Start-Ups Need Time Out Too…
We explore 5 reasons why start-up founders and small business owners fear taking some time out… and why they shouldn’t.
If this sounds like you, read on…
Key Contact: Tom Saunderson
When you’re a start-up or small business owner, letting go of the reins can be difficult – even for a well-deserved break or vacation. No one wants to be the founder whose interim CEO crashed the company or the HR director who missed an employment tribunal deadline while they were on annual leave.
Equally, taking some time out, even infrequently, is essential for your wellbeing: your business needs the best you, after all.
“Sometimes I think it’s quite similar being a parent to being an entrepreneur. Even when you’re away from your child, you’re talking about and thinking about your child. If the business is your baby – and founders put blood and sweat and tears in – then switching off, is incredibly difficult,” says Andrew McGlashan, Corporate partner at Acuity Law.
“But,” he adds, “that’s a highway to burnout.”
So, what are the worries preventing small or micro-business leaders from enjoying a week or two offline?
- You have concerns over business continuity
Top of the list is simply that business doesn’t stop just because you’ve got an appointment by the pool. Clients and employees still need to be attended to, deadlines need to be met, and someone needs to make sure things are ticking over.
- You’re mid-investment round
If you’re a start-up business leader, an investment round and a holiday just don’t mix. Not only are you central to the daily running of the business, but you’re now juggling involve multiple presentations, emails and calls with investors as well. And the investment round can run for months.
- You’re worried about looking uncommitted to the business
The investors could take a dim view of an absent CEO and any seeming lack of commitment to the business could shake their confidence.
- Some things just need director sign-off
For some things, only a director will do. A company director has legal and fiduciary duties that other employees do not, and delegating certain responsibilities could be considered negligent, or a dereliction of duty.
- You have a skills gap
Perhaps your number two is great at marketing. But can they handle HR? They’re a whizz with a balance sheet. But can they reassure a client? In a small enterprise, your stand-in might not have an identical set of skills and qualifications.
Nevertheless, the fact is that no one should be irreplaceable. If you have a few staff members and you still feel as though the business can’t cope without you, you should consider whether you need to structure your operations and resources more effectively.
Top tips for keeping the ship (and your mental health) afloat
- Choose your number two (and three and four…)
You’ll need to delegate, and you’ll naturally choose a number two. Don’t be afraid to use them and tell key stakeholders who to contact while you are out of the office, but don’t leave everything to one person.
“The chances are your number two is already busy doubling up. If they become sick or something unexpected happens, you don’t want to have put all your eggs in one basket,” warns Claire Knowles, Employment partner at Acuity Law.
Consider what issues are likely to come up and spread them across the business – leaving the oversight to your number two, but not all the responsibility.
- Make sure your stand-ins are properly trained
Ideally, your stand-ins will be trained and experienced. If there is no one competent within the business, consider using a mentor from outside the business – take a look at your contacts. But above all, make sure that if you need support for regulated areas – such as legal or financial matters – you have sourced professionals with the right training, qualifications, accreditations and insurance. A high-quality law firm or firm of outsourced financial experts can really take a load off your mind for the most crucial matters – keeping you protected (and relaxed).
- Leave clear instructions
It’s essential to leave unambiguous and comprehensive instructions to those you are handing over to. Make sure your handover instructions don’t simply include information about the last thing that happened – but the last few steps leading up to it. Those you have delegated to need to understand context and background, and not face having to handle issues blind.
- Plan clearly for the big decisions/business-critical events
Compile a clear list differentiating that which should be handled at home and the bigger decisions that require escalation to the founder/business leader – so that those you have delegated to are in no doubt of any areas that are beyond their remit.
Then make sure people know how to get hold of you. But also manage expectations about the timeliness of your response. Ideally taking a break would mean you were completely zoning out, but some people choose to block out an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to check in on their business, logging off completely for the rest of the day. However, you also need to manage expectations about how contactable you intend to be, to avoid any unnecessary delays in decision-making.
“There’s no point in someone waiting on an email from you if you know you’re going to be up Mount Kilimanjaro,” says Claire Knowles.
And, if you’re taking business devices away with you, be careful to avoid falling foul of data protection laws by taking computers and mobile phones outside the EU.
Taking the downtime you need is vital, and will keep productive in your business for the long term. Help is available and, with planning, you really can put your feet up.
For more information about legal support for your small or start-up business, drop Acuity Law a line.