Every once in awhile, business owners need to go on vacation. (Hopefully you're also encouraging your employees to get some R&R, too.)
Everyone deserves some time off now and then. Vacations help people work better, prevent burn out and inspire everyone to work smarter and even harder. After all, when you do something that is a lot of fun, you're likely to think, “Ah, this is why I work so hard. To do cool stuff like this." If you never go anywhere or do anything fun, you may well wonder, “Why am I working so hard?"
And that's called burn out.
Unsure of how you can actually go on a vacation without hurting your business? You may want to try some of the strategies that other business owners have used.
1. Map out your finances early, such as how you'll pay for the trip and whether you'll use business credit cards.
Vacations can be expensive, but you can make them far less so, if you plan ahead, says Hassan Alnassir, founder and owner of the children's toy business, Premium Joy, based out of Walnut, California.
“To maximize the savings when taking a vacation as an entrepreneur, you should always track the costs for your intended flights and hotels well in advance, and then book the best deals discovered," Alnassir says.
He sets price alerts online for the places he plans to vacation, using travel websites like Kayak or Skyscanner, and then tracks the flight costs daily until he sees a great deal.
“Entrepreneurs who are planning for vacation, especially small-business owners, should always reserve their hotel rooms in advance using refundable booking, at least one month ahead of the trip," Alnassir says. "This way, they can cancel their reservation upon finding any better offer."
You can also add personal vacation time to your business travel. Have to go somewhere for a business conference? Tack on a few extra days to enjoy the sites after your work is done.
Have personal or business credit cards that offer rewards such as cash back or miles for booking airlines and hotels? That can be a helpful way to bring down your travel costs. Business credit cards that offer other travel perks, such as payments for baggage fees and rental car insurance, can help shave off even more travel expenses.
2. Stop micromanaging.
That may not sound like vacation advice, but if you are going to take some time off, you'd do well to empower your employees to do their jobs.
Vincent Sposari is a franchise owner of a Mr. Rooter Plumbing in Seattle, Washington. He takes vacations throughout the year, mostly worry-free. The key to doing that, he says, is to have a team in place that you trust.
“Have confidence that your management team will get the job done correctly and efficiently even while you're away," he says.
That means when you are around, teach and mentor your employees so the business can run well, Sposari says,
That's a good idea even if you're the most anti-vacation and anti-travel person in the world. For instance, if you got sick or needed to take care of an ill family member, you'd want your employees to be able to run the show.
“Those who micromanage their managers will never feel comfortable leaving the office for an extended period of time. In my opinion, it's the owner's job to work on the business—not in the business," Sposari says.
3. Micromanage before you leave on vacation.
Unfortunately, if you don't have employees, you probably will have to micromanage a lot, before you leave.
Think about how much work you need to get done before you travel. How much work will be waiting for you when you return? How will you manage work while you're away? Will you check your email once or twice a day? Will you check it every hour and soon feel like you aren't on vacation at all? Will you completely go off the grid?
It's exhausting to figure out, but any business owner will tell you that it's worth it.
Have confidence in your worth to your clients. Never apologize for taking a necessary break. With advance notice and appropriate planning, good clients will be happy to flex around your time away.
—Keneta Anderson, founder, Keneta Anderson Consulting
Keneta Anderson, who owns Keneta Anderson Consulting, a business consultancy in Seattle, goes off the grid. Anderson has managed to take two to three-week vacations over the years and has been able “to stay completely out of contact despite not having anyone to stand in with my clients."
But to do that, you have to be prepared, Anderson advises.
“Commit to your vacation financially several months in advance. Setting dates and putting money on the line early will motivate you to structure your long-term workflow around your holiday, rather than perpetually looking for a chance to squeeze a break in between evolving meetings and deadlines," Anderson says.
When she does go, she establishes a vacation email address and shares it only with family and friends.
“You'll be able to check your inbox without being reminded of work-related communication, much less being tempted to read it or respond," Anderson says.
But what if something really important comes in or happens while you're away? Anderson says that she suggests designating an “emergency-only contact for work-related matters."
You can give your clients that contact, who they can turn to, while you're away.
“Chances are your clients will never contact the person, but they'll feel good knowing they have somewhere to turn," Anderson says.
(You could also have your emergency-only contact check your regular or business email for you if you like this idea but wonder about what to do if new work comes your way while you're gone.)
On the other end of the spectrum is Liz Steblay, who runs a talent agency for independent, self-employed consultants as well as some major national brands called ProKo Consulting, based out of San Francisco.
Steblay has a part-time assistant, part-time controller and part-time head of talent, but otherwise, that's it. She has no W-2 employees. Steblay just went on a two-week vacation with her daughter in Europe and says that it's “exceptionally difficult" to completely unplug and travel off the grid for more than a few days at a time.
So she doesn't try—she aims for a healthy balance of being connected and unconnected.
“When I'm on vacation, I check email once a day, but I only respond to items that involve keeping existing business or getting new business. I try to keep it to an hour or less," Steblay says.
Steblay also isn't shy about telling people—through an out-of-office auto-responder email or telling clients before she goes—that she is going on vacation.
When you mention that you'll be away, it's important to mention “on vacation" or “with my family," she says, because people are even less likely to expect a prompt reply from you when you're gone.
Anderson also ascribes to being upfront about going on a vacation.
“Have confidence in your worth to your clients," she says. “Never apologize for taking a necessary break. With advance notice and appropriate planning, good clients will be happy to flex around your time away."
Besides, if you're good at what you do, your clients, suppliers and vendors probably recognize that you've more than earned some travel time.
Read more articles on work-life balance.
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