Reference number: PPO 14/11/2007 SMALL BUSINESS LEADERS HIGHLIGHT ‘TIME OFF FOR THE BOSS'' OVER CHRISTMAS Small business leaders are calling on entrepreneurs to make sure they give themselves ‘time off'' this Christmas. The Federation of Small Businesses said small firms owners need to start planning now in order to make sure they get some time off in the festive season. FSB Wales Chair, Janet Jones, said: “With not long to go, we want business owners themselves to start looking at whether they have left themselves enough time to plan for taking Christmas off. “If they have staff, the holiday forms will start coming in soon and everyone''s going to be asking for the same time off - that week between Christmas and New Year. Are the business owners themselves going to be left holding the fort again? “How is it that Christmas manages to creep up and surprise us? After all, it happens every year and our office supplies companies have been sending us Christmas card brochures for the past few months. “So why do so many business owners end up wolfing down their turkey and patting the kids on the head before rushing back to the office on Boxing Day to catch up on admin? Christmas doesn''t have to be like this. With careful planning, they can put systems in place so that the business looks after itself over the holidays. “There are some tasks that are done over and over again. Whether it''s sending out brochures to new customers or issuing invoices, there are ways for you to automate processes so that you don''t have to be there in person. “For example, entrepreneurs should consider using an auto-responder on their website to allow customers to get a brochure instantly delivered to their inbox. Or think about having a dedicated 24 hour enquiry line where interested customers can leave their details. “Just thinking ahead can help to you to react to supposedly ‘unforeseen'' circumstances. It''s time you updated your procedures manual to include order-taking over Christmas / New Year; delivery times / altered service levels from suppliers; emergency procedures - who deals with ringing alarms, customer problems, etc; contact details for key customers and/or suppliers; changing answer phone messages and publishing opening hours/dates on your website. “When customers, suppliers and staff are vying for your attention, it can be difficult to find the time to think ahead and then to follow through with your plans. One solution is to work with a professional business coach. “Business coaches not only bring their experiences of helping other business owners, but also bring their objectivity. Being outsiders, they are able to quickly identify areas of the business that aren''t running as smoothly as they could and help you to tackle them head on. “And that''s a great way to start Christmas and the New Year!” she said.