You need a vacation!

One of the ironies of owning a small business is that although you’re free to set your own schedule, you find it hard to take time off with a clear conscience.

The problem is, working without a break inevitably has consequences. It’s important to take vacations — your mind and body need a break from the day-to-day routine. Here are some tips on how to do it.

woman wearing white on sunny beach with arms outstretchedWhy do I need a vacation?

  • To avoid burnout. The most obvious reason to get away is to get away! You need a break to avoid burnout. Otherwise the venture you’ve poured so much time and energy into will become a burden, and you’ll spend more time accomplishing less.
  • To recharge. New surroundings stimulate your imagination, your creativity, even your problem-solving ability. Be open to new perspectives. Whether you veg out on a beach or take a bicycle tour of the Ozarks, new ideas can pop into your head anytime.
  • It’s good for your employees. Being in charge can have a positive effect on the people who work for you. It’s empowering for employees to know they can keep the company running in your absence and that you trust them to do so.
  • It’s good for your customers. Of course you would never abandon your customers, but by leaving them in capable hands, they’ll be confident their needs will be met whether or not you are around.

However —

  • Timing is essential. If yours is a seasonal business, scheduling vacation during a slow period will make it easier for everyone. Another option is to schedule your vacation around the same time every year so it’s part of your, and everyone else’s, yearly business calendar.
  • Seek closure. If you have a business that literally can’t run without you — for example, a roofer with just two support staff — having everyone take vacation at the same time and closing the office is an option.
  • Emergency back-up. If you’re a one-person business, make arrangements for customers who may have emergency needs. Ask a colleague to cover for you and return the favor in the future.
  • Prepare your employees. Some of your tasks will be more easily delegated than others. Decide who will do what in your absence and give them adequate time to get up to speed before you leave. Have them take over completely before you leave so you can work out any bugs.
  • Prepare your customers. Give your clients plenty of advance notice when you’ll be out. Let them know who to contact in your absence and assure them their needs will be met. A mention in your email signature is a good reminder, too.
  • Plan for every scenario. Go through every project that will take place while you’re gone and try to prepare for every contingency with the employees who will be in charge. Think worst-case, knowing it’s not likely to happen.

Availability

One thorny question is whether to make yourself available while you’re out. With smartphones and email it may seem impossible to escape, or you may not want to entirely.

If not staying in touch is too stressful, set a certain time during the day to check email and voicemail. Or schedule a weekly status phone call with your office. But stick to the schedule you agree on! Don’t let work creep into vacation time.

If you absolutely do not want to hear from your office unless it’s a dire emergency, be sure to clearly communicate that. Give only key people your contact information with specific instructions under what circumstances to contact you.

It’s often difficult as a business owner to balance work and personal life. That makes it especially important for you to make vacations a regular part of your schedule. It’s not only good for you; it’s good for your business.

–¬†Contributed by Kelly Burkart¬†through a partnership with US Bank.