There comes a time in every business owner’s life when stepping away (at least temporarily) from the company is necessary. Perhaps you’ll need to attend to an emergency, take an unexpected leave of absence, or simply go on vacation.
Whatever the case may be, preparing your business for your absence should be done sooner rather than later. The last thing you want is to have your staff scrambling and at a loss for what to do when you’re not there.
Below are some tips that can help ensure that your store continues to be amazing even when you’re not around. Go through them and see whether you’re implementing them in your business. (And if you aren’t, we highly suggest putting them into action as soon as you can.)
Have a store manual
Create a manual that your staff can turn to when you’re not around. Document procedures, contact information, and everything else that will enable your employees to function in your absence.
Some of the sections you may want to include in the manual are:
General store information – What’s your store all about? What do you stand for? Who are your target customers? Instill this information in your staff. The more they know (and love) your business, the easier it’ll be for them to make decisions in line with what your company is about.
Store rules and regulations – This section includes information on personnel conduct, pay and scheduling, store access, conditions of employment, store policies, etc. How do you handle returns? What are the rules on staff schedules? These are some of the questions that the manual should address.
Customer service – Have an entire section dedicated to taking care of customers. Include information on conduct, customer service standards, lost and found procedures, dealing with difficult customers, and more.
Cashiering procedures – This would include details on the operation of your POS software, the types of payments you accept, information on your loyalty program, etc.
Hardware and software instructions – Take note of the tools you use in your store (computer, accounting software, analytics, cameras, etc.), and provide basic instructions on how to operate them. These tools likely come with their own manuals, so make sure that employees know where those documents are.
Loss prevention – Have detailed instructions on dealing with theft and shoplifters. This section should also include information on handling paperwork errors, cash handling errors, and more.
Contact information – Include the contact details for the individuals or entities that your store deals with, including vendors, suppliers, business partners, contractors, etc. Also have a list of emergency contacts, such as the local police and fire department, as well as medical facilities in the area.
Your store manual shouldn’t be something that you write once and never look at again. Revisit it once a year and make sure that everything is up to date. You could even allow employees to suggest additions or revisions to the manual based on their experiences.
It also helps to make the manual searchable. Consider creating a digital version of your store manual that allows users to simply type in a keyword to find the answer or section they’re looking for.
Appoint a second-in-command
Pick a second-in-command (or 2IC) to take charge of the store in your absence. This person should be someone you trust and who knows the business. It’s best to hire someone from the insidev— ideally an individual who’s been in the business for a few years (this demonstrates loyalty) and has demonstrated strong leadership skills.
Empower your staff
Of course, the success of your store doesn’t depend on your 2IC alone, which is why it’s important to empower all your employees to function well even when you’re not around. This can be accomplished by giving them adequate training and by fostering an open environment that recognizes the efforts of each team member. Encourage questions, and be sure to give them specific as well as big picture answers so they know exactly how their actions affect the company.
It’s also important that you clearly define the roles of each staff member. Establish who’s in charge of what, and require your employees to be accountable for their actions.
Finally, believe in your employees—and show them that you do. Trust that you did your job right when you hired and trained them and that they’ll do fine even when you’re not there.
We discuss this topic in more detail in our post titled 5 Proven Ways to Boost Employee Morale, Increase Productivity, and Drive Sales. Check it out for more advice on empowering your staff.
Prepare for your absence weeks or even months in advance [checklist]
When should you start planning for your absence? That depends on the nature of your leave and how long you’ll be away. If you’re planning to be out of the office for a few days, then giving your staff a heads up a week or two before your vacation would be enough. But if you’re planning for maternity leave, then obviously your team would need to be notified months in advance.
Whatever the case, here are some of your to-dos before going on leave:
Talk to your direct reports – Meet with your direct reports first, and give them a heads up about your time off. This is a great time to talk about any expectations or concerns and depending on when you’re leaving you can start the initial plans for transition.
List out all your day-to-day tasks then decide on people responsible for them while you’re away – Document your daily responsibilities, and then assign those task to specific people. Don’t forget to give them the tools or documents they need to carry out your tasks. These include login information, manuals, etc.
Make the necessary introductions – Already assigned your tasks? Great. At this stage, you might need to make a few introductions. For example, if you typically deal with third-party vendors, be sure to connect them with the people in your team who will be taking over those relationships.
If you’re planning to work remotely, make sure you have the tech to do so – If you’re expecting to do a bit of work while you’re away, see to it that you have all the tools and information you need. Install the necessary software into your laptop or phone and store documents in the cloud, where you can access them from anywhere.
Prepare any contacts or documents you might need while you’re away – If you ever need to get in touch with your team, vendors, or customers, while you’re way, then you’d want their contact info handy. Take the time to organize your contact list and have all the necessary info on there, so you can access them even when you’re on leave.
Organize your space – Speaking of organization, do the same thing with your physical space. Tidy up your workstation and label your folders or compartments so your team can find whatever they need while you’re way.
Craft your out-of-office email response – Don’t forget to write your auto-response for those who email you while you’re on leave. Be sure to include the contact details of the person who will be taking over your communications.
Do a test run
Still worried? Implement a test run by consciously getting out of the staff’s way for a day or two. Work from home for a while or stay in your office instead of the sales floor, and tell your 2IC to handle the store.
Considering hiring secret shoppers who can put your staff’s skills to the test, and have them report the findings so you can figure out ways to improve.
Do business in the cloud
The beauty of living in this modern age is that there is an abundance of tools that can help you run your store even when you’re away. Cloud solutions enable you to access files, data, and reports from anywhere and from any device as long as you have an Internet connection.
If you haven’t done so yet, start using cloud-based software to run your business. That way, you can get your hands on your store’s financials, customer data, employee information, video feeds, and more even when you’re out and about.
Depending on your technology stack, such solutions could include POS and inventory management, accounting and finance, CRM, and employee management.
Need more staffing tips and insights? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Training and Motivating Retail Employees, an in-depth resource packed with actionable takeaways for motivating employees and boosting staff productivity. In this guide, you’ll learn:
- How to empower your workforce to maximize happiness and productivity
- What tools and methods to use when educating your staff
- How to motivate your staff to bring their best selves to work
Have you ever had to step away from your business? How did you make sure things ran smoothly without you? Share your stories in the comments.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.