Study after study stress the connection between vacation time and your health, mental wellbeing and productivity. While the average American now takes the least amount of vacation time in the past four decades, time off is even more elusive for the small business owner. Many entrepreneurs worry about losing business or who can handle a crisis in their absence.
While I was debating the possibility of a vacation as CEO of my first company, I was given some very wise advice: What does it mean if your business crumbles without you? If you can't take a few days off here and there, then you haven't built a business, you have built a job.
With summer quickly approaching, you might be contemplating how to navigate your own vacation time. While you can't anticipate and prep for every possible scenario, you can start laying the groundwork to make your getaway as smooth as possible for everyone involved:
1. Communicate with clients ahead of time
If you have long-term clients, you'll want to brief them on your vacation schedule well in advance. Try to give them your schedule before the summer starts, and then send out a reminder two weeks before your vacation. At this point, set realistic expectations for your accessibility (will you be checking email/text/voicemail and how often?), as well as let them know if there's a point of contact in your absence.
2. Figure out who is in charge of what
Part of being a leader is being able to let go of the reigns. Your vacation is a perfect opportunity to give your staff a chance to step up their game and take on more responsibilities. Over time you'll come back to a team that is more capable, independent, and confident.
If there's a natural "second in command" on your team, put that person in charge to run the show in your absence. If you don't feel comfortable with that approach, you can always delegate your activities one by one. Think about all the tasks you might do in a day and assign someone on the team to handle them. If you plan on setting responsibilities one by one, just make sure everyone is clear about their role and goals during your absence.
3. Set a schedule for work
I'll admit it: I was that person always checking email at the beach. Since both my husband and I are working in the business, it's not possible to cut the cord entirely when we're on vacation. Rather than having work creep into the entire vacation, I've learned it's best to set aside specific times in the day to check email, respond to urgent matters, etc. Typically, I'll spend an hour or two working before everyone else wakes up. And before I take off for vacation, I'll let my employees know the schedule. That way I have a better chance of setting aside work throughout the day.
4. Prep for worst-case scenarios
While there's no way you can anticipate every possible scenario, it's smart to go over some potential issues with team members before you leave. Think about some of the things that could go wrong and put an action plan in place for what everyone should do. This contingency planning just might save you an urgent call or two during your time away.
5. Take whatever kind of vacation you can
Everyone deserves time off - including small business owners. It's easy to put off a vacation until there's a perfect time to take a three-week dream vacation to the Greek islands. The problem is, a vacation at that scale might be hard to pull off and you're left with nothing. If all you can manage is a four-day weekend, take it and enjoy. Starting small is also a great way to get the team used to working without you.
Most likely, there will never be a perfect time to break away from work. But recharging and building memories with loved ones are more important than being available 365 days a year. So make your vacation a priority this summer, prep ahead of time, and enjoy!