Business tips

How to take a break while running an e-commerce business

With online stores open 24/7, it can be a struggle for e-commerce business owners to take a holiday over Christmas and New Year. We look at how new services, such as business babysitting and cloud-based technologies, are making it possible for business owners to take a much-needed break.

Business owners often say they cannot afford to take a break or leave their business for a few days. But research shows that a holiday has numerous health benefits that can improve personal – and business – performance throughout the year.

UK organisation Nuffield Health, which operates a number of fitness and wellbeing centres, ran an in-depth research project with psychotherapist Christine Webber to find out how a holiday can influence a series of key health indicators – blood pressure, ability to recover from stress, quality of sleep and emotional health.

The study compared a group of holidaymakers with a group who stayed at home. The results showed that those who’d been on holiday improved their ability to recover from stress by 29 per cent, improved their sleep quality by 34 per cent and reduced their blood pressure by an average of 6 per cent, among a host of other benefits.

Given that your health naturally impacts your work, it makes sense to take a break over the holiday season. Here are five ideas to help you manage being away from your e-commerce business.

1. Plan, plan and then plan some more

Leaving your business, even for a few days, requires ninja-like planning. Start your plan well in advance and let relevant suppliers know that you will be away. If you need to order stock, make sure you do that well in advance and that you have someone who can take responsibility for deliveries.

If you are leaving an employee in charge of your business, ensure that they have clear instructions and all the information they need to run things smoothly while you are away. Assemble an information pack with all relevant contacts and information for them, and ensure you schedule in sufficient time for them to shadow you before you go on holidays, so that they fully understand what is required on a day-to-day basis. Make sure that whoever is looking after your business knows when to escalate an issue and who they need to contact in this event.

If you choose to, you can grant other employees or individuals restricted access to your SecurePay account via the sub user capability. This allows various levels of access and can help staff run your business in your absence.

2. Consider hiring a business babysitter

Just like you hire a babysitter to look after your children, you can hire a ‘business babysitter’ to keep an eye on your operation while you are on holiday. Australian business The Virtual Assistant offers a range of services, from answering emails and general admin, to even managing social media in some cases.

Liz Pulo runs The Virtual Assistant and says its services are ideal for small businesses. “Our babysitting services are great for solo to small businesses, where business owners want to take a holiday, but not impact on their clients,” says Pulo. “Sometimes, the clients will know that the business owner is away, and sometimes we just run the business as if everything is normal. It usually entails replying to emails and providing general customer service to clients, as well as sometimes taking calls.”

Businesses like The Virtual Assistant generally take care of businesses remotely, so tasks such as posting items or running an office would need to be specially arranged. Costs generally start from around $40 per day, depending on what sort of support is required from the virtual assistant.

3. Automate your social media

Leaving your desk or office for a few days does not mean that your social media needs have to grind to a halt.

It is best practice to have a content calendar with posts scheduled in. If you are going away, make sure you share this with whoever is looking after the business in your absence – either a business babysitter or an employee.

You can also automate your social media posts with tools such as Hootsuite. All you need to do is pre-load posts before you go and set the dates and times you want them to go live.

Do, however, consider how you will manage any comments while you are away. Will you be able to do this remotely or will you thoroughly brief your business babysitter or employees on how to respond to comments?

4. Turn to the cloud

While keeping off the smartphones, tablets and laptops on holiday is a good idea to ensure a complete break from work, the reality for many small business owners is that they may well need to check in from time to time.

In fact, an American Express survey in the US found that 83 per cent of holidaymakers expect to stay digitally connected during their break, and 64 per cent of those expect to check their work email daily while on leave.

Having all your important documents, contacts and business information easily accessible via a cloud offering is ideal if you want to be able to access them while you are away.

And with SecurePay, you can log in to your account from anywhere via the merchant login and you can opt to receive notifications via email – allowing you to keep an eye on things even while soaking up the sun on the beach.

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