As summer approaches, we’re all itching to get out on the river, lake, trail, beach or whatever and take even the briefest vacation day. But, there’s that work thing. And for those who work in the restaurant or hospitality business, few owners even consider taking a day off, much less a Friday. Yet that is exactly what I’m encouraging you to do.
Yes, even during tourist season. You can roll your eyes and complain that you can’t leave the business alone on the (perhaps) busiest day of the week, or you can take steps so that you can actually do it without damaging your business. You know you need the vacation time, even if only a day at a time. What’s it take to make these days painless? Read on.
What happened last time?
Think back to the last time you took a vacation day. What went wrong? “Well, so-and-so did this incorrectly, and this customer was mad because we couldn’t do x, y and z — and it was all because I was out fly fishing.”
It isn’t because you were gone. It’s because the team wasn’t prepared well enough. Fortunately, you’re in charge of fixing that.
I’m guessing you learned some problem areas the last time you took a vacation day. You probably made some process changes, documented some workflow, made a checklist or two, and maybe trained someone a little better. You might even have discussed among your team how they should (and are expected to) handle different kinds of situations when you’re gone.
If you didn’t do those things, it’s time to start. If you did do them, it’s still worthwhile to review this.
Prepare for next time
Think back to the topics/reasons that caused your team to call or email you while you were out. Document the processes that were involved. Train someone how to do them. Best solution: both documentation and training. Decide who will make decisions in your absence. Discuss that process with your team so they know who the go-to person is.
That go-to person needs a little extra care. First, discuss with them how you make different types of decisions. “I decided this” isn’t as useful to your go-to person as“I decided this, and this is why and how I got there.” Include the information that you gather before making a decision. Describe what your thought process looks like. For now, you want them to make the decision like you would — to the best of their ability, based on how you’ve trained them. To do that, they need these details. Ask them to write down decisions they make while you’re out, so you can discuss what happened and improve upon it.
When you return, assess how it went. If they did well, give them a little more latitude (and training for new areas of decision-making). Repeat the process. You’ll soon know if you chose the right person. If you didn’t, pick someone else. If you chose well, keep at it and have them train someone else in the same manner. Your current “decider” won’t always be around, or might be sick, or on vacation. You don’t want to be completely dependent on one person.
What would happen now?
Again, take Friday off. When you return, adjust, discuss, document, and (re-)train as discussed above. A few weeks later, take two consecutive Fridays off.
What happened? What systems, documented processes, and resources are required to let your team handle what happened and let you actually enjoy those Fridays? Again, adjust, discuss, document and (re-)train.
Soon you’ll know who you can depend on and who needs help. You’ll get a handle on the state of your checklists, process documentation, workflow, and checks and balances. You’ll have stronger People Fu (it’s like Kung Fu, but about knowing your team).
Next … Monday.
Now take Monday AND Friday off. Even if you work those days, your team needs the processes, checklists, decision-making thought processes and advice that came out of your previous days off. As a result, they won’t need to interrupt you all day. They’ll know what to do, how to do it, and why you do it the way you do it. You’ll get more of the really important work done. Sure, you can work Monday and Friday if you like, but you don’t have to. Own the business instead of letting it own you.