Didn't get a break from your small business over Christmas?


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As many of us continue to enjoy the sun, sand and sea over the summer holidays, plenty of small business owners will still be hard at work.

A recent survey by small business lender OnDeck Australia found one in three (34%) small business owners take less than four weeks leave each year. Over one in four take just a fortnight off (or less) annually.

One in seven business owners can't remember the last time they had a holiday.

how to take a break from your small business

This lack of leave can have serious consequences.

American Express' Business Class research found almost half Australia's small business owners say their mental health has suffered from being unable to take time off for a holiday during the pandemic.

Here are five steps you could take in your small business to help you get in some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

1. Consider if additional funding could be a solution  

The small business owners surveyed by OnDeck felt that additional funding can go a long way to making it easier to take a break.

Two-thirds said extra funding would give the owner confidence funds were in place to handle unforeseen costs during the owner's absence. Funding could also be used to pay for temp staff (31%) or a locum to step into the owner's shoes (20%).

2. Have cashflow prepared for chain-dragging debtors

A study by XERO found that in 2021 almost half of all invoices issued by small businesses were paid late, and chain-dragging debtors are often even slower to pay during the festive season.

Late payments can have a knock-on effect, with over 40% of small businesses admitting they struggle to then pay their suppliers, or even staff, on time.

Will Buckley, Xero's country manager for Australia, says, "Tools such as eInvoicing are one way to help reduce late payments. Otherwise I'd highly encourage business owners to engage their accountant or bookkeeper at this time of year to ensure they can plan to manage cashflow ahead of the summer season."

3. Decide your trading hours

As the holiday season might be as little slower for your business, maybe consider adjusting your opening hours, especially over the Australia Day period.

Many businesses get busier and may need employees to work extra hours and on public holidays. Others choose to shut down over what can be a slower Australia Day period.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, an employer can direct their employees to take annual leave when the business is closed if their award or registered agreement allows it.

On the flipside, if you remain open, employees have the right to refuse to work on a public holiday. So speak to your team and see who's willing to stay at the coal face.

If you plan to shut over Australia Day, share the news with customers via social media, and use all correspondence including emails to set out the dates the business will be closed.

4. Head to the cloud

Not surprisingly, OnDeck's survey found the vast majority (77%) of small business owners think about their business when on holiday.

If that sounds like you, consider cloud-based accounting technology like Xero, FreshBooks and QuickBooks. They allow small business owners to keep an eye on the books even when they're sipping on cocktails poolside at a holiday destination.

5. Upskill your staff

One in three (32%) Australian small businesses don't have someone who could take over from the owner according to research by recruitment firm Robert Half.

This can make it even harder for owners to take time off.

Set a goal for 2023 to cross-train staff to handle all roles if necessary, and identify at least one team member you could upskill to step into your shoes next time you want a break.

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Anthony O'Brien is a small business and personal finance writer with 20-plus years' experience in the communication industry. He has a Master of Arts from Macquarie University, and has written for Money since 2001.