Three Ways to Protect Your Business While Yo;re on Vacation
by BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
- Created: June 16, 2010, 2:01 pm
A recent Discovery Small Business Watch *poll reveals that the recession has forced more than half of small business owners to postpone or cancel their vacations during the past two years, and 55% say i;s been two or more years since their last week-long vacation. Still, a few more are considering some time off this year: 40% have not changed vacation plans because of the economy, which is up from 38% last year.
If yo-re planning a getaway that does not include your iPhone or laptop and you usually do many of the business chores yourself, get your business prepared from a legal, financial, and practical perspective for your absence so you can enjoy a worry-free vacation.
1. Financial protection. Being away does-t stop the bills from coming and the need for them to be paid; late payments can damage your credit rating and cost you late payment penalties or fees.
Depending on how long yo'll be away, you can handle your payables by:
Arranging payment before you leave. For example, if yo'll be away when payroll taxes or estimated taxes are due, you can schedule payments up to 120 days in advance using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (this a free government service). You can schedule payments in advance for workers compensation, license renewals and state estimated taxes through *Official Payments; the payments hit up on your credit card (ther's a fee for this service).
Paying bills online. Check with your bank for details about online banking, which you may be able to access while away, or automate your payments so they are debited from your bank account.
Designating someone to pay bills for you. But beware: Giving access to your financial information, even to a trusted employee, can be problematic (as the headlines read: i's the long-time bookkeeper wh's the embezzler), so you may prefer that a relative (e.g., adult child) pay bills in your absence if you haven't made other arrangements.
Make sure your bank has a way to research you or your contact person (such as the employee you've left in charge, your accountant, or other person). A contact person is especially important if you are incommunicado because of your vacation destination.
Caution: Don't allow anyone to open your bank statements in your absence. This can give employees too much financial information about your business and it can present too great a temptation for some.
2. Customer service. The most important thing, to ensure that your business continues uninterrupted while you're away and after you return, is to provide for continued customer service. Customers in some types of businesses may be able to wait for your return, and you should inform them well in advance of your time away (don't announce this on your voice message; it only invites thieves to break in). Customers in other types of businesses may require immediate assistance, and you need to plan ahead to meet their needs.
If you are a one-person shop, you may want to contract with someone in a similar business (a friendly competitor) to provide coverage for your customers while you're away. Just as a therapist provides backup for patients at vacation time, a tradesperson, web master, or other service-business owner needs to designate a backup. Legal issues to settle:
¢ If your backup performs services for your customer, will there be any revenue sharing?
¢ If your backup performs services for a new customer (someone who contacts your company during your absence), going forward will that new customer belong to you or your backup?
¢ If your backup performs services but a problem arises, who has liability?
It may pay to think through this backup work arrangement and put the terms in writing. Engage an attorney to draft or review your agreement to make sure to be protected.
3. Staffing. When the cat's away, will your mice play? If you have employees, leave someone in charge and make sure the rest of your staff knows this. Determine the extent of authority that your temporary supervisor will have in your absence. For instance, will he or she be able fire someone, and under what circumstances?
Make sure that your substitute also has the authority to handle glitches that may occur. For instance, if something breaks down, you'll want this person to arrange for immediate repairs. If you run out of an item in inventory, authorize this person to re-order in your absence.
Despite the concerns and anxiety that many small business owners express about taking time away from their companies, very few anecdotes reveal problems arose in their absence. So plan ahead, and enjoy!
*Denotes a non-government Web site
Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business, and trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter, Big Ideas for Small Business® at www.barbaraweltman.com, and host of Build Your Business radio. Follow her on Twitter at BarbaraWeltman.
About the Author
Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes, J.K. Lasser's Guide to Self-Employment, and Smooth Failing as well as a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® and host of Build Your Business Radio. She has been included in the List of 100 Small Business Influencers for three years in a row. Follow her on Twitter: @BarbaraWeltman.
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