Working long hours over a sustained period will make you less productive, but how can you take time off when you have a busy store to run? HR director Debra Lee guides you through the art of delegation.

Many small business owners are particularly bad at taking time off. Research published by business software provider Sage suggests that more than 30% of UK small business owners don’t have a summer holiday.

Independent retailers understand well the massive pressure in the lead up to taking time off – doubling stock orders, paying suppliers up front, ensuring wages are paid, rota planning and so on. Then your “holiday” is spent secretly checking in.

You should use the time ahead of your holiday to train your team to run the shop in your absence. You need to plan ahead and structure your business so that it can operate effectively when you are not there.

These eight steps for holiday cover planning will help ensure you can put your mind at rest when you take your well-deserved break.

1. Tasks

Write a list of all the tasks that you do in a normal week or month and check what can be delegated.

2. Staff

Decide who do you want to delegate this task to and why. What are they, and you, going to get out of it?

3. Ability

Ask yourself if this person is capable of doing the task. Do they understand what needs to be done? If not, you can’t delegate.

4. Explanation

You must explain why the job or responsibility is being delegated, and to that specific person. Why is it important and relevant?

5. Results

Make sure the person you delegate to understands what must be achieved. How will the task be measured? Make sure they know what you consider success to be.

6. Discuss

Talk about and agree what is required to get the job done.

7. Review the process

Agree deadlines, confirm that staff understand what they need to do and ask for their ideas. As well as showing you the job can be done, this also helps to reinforce their commitment. Failing to agree methods for checking in advance can make this monitoring seem like interference or lack of trust.

8. Support and communicate

Think about who else needs to know what’s going on during the holiday cover period and inform them. Do not leave the person you delegate to to tell their peers about their new responsibility.

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