks in the office.  Knowing your optimum time for creativity and making the most of this time is a great way to make the most of your time.

Planning:  It’s not just for Project Managers

Have a goal in mind for each week and create a plan for each day.  If you plan out your week and list the key tasks you will complete each day in order to achieve your end goal, this is a great way to ensure you are making progress and stay on track.  Each task on your list should move you nearer to the goal you have in mind, whether that is planning an office party or gaining more business.

Having an accountability partner can be helpful as well.  They can ensure you stay on target by challenging you to complete the tasks you have set yourself that week or month.  Choose someone who will have the confidence to give you a kick if you aren’t meeting the goals you set yourself.

Environment

Whilst some people undoubtedly work well in a messy environment, I’ve seldom met anyone who worked well in a disorganised one.  Those who work with messy desks always have a hidden method of organisation that is not apparent to the casual observer.  They can always lay hands on the thing they need, and that’s the key.  Nothing wastes time like a fruitless search for the pen you had a minute ago, the stapler you know you had last week, or that critical document that you didn’t file away.  The document is probably somewhere in the pile of documents in the corner of the office. Unless it is somewhere else of course.  If this is something you struggle with, you can read tips on how to alter your environment to aid improve both time management and productivity  here:

witch broomstick help admin help time management

Finally, if you are struggling to cast these spells effectively, why not call in an expert?

If you need some heavy duty spells cast over your admin, working with a VA might be the answer.

If you would like me to fly to your rescue, then you can contact me here.

Is your Email list GDPR compliant?

Is your Email list GDPR compliant?

data security, GDPR, Data Protection

The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will come into force on 25 May 2018, replacing the current Data Protection Directive. It will bring significant changes to the way you handle data in your business. The legislation is very wide ranging and I can’t hope to cover all the areas that you might need to know about in one blog post. The area I am most often asked about is the impact of GDPR on information retention and on Email Marketing.

At its most basic level, the new legislation aims to ensure personal data is properly safeguarded, people’s privacy is protected, and we aren’t bombarded by unsolicited information. If you hold and manage personal data relating to EU citizens within your business, you will need to understand your responsibilities under the regulations. Even if your company is based outside the EU and UK, if you have contacts or clients there and you want to use their email address for marketing purposes, you must comply with the Regulations.

Accountability Principle

A key change will be the introduction of the Accountability Principle. This requires you to show HOW you comply with the principles by keeping a clear record of decisions taken about how each processing activity will be carried out.
Article Five of GDPR requires personal data to be:

• Processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner.
• Collected for a specific purpose, that purpose to be made clear and explicit to all whose data you hold.
• No data to be further processed or used for other reasons for which you do not have, or have not sought, permission.
• You should hold only as much data as you need to complete the tasks for which you are holding the information.
• All data must be accurate and kept up to date at all times. Any inaccurate data found must be erased or rectified as soon as the inaccuracy is discovered. Also, if you have shared that data with someone else, you must inform them of the inaccuracy so they can alter their records also.
• Data should be kept only as long as is necessary for the processing purpose and must be held securely and protected against unauthorised or unlawful processing as well as against loss, destruction or damage.

Compliance

GDPR also requires that the Data Controller, which in a small business is usually the owner, takes responsibility for, and is able to demonstrate, compliance with the principles of the Regulations.
It is good practice to demonstrate compliance via a policy for Data Protection. If you already have such a policy which complies with the current Data Protection Act then updating it to comply with GDPR should be reasonably straightforward.
Without the ability to demonstrate that you comply with the legislation you could leave yourself open to criticism and potential enforcement action if you breach the rules. The costs of a breach under GDPR are much higher than under the Data Protection Act so it makes business sense to get this right.

Email Marketing

With respect to Email Marketing, the most important change is that silence, pre-ticked boxes and inactivity are not considered as consent to be marketed to. People must actively take steps to opt into your marketing. So no pre-ticked boxes on your Email Sign Up forms please.
As mentioned above, you must state very clearly the exact purpose for collecting the data and how you propose to use it. So, if you wish to add people to your Email list, you must tell them this and explain what they will receive in return, for example, a monthly or weekly newsletter.
Because you need explicit and verifiable permission to add someone to a marketing list, you can’t just add the details from all those business cards you got at that networking event to your Email list. You must ask the person for permission to add them. You can send one individual Email inviting them to join your list. This must be a single email, personally addressed, and cannot be sent via a mail marketing programme such as MailChimp.
Similarly, if you put out a bowl on your trade stand asking people to drop in their business cards, the bowl should have a notice clearly stating that people will be added to your mailing list if they provide their card. This allows them to choose whether to opt into your mailings. There is a problem here though, the new legislation will require you to provide traceable evidence of sign up to mailing lists. So you might find sign-up sheets or asking people to sign up via your website on a tablet, a better choice for growing your email list at trade shows.
Although we are mainly discussing Email marketing, if you want to collect phone numbers to call or send text messages or collect addresses for traditional mailings, you need to seek permission to use each type of data (eg: phone, SMS, mail) and provide the option for people to opt in or out of each separate method so they can choose the methods of contact they are most comfortable with. Provide an empty tick box for each option.
Since every bit of personal data you collect about a person is another bit of data you are responsible for (and must secure) it makes sense to only collect what you need and will use. Particularly as the penalty for breaching the regulations is a very hefty fine.

Consent and Email Marketing

It really is all about getting verifiable consent. One way to get this verifiable consent is to use a system such as MailChimp to build your list as it has a double opt in. People will not be added to your list until they have responded to a second email which asks them to confirm that they really did mean to sign up to your list. This double opt in information can be used to prove permission to use the data.
The new rules specify very clearly that there must be an unsubscribe button or method by which the person can arrange to be removed from the mailing list and that this MUST be very prominently displayed and easy to find. Hiding it, or making it difficult to locate, is not an option.
Individuals will also have the “right to be forgotten”, that is, they can request to have their data erased with no trace of the information left behind. If someone requests this then it must be done as soon as possible and no further marketing materials sent to them.
GDPR will also prohibit the sale or exchange of personal data and it will not be possible to use data collected for one purpose (such as Email newsletters) for another purpose.
Even if you have previously obtained permission to use people’s email address, you will need to seek renewed permission to use that address ahead of the new legislation.

Action Points

So what action do you need to take?

• Review any areas of your business where you request email addresses, whether that is pop up windows on your website or sign up forms. Check that all the pop ups and sign up forms are clear and specific and include all the ways in which you might be going to use the Email address so visitors are very clear about how you will use their data.

• Keep a record of the permissions you are sent so that you can be quite certain, and can prove, that you have permission to market to each individual.

• If you have an old list you must gain permission to use each address on it. To do that, you would need to individually email each person on the list and ask them whether they would like to join your mailing list. Do not use the Carbon Copy (CC) function in your Email system to send messages to several people at once. Doing so will allow data to be seen by everyone you are emailing and thus breach the regulations.
It is possible to send to multiple email addresses using the Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) Function because each individual will see only themselves as an addressee. However, don’t send to large numbers of addresses all at once in this way. You will get blacklisted as a spammer if you do.

If you want to find out more about how to comply with the new legislation and get your business ready for the change, the ICO provides some excellent checklists specifically aimed at small business owners. These are straightforward and clearly written, covering the various areas which will change when GDPR is brought into force and the ways in which you can prepare your business for the new legislation. These can be found at WWW.ICO.org.uk/for-organisations/business
Another great source of information is www.dpnetwork.org.uk which, together with the ICO website, keeps you up to date on the latest interpretations of the upcoming legislation.

You can also find videos about the impact of GDPR on the new JJB Office Services YouTube Channel.

Does all this make your brain hurt?  Are you wondering how you will find the time to make your business compliant?  Perhaps you need existing policies and procedures reviewed and updated but don’t have the time?  Well never fear, Jenni is here.  If you need a hand,  please get in touch with me here.