In his August contribution to Talking Business, Managing Director of Derby's Salloway Property Consultants, Stephen Salloway looks at the effect of high season holidays.
I have to confess to being a little frustrated, as can often be the case at this time of year. A number of property transactions which I am currently working on have stalled due to one or more of the parties being on their summer holiday. Cancel all holidays, bah humbug!
Why is this? Well every transaction has a minimum of 6 people working on it (vendor, purchaser and their respective agents and solicitors). It only needs one to be on holiday and the circle is broken. Add banks/funders and their solicitors, pension funds and trustees and their solicitors, etc., and it's almost impossible for the circle to be complete. This inevitably means delay, which along with causing other problems, can put the transaction in jeopardy.
I doubt this is just a property issue. With the obvious exception of tourism, this must surely be a problem across many areas of commerce, particularly where transactional activity involving the service sector is concerned. So, the effect of the peak holiday season, August to be specific, is bound to cause a drag on the economy.
Maybe in large corporations adequate capacity exists to delegate files to appropriately skilled team members, but in SME's (the greatest proportion of the economy) that is not always possible or desirable. The knock on effect is that cashflow for SME's during the summer period and further down the line is adversely affected as business decisions stagnate.
When I start writing a piece for Talking Business, I have this vision of a readership, largely from the business community, picking up the Derby Telegraph, reading what I have to say and agreeing, disagreeing or just being completely indifferent! However, given that we are in the peak summer holiday season, I initially thought that much of the business community would have abandoned the office in favour of a well-earned break with family and friends - dare I say to parts of the world which are beyond even the DT's distribution reach!
Could I therefore t whilst sat on a beach, drinking a Piña Colada .... welcome to the connected generation!
So, does the new age of digital communication offer a solution to the holiday malaise? I think the answer is that 'it depends'. Certainly, technology now provides the opportunity to stay in touch. Text, Email (are these already becoming outdated?) and various other digital platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Facetime, Video and the like gives you the opportunity to stay in touch with colleagues and friends, but only if you want to.
I prefer to take a holiday outside the peak times as I am not tied to school holiday periods. I will take my smartphone and laptop and I find I can relax better when I have dealt with the previous day's email correspondence first thing in the morning. I am the owner of an SME and I consider that it is important to maintain contact with my business to ensure there is no dip in service standards while I am away. I do not want to be responsible for 'breaking the circle' in any particular transaction.
I believe this is absolutely the right thing to do in my circumstances and I have no doubt that there are many others who will stay in touch in much the same way. But is it right to expect everyone to do the same? Certainly not!
From a social perspective, it is important to get a break from the drudgery of the daily routine and to relax in a way that best suits the individual. And if that means cutting off completely from work back home, then sobeit. As an employer, I want my staff to be well-rested and fresh to meet the challenges that come with our property consultancy business. A leading local business man once said to me "I have told my CEO that if he doesn't take a holiday I will dismiss him. People are more productive working fewer hours when refreshed than they are working long hours when fatigued." I totally agree.
So I am not against holidays; they are incredibly important. My members of staff work exceptionally hard and prepare meticulously before going on holiday and I encourage them to go away. I do prefer them to be contactable, in case something urgent or serious crops up and they are generally happy to be contacted in such circumstances but I do not expect them to stay in touch unless they absolutely want to.
Nevertheless, should we trying to find ways to minimise the effect of the peak summer period on business activity? Is there an answer? Ban summer holidays? Of course not but maybe there would be a significant economic benefit to avoiding the concentrated August peak that we currently experience. It is a well debated topic but maybe spreading school holidays is one of the most obvious suggestions. School holidays, which fall sometime between June and September, would help to smooth out the peak and maintain the flow of economic activity. It looks like a win-win solution too as this would surely result in lowering the cost of holidays.
Or maybe employers could offer extra days' holiday if the holidays were taken at specified times? This couldn't be adopted unilaterally but might help to achieve the goal. I may not be on to a winner here but there must be some better way of blending everyone's right to a holiday and the needs of the economy. Until we find it for a long time I will just have to accept that it is virtually impossible to get property deals across the line in August!
I will use the quieter period to do some brainstorming on how to move the business forward and focus on how I can create value for my clients. Oh, and I need to book a holiday....off-season of course!