Sail, Sail Away
For small business owners, vacation can be a daunting thought.
How can you run your business from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away? Every small business owner knows the infinite number of moving parts it takes to keep the operation afloat. One reason people seek business ownership is freedom — freedom from a 9 to 5 schedule and corporate hierarchy. Yes, owning a business is not a 9 to 5 job, but for so many small business owners, it’s 24/7, 365. How can small business owners enjoy the freedom for which they have worked so hard if there is always work to be done?
Managing work while on vacation is a crucial skill for any small business owner. Master this, and you can enjoy more vacation, while your business runs smoother than ever. According to OnDeck, a firm specializing in small business financing, only 9 percent of small business owners take two full weeks of vacation per year; only 57 percent plan to take any vacation time this year. Small business owners have an obligation to themselves to run their business, but equally deserve quality vacation time for themselves and their family. While there is no cookie-cutter solution to running a business while away, there are a few key points to help everyone find a successful balance.
First, and most importantly, identify a trusted employee to take your position while you are away. For most small businesses, this decision can be easy; most of us can think of one or two key employees we trust. If you don’t trust any employees, you may have a bigger problem on your hands. Once you know your second in command, decide how much decision-making power he or she should have. What size fire can they put out without firing you up while you are trying to enjoy some much needed relaxation? If you have a business focused around a small number of significant clients, your second in command may rely on you for the final word on decisions. Retail businesses with many customers may allow stand-in managers more room to exercise their discretion. Know your business, and know what size problems you want or don’t want to hear about on vacation.
With things set on the business end, you must now decide how to manage yourself while on vacation. There is no one correct answer, but there are definitely some wrong answers. Properly using technology to effectively run your company while away is a huge gain, but sitting on the beach with your eyes glued to your phone is pretty pointless, right? All business owners like to know what’s going on, so I suggest setting up check-in times. For example, let your office know you want a status report every morning. That way, you can rest easy knowing you have squared everything away. Vacation is for relaxation and time with friends or family. Being glued to a phone or laptop is a great way to ruin this well-deserved time off. Know how to manage technology.
While these tips may be straightforward, they are by no means easy. Small business owners are deeply attached to their businesses, so letting go for even a few days can be tough. Small business owners often have their entire life tied to their company, so letting someone take the reigns is a scary prospect, even if there is 100 percent trust between owner and lieutenant. My suggestion for this is also straightforward: Give it a trial run. Take a long weekend and see how it goes; if the business is still standing Monday morning, odds are your employees were able to sail the rocky waters and keep your ship afloat.
Time and time again, I tell my clients to stop working for their business, and build their business to work for them. If you do this, I guarantee you will find plenty of vacation time with minimal business interruptions. Before your next trip, consider letting your customers or clients know you will be out of town, in case there is any pressing business to attend to. Your personal life and business life will become much easier and enjoyable once you create a business that works for you rather than you working for it.
Tips & Methods to Keep Your Ship Afloat
1. The biggest issue facing small business owners is that it can be a 24/7/365 job. Only 9 percent of small business owners take a full two weeks vacation. Instead of working for your business, make your business work for you.
2. Identify an employee you trust to be your stand in and prep them to run the show while you are away. Murphy’s Law is always a factor in business, so make sure your employees know how to solve big problems.
3. Once you are on vacation, set up a schedule. You will ruin your vacation if you spend all day on a cell phone. Check-in with work in the morning or afternoon to make sure things are running smoothly, but trust and empower your employees — and trust your business.
4. If a full week on a beach is too scary, take a Friday off to prove to yourself that your employees can keep everything running smoothly. I promise you, if you hired people you trust and respect, your business will be there Monday morning.
5. Steer your business toward success. Inform clients or key customers that you will be out of town; introduce clients to your employees if appropriate. Take care of any big items before you leave. Once your business is squared away, you can enjoy vacation to its fullest.