Oh, Grow Up

Get out of town!

Need a vacation? Go on, you've earned a little rest and relaxation. Besides, your business needs to learn how to function without you.

Many entrepreneurs have to overcome a highly personal obstacle: the burnout that settles in just as they're trying to move their company to the second stage. It's understandable and even natural, says Teresa Thomae, director of the Central Coast Small Business Development Center. "The energy and excitement and drive of the startup has somewhat dissipated, and people wonder, 'Now where do we go from here?'" she explains.

For entrepreneurs like Gil Pili, the answer is anywhere but here--but only for a little while. Pili, owner of Cornerstone Books in Salem, Massachusetts, considers being able to take Saturdays off as evidence that his business has reached an important new level. "Getting a good, stable staff has been key," he says. "We have some really good people running the store, so I can feel confident [about] not being there."

Some entrepreneurs want longer periods away and are willing to work for it. For Hope Lawrence, owner of Michelle Hope Events in Austin, Texas, taking a month off to travel through Europe in her business's third year was a long-term project. "It took me two years to get comfortable with it and feel [like] the staff was ready for me to be able to do that," she says.

Experts say getting out of the office is important for enterprises as well as entrepreneurs because it forces the company to operate without them. That, in turn, affects the business's value because it impacts the entrepreneur's long-term exit strategy and their ability to attract capital and top-shelf talent. What entrepreneurs ultimately want, says small-business consultant Tom Long, is sustainable business growth. "They want a company that has infrastructure," he says. "And ultimately, they want one that can operate even if they're not physically present."

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This article was originally published in the October 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Oh, Grow Up.

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