Many small business owners have been too worried about work to relax and enjoy their holidays, according to new research. The survey of over 750 small firms found that many owners worry about the loss in revenue from them being away, on average over £16,500pa and areas such as customer communication, administration and billing being neglected by their staff. Many owners admit that they have argued with partners or family as a result of handling work whilst on holiday.
Few would doubt that small business owners today are working harder than ever before, hence their taking a break is well deserved and essential to recharge their batteries. However, the ‘Business Owner Vacation Study’, a survey of 756 UK small firms, finds that many owners are simply too worried by work concerns to relax.
Two thirds report that their recent holidays have been negatively impacted by their work. Some 42 per cent of both male and female owners report that they have been too worried about work to relax and enjoy their holiday. 32 per cent regularly perform work-related tasks, such as calls and emails, and 18 per cent admit that they have argued with partners or family as a result.
Particularly in today’s challenging economy, it is clear that taking a vacation can indeed cost business owners to lose money. The data shows that the average business owner estimates that in recent years they have lost £16,754 per year as a direct result of being away from their business on holiday. Furthermore, the average owner believes that they lose £3,517 of personal income each time they take their Summer vacation.
It is perhaps unsurprising then that only one third of owners (35 per cent) seek total detachment from their work during a holiday. It is likely that many business owners feel uncomfortable about the loss of control that comes from being far away from their enterprise. Older entrepreneurs are in fact the most concerned, with only 23 per cent aged 55+ able to relax in complete isolation from their firm.
The top areas for owners’ concerns are: administration not being fulfilled (26 per cent), customer enquiries not being acknowledged (26 per cent), customer orders being forgotten (23 per cent), materials and files being mislaid (19 per cent), communication with customers and suppliers breaking down (19 per cent), and payments not being taken (13 per cent).
It’s no wonder that company owners feel so torn between their business and personal lives at this time of the year. Interestingly, many of the work areas that SME owners are most concerned about neglecting can be better tackled with technology currently available. Owners are able to react swiftly to critical issues via a mobile device, accessing email, files and tools to maintain areas of business operations, allowing them to relax and enjoy time with their family.
I suggest five key areas where web-based technology can drive and aid a more flexible, mobile and 24-7 business model, sustainable in the absence of the business owner. These are:
- Mobile email solutions including calendar and file sharing with employees, customers and suppliers
- Online storage and data transfer solutions for accessing and sharing business materials
- A business website to engage with customers and generate leads
- An online shop with an automated payment service
- Search engine marketing to drive website traffic.
Web-based solutions available today can provide easy remote access to email, calendars, documents, data and the monitoring of sales and web statistics. Hosted software and services mean that a company’s staff can continue operations, and crucially allow the owner to check upon progress remotely. For example, online data transfer and storage can be a great method of keeping abreast of how a project is progressing.
Internet Psychologist Graham Jones believes that web-based tools are now integral to small business success. He comments, “Research over the past few years has shown that when people use the Internet as the focus of their business their productivity goes up.
“Indeed, Internet users are more productive than people who simply use computers in the office, with standard programs and in-house software. If only more people would tap into the online tools available, they too could run productive businesses which are using the extensive knowledge available online to give them a competitive edge”.
I recommend that small firms regularly audit how flexible their systems and workflows are in relation to working remotely. A key benefit of hosted options is that new solutions can be introduced in tandem with existing on-premise equipment.
By updating IT resources prior to a holiday, many business owners could feel more in control and better able to relax and enjoy their break. The increase in efficiencies that web solutions often bring is likely to help prevent the loss in revenue that many owners suffer from taking holidays.