October 29, 2020

How to Properly Plug-In Your Team While You Are Plugged Out

Written By Charesse Spiller

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As a business owner, there will inevitably be times when you need to take time off. This may be for a short vacation, or it could be for a longer period of time. Just because you own your own business doesn’t mean you don’t deserve maternity leave or an extended leave of absence due to family or medical problems!

As a business owner, there will inevitably be times when you need to take time off. This may be for a short vacation, or it could be for a longer period of time. Just because you own your own business doesn’t mean you don’t deserve maternity leave or an extended leave of absence due to family or medical problems! 

Unfortunately, entrepreneurs often skip these times where they should probably be out of the office because they’re worried about what will happen to their team or their clients when they’re gone. This is why it’s critical to always have a plan in the event that you either have a planned or unexpected time away from the office. 

Why Your Team and Clients Need to be Prepped When You’re OOO

Entrepreneurs often fall within one of two camps when it comes to being out of the office:

  1. They never take a vacation, plan to skip maternity leave, or ignore other major life events because they refuse to leave their business for more than a day or two.

  2. They head on an extended leave of absence without preparing their team or their clients – and panic when they realize things are falling apart.

It’s important to have a plan in place for both your team and your clients while you’re away from your business. Here’s why:

For Your Team

Allow them to learn accountability. The coronavirus pandemic has taught all business owners that accountability is key in their team. With a large portion of the world working from home for months on end, some managers realized they were living their worst nightmare. 

Luckily, with modern technology, working from home is possible – but the accountability required to do a job without a manager present requires practice and training. Taking periodic times away from the office, whether your team is virtual or not, can help build this.

Build a company culture that prioritizes work-life integration. Let’s face it – the unexpected often happens. Even if the “unexpected” is simply that you are burnt out and need a break. Work shouldn’t get in the way of being 100% present when life needs to take priority. 

Whether you need to take time off due to a family emergency, or just because you need time to unplug, showing your team that work-life integration is a priority for you (and them!) builds a positive work culture.

For Your Clients

Prioritizing clients during your time out of the office increases client retention. Your clients keep the doors of your business open. While you should always be ready to prioritize life over work, that doesn’t mean you get to ignore your clients! Your clients should always know who to get a hold of in an emergency, and they should have a sense of security even when you’re out of the office.

Builds trust in your team. Your clients should never solely rely on you. Even if you’re a solopreneur, they should know that you have a team of contractors or other solopreneur colleagues available to maintain quality service even when you’re out of the office.

Team Prep

Whether you’re planning time out of the office currently, or just want to get ahead of any unexpected emergencies that require you to leave work temporarily, there are three steps you should take to prepare your team. 

Have clear delegation expectations. When you’re OOO, the goal is not to worry about work. To achieve this, you need to have a plan set up for what tasks are getting delegated to who while you’re out. You should assign:

  1. Client Communications – Tasks like taking client calls and responding to emails should be delegated to a fellow team member, an executive assistant, or someone else trusted on your team.

  2. Advice-Driven Tasks – Some questions your clients have may need to be answered by a licensed professional. If you have colleagues at your firm who are qualified to take this on, make sure they’re up to date on your unique client approach. If you’re a solopreneur, plan to take a few minutes a day while out of the office to check your inbox and voicemail. Flag anything that’s time-sensitive, and plan to respond to other requests when you return.

Plan to brief your team. Take time to brief your team on your out-of-office-plan. You should also plan to schedule a meeting just before scheduled time out of the office to refresh these items. These meetings should cover:

  1. Standard Operating Procedures.

  2. How to address special client situations.

  3. What you’d like the team to tackle while you’re out – like projects that have been on the backburner.

  4. What members of your team should do which tasks – and how much flexibility they have with each task. This is your chance to preemptively implement some quality control before you leave the office.

How you can be reached. If you prefer not to receive calls, make that clear. If you prefer that your team reach out to an associate who will filter communication, that’s also okay. Keep your communication plan clear and brief.

Client Prep

Your clients don’t require detailed explanations or information about why you’re out of the office. If you want to disclose something exciting about your life – like maternity leave or a vacation – by all means, do! However, if you’re experiencing a family emergency or a medical problem, you’re not obligated to reveal anything you don’t want to. Instead, focus on these two ways to prepare them for your time out of the office:

Notifications. If you’re simply taking a week off, or don’t plan to be gone for long, a simple email responder will suffice. Have a call to action listed if they need to get ahold of someone, or wish to schedule a meeting for when you return. 

Point of contact. If your leave is more long-term, be clear about who will pick up your work while you’re out. Be upfront with contact information, and as specific with timelines as you can be. Whoever is taking over for you should be overly proactive with making sure that your clients are taken care of.

What If This Is Permanent?

Have you run into an unforeseen season where you’ll be more permanently unavailable? Sometimes life catches us by surprise, and we have to leave the office for a while. First and foremost, notify your team immediately to figure out a band aid solution. This could mean another team member works longer days, or multiple team members jump in to notify your clients, the show must go on. 

Next, assign a point of contact to answer all client questions. Have them clearly listed in an all-client email blast that outlines this change. This email should offer your clients the option to schedule a call with you or your replacement to discuss this transition. 

Once you’ve communicated with your team and your clients, you can create a plan of action to stabilize your business. This could mean hiring someone new to support your clients or just reorganizing your tasks to distribute the workload more evenly. 

Ready to feel confident when taking time off? Organizing your operation can help. Reach out to our team today to learn more about how we can empower you to reach your level best!

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