It's the holiday season and for many of us-especially those who operate smaller professional service firms-that means closing up shop for a few days to spend time with friends and family. Here are a few things that should make the check list before locking your business doors.
Do your customers know you're going to be closed? If you send out holiday messages, but haven't done so yet, you might want to include a note about being closed along with your well wishes. Any such message would be considerate ... and be sure to post holiday hours on your website. Set your outgoing messages to say that you're away. Most email apps let you create an automatic reply for when you will be out, so take a few minutes to do this before going on vacation. And don't forget to change your voicemail message as well.
Do you have someone on your staff to monitor customer requests that arrive during the holidays? The best part of offering your clients an interactive website or phone-tree to conduct some business activities (i.e. review records, confirm appointments, check account status) is 24/7 availability. But that won't work if your website/phone system goes down. Make sure you have protocols in place to monitor and address any problem with online services your customers may depend upon so that they receive the timely responses they've come to expect.
How is physical security for your business site? You lock the doors and turn on the alarm every time you leave your office. If you're going to be gone for several days, however, take the added precaution of letting your alarm company or security guard service know, so they can be on the lookout for suspicious activity. And be sure to provide them with contact information of someone they can speak to if a problem arises. Also, you may want to consider leaving an emergency key with a trustworthy neighbor.
Is all of your data backed up? The threats from fire or storm damage don't necessarily go up during the holidays, but businesses that close for a few days may make tempting targets for break-ins. Because you're on The SynchroNet Way, your data is already backed up and is secure! We just threw this essential question in to remind you that you can have peace of mind.
Who will receive your mail and packages? You might want to have USPS hold your mail for a few days if no one will be checking your mailbox. And if a neighboring business is staying open, you might see if they'd be willing to accept any packages from delivery services such as UPS or Fed-Ex.
Will you double-check those last minute items? Though a lot of us practically live at our offices, it's easy to forget to do the same things we have to do when leaving the house for a while-like turning off the lights, turning down the heat ... PLUS turning off the coffee maker and anything else that would waste energy. Also, if you have an office refrigerator, you might want to dump out anything that will go bad while everyone is away. Please note, there's no need to shut down any of your computers or related equipment. We will continue to monitor and patch them as necessary while you're away.
Obviously, no to-do-list can comprehensively cover every contingency or business situation. The most important thing is to pause for a few moments and carefully think before heading out for the holidays. (You might want to ask people on your staff if anyone is forgetting anything as an added measure.) A little forethought to end 2014 will help ensure a good beginning for 2015.