Real Small Business

Many small business owners are reluctant to take vacations because they fear that if they're not minding the business, it will suffer. Fears about what will go wrong during a vacation include a loss of customers, missed opportunities, and looking unresponsive to current clients.

The irony is that vacations are actually good for business.

Truly successful people take vacations. They do it because they know they must be able to give 100 percent of themselves while they are working. They also understand that they cannot afford to be tired, dragging, burned out, or crabby with clients and colleagues. Taking a vacation is regarded as an important long-term investment in the success of the business.

As with other business investments, your vacations will work better for you if you think them through ahead of time and plan them carefully. Here are some tips to help you take vacations with a minimum of worry and a maximum of relaxation:

Schedule your vacations well ahead of time

This is especially important if you are someone who thinks there is never a "right" time to get away.

Put your vacation on your calendar and take steps to prepare for it, just as you would any other project. This kind of advance planning will allow you to project potential snags, and take steps to ensure that they don't deprive you of needed time off. It will also help you prepare your staff to cover for you while you're away.

Schedule breaks during business downtimes

When is your business slowest? Or if you don't have a "slow" time, when is it least hectic? Or when are your customers most likely to be away?

These are the ideal times to take a break. Plan your time away around long weekends and other holidays (such as July 4th, Labor Day, or Christmas/New Year's), when everyone else will likely be gone, too. If your business is seasonal, go on vacation off-season. An accountant, for example, could go in May after the tax season ends; a retailer might pick February after the busy Christmas selling season.

Start small and work your way up

If the idea of two weeks away makes you nervous, start by getting away from the office for a couple of days at a time.

A series of long weekends can give you a needed break and still keep you available to clients. You then might want to try extending that weekend to Tuesday or Wednesday, and then to an entire week. The idea is to give yourself the confidence that you can be out of the office, and still find your business intact when you return.

Commit yourself financially

Put a deposit on a country house, a beach house, or a hotel room.

By making a deposit, you're committing yourself to taking that time off and setting up financial consequences (lost deposits, cancellation penalties, etc.) if you decide not to get away.

Combine business and pleasure

Tack a vacation to the end of a business trip.

For example, if you live in the cold North, call on clients and prospects in Arizona and Florida during February. Then take the following long weekend at a nearby resort or spa. This strategy can also save you money on airfare.

Budget your workload

Once you decide how long you'll be away, figure out exactly what needs to be done before you go. Build this extra work into the days or weeks leading up to your vacation.

By leaving for vacation with a "clean plate," you'll reduce your anxiety about getting out of the office, and give yourself a greater chance of relaxing.

Work in brief spurts

Ideally, you don't want to take work with you when you go on vacation. No laptop or cell phone; just some sun tan lotion or your golf clubs.

But working on vacation is better than not taking a vacation at all. If that's the case, work in short spurts -- perhaps a couple of hours early in the morning when you can look at email or respond to pressing phone calls. Then once you've taken care of business, you can get back to the business of relaxing.

Plan your re-entry

Don't let the days following your vacation turn into a mad rush of catch-up.

Some pre-vacation planning can help you get back into the swing of things without brining on any unnecessary stress. Make sure someone is in place while you are gone to scan your mail, faxes, and email, separating them into piles based on their importance. Ask project managers to be prepared to present you with organized, concise updates upon your return. Make a list of projects to complete upon your return before you leave for vacation when priorities are fresh in your mind.


Small Business Guide


Small Business Guide

Starting Your Own Business - How to Take a Vacation

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