Take a Break - Or Else

Business owners can be relentless in their drive to succeed. Failure is unacceptable and the word flashes constantly, like a neon beacon in their brains. They dread making a false step or taking their eye off the ball for even one moment. Working long hours, eating poorly, sleeping worse, operating at very high levels of stress, they can't get themselves to do otherwise.

In short bursts all of this is tolerable and maybe even desirable to get the adrenaline flowing. But as a steady diet the stress can become detrimental -- not only to the business owner but to the business, as well.


The body and mind need rest and recovery between periods of heightened stress and heavy workloads. Without at least some relief, thinking can become muddled, energy levels begin to tank, and what seems to be effectiveness is not even close to passing muster when compared to performance under more normal, quieter conditions.

Recognizing the need to call a time out is often very difficult for business owner obsessed with how their companies function day in and day out. Many times they're blind to the fact that they can delegate, that they have staff members who can fill in and handle the day-to-day operations very competently. It comes down to a matter of trust. They don't trust anyone else to get things absolutely 100% right every time. However, what they don't see is that they, themselves don't get it right all the time, and yet the business continues to function.

Allowing employees to demonstrate their ability is the one aspect of letting go that owners often must learn. Permitting employees to make their own mistakes is part of that lesson. Understanding that business is a long-term adventure and not a situational battlefield is fundamental to developing a mindset that the company's operations don't have to be all-consuming. It may take an emergency to open many business owners' eyes. A health emergency or a drastic change in the family could force the issue. Under such circumstances, the owner is often forced to loosen the grip on the reigns, since it can be impossible to juggle all things - family, health, business -- at the same time.

Even vacations are sometimes not enough to break the obsessive cycle. The laptop, the tablet, Skype, and the ever-present mobile phone have created an unbreakable umbilical cord. Owners who don't disconnect aren't capable of being wholly anywhere. While they may be sitting on a glorious beach, they're missing out on the pleasure because they're talking to the business thousands of miles away, still connected to the daily problems. How can "We just made a mistake on the client's job." or "The shipment didn't arrive." not intrude on what's supposed to be a happy family moment? How can those nuggets of negative information not influence behavior and dilute the effort to reconnect and bond? It's just plain unfair and selfish. Selfish in a bad way.

Taking a complete break from the business is being selfish in a very good way. You need it, you earned it, and your loved ones deserve it. You never see a tombstone that says, "I should have spent more time at work."

Take a break already!

If you would like to read more of Greg's published articles please visit the Lorraine Gregory Communications Group website

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.