If just thinking about taking time off from your small business fills you with dread, you’re not alone. According to Office Depot’s Small Business Index, 66% of small business owners find it difficult, at least sometimes, to take a vacation from work during the summer. More than half of those who do stay connected by checking email on their phones or tablets.
Here’s the good news: running a small business does not have to prevent you from enjoying a vacation from your small business. While it may be a stretch to consider leaving town without your cell phone or laptop, the following strategies will help you schedule and make the most of your time away.
Make vacation a priority.
Small business owners who want to take time off must make it a priority. Just like accomplishing any important task, putting a vacation on your “to-do” list will help ensure that you allocate the time.
Enter the dates into your calendar, schedule around them, and resist the temptation to compromise your time off. Keep in mind that a vacation doesn’t have to be lengthy to be beneficial. Research has shown that eight days is the perfect amount of time to fully enjoy a getaway and is a manageable choice for small business owners who are concerned about spending too much time away from the workplace.
If you need justification, there are numerous reasons why taking time off is good for your physical and mental well-being. These range from reducing stress and the risk of heart attack to returning with renewed energy and motivation. The bottom line: if it benefits your health, it will benefit the health of your business.
Plan well in advance.
Start planning your vacation as early as possible. Determine the best times of year to step away from your business, such as a slow season or period when your staff typically do not go away. Tell employees, vendors, and colleagues you will be out of the office.
Giving plenty of advanced notice before taking time off will allow you to set clear guidelines around what can be expected during your absence. For example, you may want to let people know you will not be answering your cell phone or checking emails unless there is an emergency, or that you will be scheduling work check-ins at certain times of day.
It’s important to be proactive when communicating with clients. Tell them a few weeks ahead of time that you’ll be taking a vacation so schedules, deadlines, or meetings can be adjusted accordingly. Be sure to share details about who they should contact while you’re away, and reassure them that your team is well prepared to meet their needs.
If necessary, put in extra time or extend your hours of service the month before you leave. Completing deadline-driven projects, delivering ahead of schedule, or simply letting clients know you care will allow you to feel better about taking the time off, and your clients will appreciate the effort.
Delegate, delegate, delegate.
Some small business owners are afraid that by delegating responsibilities, they are putting their companies at risk. In order to ensure “business as usual” while you’re away, it is critical to assign essential tasks to employees or part-time staff, even if it’s just temporary.
Meet with managers or team leaders to review what they’ll be working on while you’re gone. Some business owners designate a staff member to manage daily activities and other employees. While this may feel like a gamble, it can have long-term benefits. Having a second-in-command to handle operational tasks can free you to work on expanding the business and exploring new opportunities.
If you own a very small business or are a sole proprietor, consider paying a business partner or trusted friend who understands what you do to manage emails and customer calls. Ask them to alert you to any emergencies or time-sensitive issues. You may not want to give an employee or outside partner complete access to your financial accounts, so make sure you schedule tasks like paying bills ahead of time.
Prepare for emergencies.
Planning for worst-case scenarios and preparing contingency plans can help ensure that you aren’t disturbed on your vacation. Brainstorm as many “what if” situations as possible with your team, and create step-by-step instructions for how to respond in various emergency situations. These might range from what to do if a customer threatens legal action to who to call if the company website goes down. Investing time in preparation will help minimize or eliminate calls or emails from your staff and empower them to discover that you are not the only one who can manage the day-to-day.
Control when and how often you connect.
With laptops, tablets, and smart phones, it’s easy for small business owners to stay connected during trips. You may find it more relaxing to check emails or your cell phone a few times each day, or you may feel that this adds more stress and frustration so you’ll need to completely unplug. Determine the best option and stick to it.
If possible, avoid forwarding business calls to your cell phone. If you’re unable to have anyone pick up your calls, arrange for a VOIP service provider like Grasshopper or RingCentral to capture and retrieve voice mail messages.
There will always be reasons why you can’t take time off, but it’s important to realize that, with few exceptions, there is no business issue that only you can handle. Vacations are the perfect opportunity to step back, reflect on your accomplishments, and return refreshed and ready to get back to work.
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