How to Take a Vacation as a Small Business Owner

Most people look forward to vacations, but as a business owner, you might have mixed feelings about taking time off. Although you might desperately need to kick your feet up and relax by a beach in Cancun, perhaps you fear that you’ll miss a great project, or worse, that you won’t be there to fix any last-minute emergencies.

These are valid concerns. So how can you find the time to take a much needed break?

Time the Trip During a Slow Season

Timing your vacation and having a plan in place for when you’re away are important if you really want to relax and completely unplug. Your business’s slow season, if it has one, is likely the best time to get away. Some businesses owners even close their shops for a few days.

On the other hand, if you want to keep your business running while you’re gone, you may need to start the vacation-planning process a few months in advance.

Create a Financial Buffer

To prepare for any business emergencies while you’re away, such as a sudden absence of an employee or the loss of a big client, having some kind of financial cushion help. This could be in the form of a cash reserve or a a business line of credit that you could easily access. With a business line of credit, your mind will be at ease knowing that you have the extra funds in the event of any unexpected crises that happen in your absence.  

Delegate Your Work

It’s a great idea to train a trusted staff member to manage your daily tasks and the other employees. This could be a scary prospect, especially if you’ve never turned over the reins before. But having a trusted lieutenant who can handle your daily tasks while you work on expanding the business could lead to new opportunities in the future.

Sometimes there isn’t anyone on the team who’s a good fit, but you can also look to your network for a trustworthy partner. Perhaps you know someone that runs a similar business or have a friend that understands what you do. Could they stand in while you’re away? If so, you could pay them for their time or agree to cover their work when they take a vacation.

No matter who you rely on, prepare detailed instructions on your daily business operations.

Prepare Your Staff

Studies show that if you want your vacation to decrease stress, advance planning and notice to your team is critical. You also want to be sure that your staff has everything they need to do their jobs while you’re away. Meet with team leaders to go over precisely what they’ll be working on. During the meetings, brainstorm possible problems that may arise and solutions to each. You could even have a trial run where everyone acts as if you’re gone even though you’re still there.

Let Important Clients Know You’ll Be Away

Finding out you’re on vacation from an auto-response email or a voicemail message could rub some clients the wrong way. Be proactive and tell them a few weeks ahead of time that you’ll be taking time off, letting them rearrange their schedules accordingly.

If someone else will be in charge, share that person’s contact information and level of expertise. This way clients know who to turn to and what they can, and cannot, expect. Clients may worry about deadlines that fall during your vacation, but reassure them ahead of time that your team has everything it needs to deliver as promised.

Schedule Check-Ins if You Have to

Completely unplugging may be the goal, but that’s not always realistic. To limit interruptions and let yourself unplug at times, schedule work check-ins. Tell your staff or clients that you’ll be available from 7:00 AM to 8:30 AM (or whatever time makes sense for you), and will check emails again in the late afternoon. You’ll stay connected and can leave your phone behind while you enjoy the day.

Consider Taking a Shorter Vacation

Maybe you aren’t able to take a week or two off. In that case, it’s still worth taking at least four to five days off for yourself. A study in the journal Applied Research and Quality of Life reported that vacationers received most of their happiness from planning and anticipating their vacation eight weeks in advance. This means that even if your break isn’t as long as you’d like, you can still get the same amount of pleasure just by planning a vacation.

Enjoy Yourself

You’ve done the prep. Your staff knows what to do, your clients know what to expect, and there’s someone there to handle small tasks. Now you can really let go during your vacation–that’s the whole point after all.

This article was first published on June 4, 2016. It was updated on June 13, 2018.

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