Small business owners often have “vacation anxiety.” They fear that if they leave, everything will fall apart. Or they think that if they go away, they’ll be spending most of their vacation time on the phone. This means that vacations for small business owners don’t happen nearly as often as they should.
I painfully relate to these tendencies and tend to put time for rest and relaxation on the back burner. But the truth is that small business owners should treat vacation time as a necessity, not a luxury. With some preparation and training, vacations for small business owners can be a reality.
The fact that you hesitate to leave your business for a week or two shows that you care. You want your business to run smoothly and you don’t want to leave your employees holding the bag if there’s a problem while you’re gone.
A survey conducted by OnDeck shows how rare vacations for small business owners are. In this survey, only 9% of 200 small business owners planned to take a two-week vacation that year. Only 57% were taking time off for vacation at all. Most vacations for small business owners are taken only after the company has been around for more than ten years. That’s a long time to put off taking a break.
Some vacations for small business owners are possible because the business closes down for a week or two. This is most common with small businesses that have very few employees such as a boutique, bakery, or small restaurant. Although you are giving up revenue for those weeks, it can be a good option if you:
If you have a good business relationship with the owner or operator of another firm in your area, consider working out a deal with them. You can “pinch-hit” by taking charge of each other’s businesses while you are away.
Maybe you work in an industry where you can’t have someone pinch-hit for you, and that’s okay. It just means that it may take a little more planning to make your vacation happen.
In the law firm context, I can’t just have another lawyer from another firm sit in my desk for the day. One of the early reasons I wanted to work with other attorneys and have them join my firm was to share some of these small business burdens. The solution for you may also be business growth before you can get away.
Keeping the business running by leaving employees in charge is another way vacations for small business owners can be successful. When you prepare your clients and employees before you leave, you will help your business run smoothly without you. Then you can enjoy your much-needed trip away.
Tell personal clients about your plans. You may even want to buffer your departing time and your return time by a day or two. Tell your clients you are leaving the day before your leave and returning the day after you return. This will give you time to tighten up loose ends before you leave, and time to catch up when you get back.
Rolling out a new computer system? Planning a big sales promotion? Don’t do it right before you leave. If you start something new and then leave town, you’re asking for trouble.
Leave at a typically slow time. For instance, if you have a tax business, a spring break trip the first week of April is not a good idea.
If you don’t have a clear-cut slow season, look at your books. Find your slowest week or weeks over the last year (or more), and plan your vacation around that time.
Vacations for small business owners can drive the owner and the customer to be more productive. Some business owners say that the weeks before they leave town are extra-productive, since clients are trying to tie up loose ends before the owner leaves.
You can also use your upcoming vacation as an opportunity to make calls, check on your customers, and perhaps drum up some more business.
Getting your team onboard can make the difference between a stressful time away and a restful break.
Most vacations for small business owners are possible only because the owner has an employee they can trust to lead in the owner’s absence. It can be scary for most small business owners to turn operations over to an employee, but in the long run it’s a wise decision to have a second-in-command.
When you train a trusted employee for your vacation, you will benefit later as well. In the future you can leave them in charge if you have a family or medical emergency, or even if you want time to explore new opportunities for your business.
It’s a good idea to do a “practice delegation” before you leave. Take a day or a weekend off to see how your employee in charge handles the business on their own.
Even your employee in charge won’t be there every minute you’re gone. Give the other employees the information they will need to handle any issues that come up. Here are some things you might plan for:
Some things that come up are not time-sensitive. In these cases, ask your employees to write out a summary of what happened or what needs to be addressed and leave it on your desk for when you return.
If you are clear with your employees about what constitutes an emergency, you won’t have your workers calling, emailing, and texting you with every issue that comes up.
Even if you trust your employee in charge or the fellow professional that is pinch-hitting for you, you may not want to give them access to your financial information. Make sure all bills are paid before you leave. You can schedule automatic payments, or pay them early if necessary.
Vacations for small business owners can only happen when employees and clients understand that the owner is on holiday. Make sure your employees know that you will not be reachable throughout the day.
Owners will tell you that vacations for small business owners would not be possible without the one or two employees that they can trust. When you get back, show your appreciation by:
Vacations for small business owners are as important as vacations for anyone who works hard. When you are a rested business owner, you are a better boss.
You care deeply about your business, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself and take some time off. You can be there to manage your business every other week of the year.
Vacations for small business owners are healthy for the bosses, for their employees, and for their business.
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LAWYER & ONLINE ENTREPRENEUR
After graduating from law school and passing the bar, I struggled to find work, pay my bills, and make ends meet. That's when I decided to take control of my future and start working for myself. Now, several years and a handful of companies later, I'm sharing how I launched a successful business, and how you can do it too.