Everyone knows you have to be super responsive in small business. Return phone calls and emails promptly, be available, take meeting, et cetera.
I've heard that you need to respond to an online enquiry within 5 minutes or the conversion rate drops off massively. According to the Harvard Business Review responding in the first hour is 7 times better than in the second hour.
In July, when I went on my meditation retreat, I ran an experiment to see the true cost of not being responsive.
I only checked emails and phone messages twice a week, for less than 30 minutes each time. (Although to be fair, this isn’t to say the business wasn’t responsive – the team still answered the phone and responded to emails in a timely manner. But I didn’t.)
I didn't change my voicemail message to let people know I was away. And I didn't put an autoresponder on my emails.
The only thing I did was to create a text snippet (i.e. a clever way to cut and paste the same text) that said "Sorry about the delay in responding to your email, I’m currently on a meditation retreat in Spain for the month of July." Which I often added to the start of email responses.
I then calculated the total cost of missed business, annoyed customers, disgruntled team members.
Turns out the total cost was zero. Nada. Nothing. No one got upset. No one didn’t engage. I’m actually not even sure anyone noticed.
Since getting back I’ve made a conscious decision to be less responsive. I’ll leave my phone on silent or turned off. I only check emails a couple of times a day. I’ll generally reply to emails the next day. I’ve taken the email app off my phone.
Much better to be putting my energy towards important work, and be present with what I am doing now, than to be available and responsive all the time.