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Taking a Vacation From Your Business

Katharine Paljug

Taking time off from work is an essential part of running a business, according to Linda F. Williams, a certified executive coach who works with exhausted business leaders. "The increased mental acuity, higher productivity and an overall sense of happiness will make you a more powerful leader," she said.

Crystal Stranger, co-founder of blockchain accounting tool PeaCounts, has found first-hand that taking time off benefits her business. "With running a rapidly scaling startup, it can feel impossible to take even a day off, but it really is essential to take breaks for having the mental clarity to make the best decisions."

Williams advises making time for regular vacations, especially if you feel constantly overwhelmed or as if you can never finish the tasks on your list. But when you run a business, how can you take time away from your work without feeling like everything will fall apart?

Business News Daily talked to six business owners to find out how they make vacation time work without sacrificing the well-being of their business.

Build your team

For many business owners, taking time off from work feels impossible because they are too used to being personally responsible for every decision, email and call with a client. But being willing to delegate some of that work is essential for both growing your business and giving yourself a break.

"To be able to take quality vacation time, the process starts long before you leave," said Stranger. "Delegation is key."

Building a team allows you to take a step back from your business, whether for a day or a week, and know that someone is there to keep things running smoothly without you.

"No one should be indispensable [to a business], including the CEO or founder," said Alexander Lowry, the director of Gordon College's Financial Analysis master's program. "If someone is too key to a role to take vacation, then you have a critical point of failure in your business."

Even if you don't have employees in your business, you can still build a team to support you during vacation time. Find a virtual assistant that you can trust to answer incoming emails, even if those answers are chosen from options you write ahead of time. Contract with a web designer you trust to monitor your site for problems, or hire a temporary social media manager to manage your marketing accounts.

Even if these people don't work for you on a weekly basis, finding a temporary team to handle things until you get back may be the only obstacle standing between you and your vacation time.

Empower your employees

Just building a team isn't enough. You need to trust them to handle things on their own while you are gone so you don't spend your whole vacation "just checking in."

"We empower our team back home to make decisions and handle things in our absence," said Kelly Edwards, co-owner of Lawton Marketing Group. This doesn't mean leaving employees completely on their own, Edwards explained. "They know they can reach us for emergencies." But it does ensure that employees aren't asking you to read every email before they send it.

If you're worried about employees making major decisions without your approval, designate what should always be run by you even when you are out of the office.

"Give [your team] guidelines on what decisions they can make independently and what they need to contact you for," advised Lena Gore, who co-runs online retailer Find Me a Gift. She asks employees to check in on issues affecting turnover, profits or her ability to offer services. Otherwise, she said, she expects them to handle things without her.

In addition to giving you a much-needed break, empowering your employees to tackle problems on their own can benefit your business by introducing new ideas and creative solutions. "Taking time away … provides an opportunity for others to step into additional responsibilities, take a fresh look at them and consider possible alternatives," said Lowry.

Create a to-do plan

If you're worried that you won't be able to relax and enjoy your vacation with everything left in your team's hands, create a plan that they can follow while you're out of the office.

Unlike a to-do list, a full plan helps employees understand not just what needs to be done but how to accomplish the tasks, particularly if they are taking on work that you normally cover.

"I set a list of things for [my team] to complete that I would normally do or start to do so when I come back the work hasn't snowballed," said Saj Devshi, the founder of education startup LearnDojo. "I make sure the tasks I set are all broken down as mini goals rather than huge goals. This makes things more manageable for them I find."

Depending on your employees and your own comfort level, your plan may involve more or less detail. However you structure it, don't use a plan as an excuse to disempower your team or limit their ability to make decisions.

"I provide our team with detailed instructions, including written guidelines and video tutorials, so they can take care of things while I am away," said Syed Irfan Ajmal, a serial entrepreneur and marketing consultant. "But I also give them the confidence … to take more responsibility and to not to shy away from making mistakes as long as they are taking action."

Set expectations

Boundaries are important for balancing work life and home life during a normal week. They become twice as important when you are trying to take a vacation.

Your team is accustomed to having your attention when they need you. If you want to keep everyone happy and stay relaxed yourself, set boundaries in advance about when you will and will not be available.

"I manage expectations of my staff," said Gore, explaining that she designates a team member to be in charge while she is away. The rest of the team knows to take immediate concerns or questions to that person. Unless it is an emergency, Gore said, employees know that she only responds to messages when she returns.

Edwards agreed, adding, "One thing that has been very helpful is defining exactly what is and what is not an emergency ... they know when to reach out and when to handle things themselves."

If you have clients who are used to you quickly answering their calls or emails, you need to manage their expectations as well. Let them know in advance that you will be on vacation and for how long, then give them the name and contact information for a team member they can call instead of you.

Don't be too hard on yourself

Even with the best of intentions, when you run a business, work can creep into vacation time. Maybe you are a freelancer who can't afford to take a whole week off with no work. Maybe something unexpected comes up and your team needs you to jump in and help.

When that happens, give yourself permission to take care of what needs to be done without too much stress or regret. If you can, find a way to fit work into your day without disrupting the vacation itself too much.

"Cut yourself some slack if you do have to work a little," said Edwards. "When I have to get something done on vacation, I set the alarm extra early and do it before my family wakes up."

"It's not ideal," she added. "But it's better than having to work when they're awake and wanting my time, and it prevents me from becoming a choke point in my business."

Image Credit: Liunian/Shutterstock
Katharine Paljug
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Katharine Paljug is a freelance content creator and editor who writes for and about small businesses. In addition to Business News Daily, her articles can be found on Your Care Everywhere, She Knows, and YFS Magazine. Visit her website to access her free library of resources for small business owners.