Is a truly stress-free vacation possible for workaholic entrepreneurs, or are they destined to poolside fretting?
According to a recent survey by Internet services provider j2 Global, 63 percent of small-business owners plan to take a vacation this summer. That said, nearly two-thirds of them plan to bring their work along -- a trend that has some experts worried.
"No matter how ingrained an owner is in the business, they can and should unplug," says Brian Miller, the chief operating officer of AdviCoach, a provider of business coaching to small companies. "A business owner needs to take a day or two quarterly to refresh and recharge their battery. Their business should be stable enough where taking a few days off will not make everything fall apart."
Miller discusses the five steps small-business owners should take before they leave to ensure a worry-free vacation:
Plan your vacation around slow periods in your business.
For those owners who fear that going away will wreak havoc on the business, Miller suggests scheduling a vacation in a historically slower time for your company. "Holidays and typical non-business days are a great time for business owners to test out the vacation waters because clients have a less urgent need for your services," he says. A successful business is not just about making money, he notes; it's about creating work-life balance for you and your employees.
Have clear systems in place for employees to follow.
Miller says business owners often struggle to unplug because they worry about the day-to-day operations like keeping the books and counting the cash registers at night. He suggests you "franchisitize" your business by following the example of franchises and creating an efficient operating system that employees can easily follow while you're away. Create a document that outlines exactly what to do across a range of scenarios, so employees can take action on their own. "The general rule is that 95 percent of the time the workers should be able to figure out a solution without consulting the owner," he says.
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Build confidence by handing off responsibilities before you leave.
"I have found that when entrepreneurs empower their staff, they are more productive when their boss is gone," Miller says. To instill confidence in your employees (and for your own peace of mind), begin delegating tasks while you're still in the office. That way, be it sales calls or stocking inventory, employees learn the ropes before they fly solo. If certain aspects of the business are of particular concern to you, Miller advises asking for brief daily email updates to put your mind at ease. Do not assume the worst, he cautions. "If all of the updates are in order, trust that the employees have things covered."
Complete any big, lingering projects.
"If at all possible, tie up any loose ends that you can," advises Miller. "Stay late for a couple of days, and make sure that any big projects that you were meaning to complete are done." Not only will you have less weighing you down when you're away, but if you're able to start fresh, you'll also have a smoother transition back to the office.
Let clients know what to expect while you're away.
Oftentimes, small-business owners are the main point of contact for clients, which can be draining and makes vacationing practically impossible, says Miller. If you are the day-to-day client contact, he suggests letting your employees take the wheel, and making sure your clients know who is taking over while you're away. To build confidence in the relationship, allow the new point person to take over client communication a week or so before the trip.
"Owning a business should mean that you have flexibility and power, not that you are constantly overworked and exhausted," says Miller. "Giving up some of the responsibility, setting systems in place and trusting your company are the first steps to being able to take a vacation free of worry."