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People, Skills & Talent

Business planning for holiday periods

In the run up to Easter Growth Advisor Mick Hadfield considers how planning ahead is the best way for managers and business owners to truly relax and unwind on their holidays, rather than maintaining a hotline back to the office.

I was once told that the sign of a good manager is what happens to the business when you're not there. Quite a short statement, but it manages to wrap up both the planning prowess and leadership qualities of those in charge. So with this in mind, what should you consider when looking for a stress-free break yourself?


A good starting point is to plan in advance and turn an ad hoc process into a company procedure that’s always reviewed post break (Plan-Do-Review). Reviewing what went well or not so well will help you continuously improve and make better-informed decisions at your next pre-break planning session. More on this later, but holiday planning should form a core part of your business planning.

When setting staff schedules, look at your sales for last year and how they correlate to previous staffing patterns. This will give you a clearer idea of who you’ll need and how much to spend on wages, although don’t forget to factor in any additional growth since last year.

Manage your holiday planning to avoid too many staff being off at one time. Look out for overlapping holidays and staff with high entitlements that are still unused. What is your policy for staff leave? Do you have ‘no leave periods’, compulsory/ block leave (perhaps due to shut down)? If not, then you may need to set out your guidelines, and while it’s important to be flexible, this shouldn’t be at the expense of the business.

plan-do review

Workload vs workforce

Can you alter deliveries, production schedules, admin tasks and deadlines to reflect the holiday period? Perhaps you can set a delivery window with suppliers to match your staffing, set aside mundane admin tasks in favour of those that have strict deadlines, and prioritise larger production runs pre- and post-holiday period?

Allow office staff to clear down pre-holiday and set time aside post-holiday to catch up. Whether it’s 100 pallets or 100 emails it can cause post-holiday stress and have a huge knock on effect for operational issues. Likewise, ensure those that are on holiday don’t impact on those that are working by shunting their workload to the next stage of the process, such as stock control ordering too much stock, post-holiday which generates physical work in a reduced staffing situation.

Cash flow

How will the holiday period affect your cash flow? Consider due and overdue invoices, chase debtors and check that you haven’t tied up too much cash in stock ordering post-holiday.

Managing the managers

Quite often younger, less-experienced managers will volunteer to take charge over the holiday period to gain experience (and extra cash). It’s important that you have confidence in their abilities. Do they know what to do if there’s a fire and how to reset alarms?  Can they deal with staffing issues or incidents such as a server malfunction, flood or even a bomb threat?

Business continuity

Bigger businesses tend to map out a formal process called business continuity management/plan (BCM/ BCP). This can take the form of a page-by-page guide to deal with certain situations and can actually help with your insurance premium. Even something as straightforward as an opening up and closing down procedure will help to instil confidence and build your team.

Staffing matters

Have a reserve list of staff who can step in if needed, and if you use agency workers, make sure the agency understands your requirements. Be mindful of when staff can and can’t work. For instance, for parents school holidays often mean juggling childcare with work. Try and be flexible with your approach, some staff might prefer time off as opposed to pay. If this fits with the business then you could actually save on wage costs while boosting morale at the same time.

If the staff are working over Christmas and Easter then show them that their commitment is appreciated. Try simple things like a relaxed dress code, music, festive food, or better still ask them for suggestions. Maintaining morale is about more than time and a half and finishing five minutes early on Christmas Eve - make it a memorable event and they’ll sign up next year.

staffing matters

Learning points

Straight back to point one here - Plan-Do-Review. It’s a recurring process that needs to be reviewed, but is generally the one thing that gets missed. Sit down post-holiday and consider your ABCDs.

Achievements - if something’s gone really well, celebrate and share the experience.

Benefits - what positive actions and processes are you going to carry forward into the next holiday plan?

Concerns - what didn’t go so well, and why?

Do Next - update your plan with your key learnings so it’s leaner/ better the next time around - otherwise, it’s odds on you’ll make the same mistakes next time.

Of course, the above isn’t an exhaustive list but if you do need support then we’re here to help. Our advisors have the experience and skills to help you manage the holiday period and growth of your business... is that Easter I can see over the horizon?

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