By Claire Lewis, Marketing Director, Fasthosts Internet Ltd, www.fasthosts.co.uk
Few would doubt that small business owners today are working harder than ever before, hence their taking a holiday is well deserved and essential to recharge the batteries. However, this Summer will see many stressed business owners on the beach, according to brand new research. The ‘Business Owner Vacation Study ‘, a survey of 756 UK small firms, commissioned by Fasthosts, finds that many owners are too worried by work concerns to relax.
Two thirds of business owners report that their holidays have been negatively impacted by their work. Some 42 per cent report that they have been too worried about work to relax and enjoy their holiday. 32 per cent regularly perform work-related tasks such as calls and emails whilst they are away. 18 per cent of owners admit that they have argued with partners or family as a result of handling work whilst on holiday.
In particular, the top areas for concern are administration not being fulfilled (26 per cent), customer enquiries not being acknowledged (26 per cent), customer orders being forgotten (23 per cent), materials and files being mislaid (19 per cent), communication with customers and suppliers breaking down (19 per cent), and payments not being taken (13 per cent).
The data shows that taking a vacation can indeed cost business owners to lose money. The research reveals that the average business owner estimates that in recent years they have lost £16,754 per year as a direct result of being away from their business on holiday. Furthermore, the average owner believes that they lose £3517 of personal income each time they take their summer vacation.
It is perhaps unsurprising then that only one third of owners seek total detachment from their work during a holiday. It is likely that many business owners feel uncomfortable about the loss of control that comes from being far away from their enterprise. The data shows that many of the work areas that SME owners are most concerned about leaving can be tackled by technology.
Many owners may not be aware that hosted solutions have developed and improved in recent years enabling them to manage their work remotely and with automation. Five key areas that technology can drive and aid a flexible, mobile and 24-7 business model are:
1. Mobile email solutions including calendar and file sharing with employees, customers and suppliers
2. Online storage and data transfer solutions for accessing and sharing business materials
3. A business website to engage with customers and generate leads
4. An online shop with an automated payment service
5. Search engine marketing to drive website traffic
It can be hugely beneficial for business owners to reach a point where they can interact swiftly on critical issues using a mobile device, and use automated online tools that maintain other areas of business operations. Web-based solutions available today can provide easy remote access to work processes and monitoring of ecommerce, web statistics and rankings, calendars and email. Hosted software and services mean that the business can maintain smooth operations and allow the owner to check upon progress remotely. For example, online data transfer and storage can be a great method of keeping abreast of how work is being progressed.
Internet-based tools can certainly help entrepreneurs to succeed, and this is strongly believed by Internet Psychologist Graham Jones. He comments, “Research over the past few years has shown that when people use the Internet as the focus of their business their productivity goes up. Indeed, Internet users are more productive than people who simply use computers in the office, with standard programs and in-house software. If only more people would tap into the online tools available, they too could run productive businesses which are using the extensive knowledge available online to give them a competitive edge”.
Fasthosts recommends that firms audit how flexible their systems and workflows are in relation to working remotely. A key benefit of hosted options is that new solutions can be introduced in tandem with existing on-premise equipment. By updating IT resources prior to their holiday, many business owners could feel more in control and better able to relax and enjoy their break. The increase in efficiencies that web solutions often bring is likely to help recoup the loss in sales revenue that many owners suffer from taking holidays.
Fasthosts’ ‘Work Better Online’ campaign provide information and helpful tips on working practices, tools and technologies that can help entrepreneurs to handle their business at the same time as taking a much deserved holiday. Topics include time management, workspace design, meetings, office dynamics, productivity, communication, motivation and real life case studies discussed. More details at http://blogs.fasthosts.co.uk