Do you need a vacation this summer? If you’re like most small-business owners I know, the answer is a resounding, “Yes, but …,” followed by all the reasons you can’t possibly take time off.
For entrepreneurs, there’s good news and bad news about taking vacations. The good news is it’s never been easier to stay in touch with your business from a distance while still enjoying some R&R. The bad news is, all those ways to stay in touch are making it even harder to truly get the benefits of said R&R. So what’s an entrepreneur to do? Here are two options.
If You Really Need to Stay in Touch
Maybe you’ve got a big vacation planned only to have a business emergency occur, a sensitive new client sign on, or some other situation arise that requires your frequent monitoring. You can still take your trip (and keep your significant other/spouse/kids from hating you for ruining the long-planned vacation); you’ll just need to take a few steps to make it work. Appoint a delegate back at the office. Whether it’s your second in command, your assistant or the head of the most relevant department to the emergency/project/new client, pick someone you can trust to stay on top of things and get him or her up to speed. Introduce him or her to your important clients, vendors or other relevant people as the point person dedicated to helping them while you’re gone.
And of course, you’ll still be ready to jump in ... just in case. If you already use the cloud for business, this will be fairly easy. If you don’t, you should sign up for some cloud services now. Choose a cloud storage, remote work and collaboration system that works for your needs, whether that’s Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, Dropbox, Basecamp or something similar. This will enable you to share data and documents with the folks at the office wherever you are.
Also make sure you’ve got a reliable way to hold conference calls or even videoconferences on vacation should the need arise. Skype or GoToMeeting are two I’ve used and like. Finally, be sure the hotels you’re staying at have Internet connections, fax services and business centers—and if you’re heading out of the country, make sure your smartphone works wherever you’re headed.
Before you leave, develop a plan for checking in with your business. Stay in touch with the point person daily, shooting him or her an email with your plans first thing in the morning is a great idea, with updates on how often you’ll be checking email that day and if or when you’ll be unreachable. Instruct your point person to alert you when anything urgent happens—and make sure you clarify beforehand what qualifies as “urgent."
If You Don’t Need to Be in Touch
The pressures of 24/7 connectivity are spurring more entrepreneurs to choose unplugged vacation options that truly get them “off the grid.” You may not be able to take a two-week vacation off the grid, but try a long weekend to start out.
The keys to making “unplugged” vacations work? Make sure the person who’s in charge while you’re away knows how to get in touch with you if it’s absolutely necessary—whether by calling the hotel to get a message through, or sending a Sherpa up the mountain to dig you out of your Himalayan meditation retreat. (Note: Make absolutely clear what constitutes “necessary.”)
Second, let your clients and customers know what you’re doing. You’d be surprised how many people, rather than getting annoyed with you, will get envious, wistful and supportive all at the same time.
Finally, if you’re going to disconnect from business, try to unplug from technology in general. Don’t post constant status updates about your trip; avoid the temptation to check your phone when you feel restless.
Study after study have shown we all need a break. As entrepreneurs it’s particularly hard for us to let go, even for a few days. But you and your business will be healthier if you can pull this off.
Read more articles on productivity.