How to Take a Vacation as a Small Business Owner
Should Small Business Owners Take Vacations?
The answer is to this question is an emphatic “yes”! Small business owners are just like anyone else – they need time off for some relaxation and recovery. However, entrepreneurs are also incredibly busy people who constantly have new tasks piling up. They are often dealing with multiple things at once, and – if we’re being honest with ourselves – small business owners are usually behind on work! It’s just the nature and difficulty of running a small business operation. Regardless, mental health is important – this can’t be emphasized enough – and if you aren’t in the right state of mind as a small business owner, it can seriously hamper your ability to perform and execute on your business’ goals and objectives. As such, taking well-deserved vacation time is not only important but critical. Otherwise, it can be easy to burn out and lose focus.
In this post, we’ll cover some tips and general guidelines for taking vacation time off as a small business owner. In particular, we will cover the details for preparing to take time off, finding the right time to do so, and other options you can take advantage of to prioritize your mental health and general business success!
1. Plan Vacation During Slow Periods
Nobody likes to work on vacation! In order to take a vacation as a small business owner, you should try to plan your vacation days around slow business times. A lot of businesses are seasonal, which means they have slow periods when there is not a lot going on. This is the perfect time to hop on a plane and take a vacation! In particular, taking a vacation during a slow period will allow you to have peace of mind while you are on your trip and minimize the amount of time you will have to spend working. It also makes it easier for your second-in-command, such as your store manager, to operate the business while you are away. After all, you wouldn’t want to leave on Black Friday, for example, when you know that your store is going to be getting lots of foot traffic. The less that is going on, the less you and your employees have to worry about.
Additionally, while many employees in the United States tend to take long weekends off, like Labor Day, this usually isn’t a good idea for small business owners. Since so many people have the day off on long weekends, these days are usually a good time to keep your business open and operating. As a result, most holidays are usually still important workdays.
You should also try to coordinate around your employees’ vacation schedules. For example, if you know two of your employees are taking a certain Thursday and Friday off, odds are you shouldn’t take that Thursday and Friday off as well. Obviously, this depends on the size of your business and how many employees you have, but, regardless, it is always good to be cognizant about what others’ plans are.
2. Plan Far in Advance
If you are a small business owner, you should typically avoid last-minute trips. These can cause a lot of issues for your business since you won’t have adequate time to get everything planned for your departure.
Planning far in advance gives you time to prepare a to-do list and a schedule for your employees. This is a critical component of leaving on vacation since your employees need to know exactly what you expect of them while you are away.
The to-do list is especially important because odds are you will need your employees to do things that you usually do. For example, you may need someone to deposit cash at the bank, pay a few outstanding bills, manage a certain client, or clean the store. Whatever it may be, write out exactly what it is that you need to be completed. That way, neither you nor your employees will forget what it is that needs to be done.
Before you leave, you also want to be clear with your employees about how they can contact you, what sorts of issues you feel are important enough for them to contact you about, and what times are appropriate for them to contact you during (i.e. if you are going to Europe, you may not want your employees to call you at 4 am your time (which may be a regular hour of operation for them) unless it is an emergency).
3. Start with a Short Vacation
If you have never taken a vacation away from your business before, then you might want to consider doing a trial run with a short vacation. If you have never left your business under the control of someone else before, the last thing you want to do is go on a two-week Caribbean cruise where you will be all but unreachable by phone. This could lead to a disaster.
Doing a trial run will allow you to see what works and what doesn’t work, as well as establish trust and confidence in an employee who can serve as the second-in-command and make decisions in the event of an emergency. Running a business is all about building relationships with your employees, and a trial run allows you to do this.
4. Set Up Times to Check In
Obviously, you don’t want to be thinking about your business during your entire weekend getaway, but it can still be a good idea to set up times to check in with your employees. For example, maybe you plan to have a quick ten-minute call with your store manager once a day just before the business closes. However, you don’t want to be a helicopter and make your employees think you don’t trust them. So, it is best to keep these calls to a minimum and keep them short. They should be just long enough and just frequent enough for you to have peace of mind that everything is operating as it should be. These calls also provide a time when your employees can update you on any difficulties they may be having.
5. Try Not to Shut Down Your Business
If you operate a very small business where you are the only employee or one of the only employees, then you may have to shut down the business while you are away. Hopefully, this is not the case, and you are able to hire at least one employee to hold down the fort while you are away. If possible, you don’t want to miss out on the revenue that your business can earn during your vacation (after all, you are spending money on your vacation – it’s best if you are making some money at the same time!). So, you should pursue any avenue which will allow your business to remain open while you are gone.
However, sometimes having to close your business to take a vacation is inevitable. If you have to do this, you should make sure your trips are relatively short (i.e. you probably shouldn’t exceed a 3-day trip). You should also communicate to your customers clearly that your store will not be open during those days. Nothing is worse than having customers show up to your store when it is normally open only to see a closed sign. This can make customers very upset, and they may not come back in the future. In order to communicate clearly that you will be away, you should post the notice on your Google business page, social media accounts, and record a special voicemail (that way, if any customers give you a phone call, they will know that your business is not open). Make sure to apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused your customers and let them know exactly when you will be back open for business. That way, they can make plans to return to your store once it is open again.
6. Notify Important Clients
If you have any very important clients, you might want to reach out to them directly before you leave. For example, if you operate a lighting business that fulfills large orders for a few select large clients, then you should probably reach out to them directly and let them know that you are leaving for a few days. If they need you in the interim, put them in touch with another team member who can assist them or let them know they can still reach out to you. The last thing you want to do is upset an important client because you simply didn’t reach out to them to let them know you were going to be out of town.
Also, make sure you are up to date on all the projects you are working on with your clients before you leave. For example, if you typically have a meeting every other week with a client, then missing a meeting would mean you would go three weeks without meeting regarding the project. To remedy this, set up an extra meeting just so that you are fully up-to-speed on everything going on before you leave. This way, when you return from your trip, you are ready to hit the ground running again. It also gives your clients the confidence that you are being proactive and care about the fact that you are leaving for a few days.
If you communicate clearly and effectively, odds are none of your clients will have an issue with you leaving. Everyone knows how important it is to get away every once in a while.
7. Maintain Clear Boundaries for Yourself and Limit Your Vacation Days
Having your own business is a challenge and entrepreneurship is often about sacrifice. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make time for yourself to recoup and rejuvenate – this can pay dividends in the long run and prevent the possibility of burning out – but it does mean you have to be responsible. This means you should set boundaries for yourself regarding the number of vacation days you plan to take each year. As the boss, it is easy to go crazy. You could take the entire year off if you wanted! (Odds are this would work out terribly for your business.) However, taking too many days off can upset important clients and employees who rely on you. Work-life balance is all about balance. Make sure you maintain that balance by not taking too many days off each year. Obviously, how many days you can take off depends on your business, how well-established you are, and how integral you are to its operations (a more mature and long-standing business may not need you to be there every day). Thus, the number of business days you can take off varies based on your business. Try to use your best judgment when making this decision.
8. Choose Your Second-in-Command Carefully
Choosing a second-in-command is often not easy. For starters, they should be someone who is experienced, understands the operations of your business, and who you trust to make the right decisions. However, they should also be someone who is comfortable with leadership and comfortable with making the right decisions without you being there. You might have an employee who you trust and who understands your business really well, but if they are not comfortable in a leadership position, leaving them alone to operate the business could turn out disastrously. Or they might end up calling you constantly to approve basic decisions before they make them. This is why the trial run previously mentioned is important. It will allow you to learn about your employees’ traits and who is capable of taking on the added responsibility of operating the business.
9. Set Vacation Rules and Guidelines for Yourself in Advance
It is easy to go on a vacation as a business owner and end up spending the entire time working, especially if your job can be completed remotely. However, you don’t want to fall into this trap. If you end up working your entire vacation, then there was no point in going on vacation in the first place.
Before you go on your vacation, decide exactly how much work you want to do and how connected you want to be during the vacation. Are you going to respond to Slack and to email while you are away? That’s fine. But if that is the case, decide on a timeframe for which you want to do this. For example, you might plan in advance that you are going to respond to emails from 9 am to 10 am of each day, but afterward, you are going to sign off until the next day. This can be a good balance.
10. Make it a Business Trip/Vacation
One of the best and most convenient ways to take a vacation as a small business owner is to tack it onto the back of a business trip. For example, maybe you have to spend the week in Orlando, Florida meeting with clients about a big project. If you wrap up work at the end of the day on Friday, consider flying out your family on that day to meet up with you. Then, you can use the weekend as your vacation!
This can work out great for a number of reasons. First, it can help you save money since you will already be out that way and have paid for airfare (plus you can make use of the related tax advantages). It also helps you save time since that means there is one less flight you have to take.
11. Have Fun and Try to Unplug!
We can’t stress enough the importance of making use of your vacation time in a positive and beneficial way. No matter how difficult it is, try to unplug from your business and relax. This is the only way you will be able to rejuvenate during your vacation – which is the whole point of going on the vacation in the first place!
Taking vacation days as a small business owner is extremely important, but it can be extremely difficult as well. By following the above tips, planning in advance, and being meticulous about your communication with your employees and your clients before you depart, you can ensure that your business runs smoothly and seamlessly while you are gone. That way, you can rest easy during your trip and have peace of mind that everything is being taken care of by your employees back home!
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