How many vacations should business owners take?
If you have to ask, you are not taking enough.
Americans are taking fewer (and shorter) vacations overall and this trend is magnified at the top of organizations. Business owners are less likely to take much needed vacation time than lower level staff, especially at small businesses and startups. In fact, only half of small business owners plan to take a vacation in the next year and of those, 26% will just take a few days off.
The average business professional now works 72 hours a week. This is due in large part to the prevalence of technology that keeps business owners connected to their work at all times regardless of location. However, societal pressure to prioritize business needs over personal ones is also a contributing factor. Therefore, the surest benefit of taking a vacation is to provide a break from the daily grind of work.
While the importance of physical rest is of the utmost importance for overall health, the psychological effects of getting away cannot be underestimated either. On vacation business owners can clear their addled minds, find inspiration, rekindle their passions, envision goals, and practice gratefulness. These mental health “super foods” provide the necessary fuel for running a successful business.
In addition to re-energizing business owners, a vacation can also benefit the company as a whole. When a business owner is out of the office the staff that remains is allowed to take on more responsibility and learn new skills. Being entrusted with new tasks and deliverables encourages collaborative teamwork and promotes overall team culture. Furthermore, in a business owner’s absence it is easier to spot weaknesses and identify areas for improvement, strengthening the business in the long run.
However, even business owners that understand the value of taking a vacation are often unsure about how much vacation time to take and when. Is it better to take fewer days at a time and vacation more often or longer vacations that are less frequent?
David Finkel, the author of “The Freedom Formula: How to Succeed in Business Without Sacrificing Your Family,” claims business owners should take at least one week of vacation time per quarter. That means business owners should be setting aside a minimum of four weeks a year to regularly rest and recharge away from the businesses they are building.
Unfortunately, in practice very few owners are taking anywhere near this much vacation time. Cost and anxiety over leaving their businesses act as barriers, preventing business owners from taking the vacation time they desperately need.
While many people stress over the expenses of leisure activities like taking vacations, business owners often fear the opportunity cost of being away from the business as well.
Small business owners tend to be more directly connected to revenue generating activities than other business leaders, making it scarier to step away, even for a short time. Business owners may personally write up sales proposals, communicate with top clients, man tradeshow booths, or generate reports. Therefore, taking a vacation requires a plan for revenue continuity. Hiring talented salespeople to generate new revenue and capable support staff (account managers, customer service representatives, IT personnel, etc.) to maintain existing revenue streams is crucial to affording a vacation as a business owner.
Failing to plan is the surest way to sink a vacation. But aside from lining up the proper mechanics, business owners must also prepare themselves emotionally for leaving. Getting past the fear and anxiety around leaving is crucial.
In fact, David Finkel states that business owners that suffer from anxiety actually benefit the most from taking time off. He says that self-care must be a priority, explaining, “This isn't about spa days and shopping sprees, it's about taking time out for your own mental and physical growth” and goes on to highlight an entrepreneur that he worked with who was able to achieve record profitability for his company in the wake of taking a month-long vacation to the Galapagos.
Follow these steps to mitigate the worry around taking a vacation:
Identify Interim Roles and Responsibilities
Specify who will handle which roles and clearly outline each team member’s responsibilities and deliverables while the owner is out. This best practice ensures business continuity during both planned absences (like vacation) and unplanned absences (like illness or personal emergency).
Remember, there is no shame in starting small. The business owner tottering on the brink of burnout that David Finkle introduced probably did not trade 80-hour work weeks to leave for the Galapagos as a first step. While that may be the ultimate goal, it is something that most business owners will need to build up to through incremental steps. When taking a vacation for the first time in a long time (or ever) as a business owner, stay close and keep it short. Over time increase the duration and distance while reducing the ability to stay connected.
Without a great bookkeeper or accountant, it is very difficult to take a well-deserved vacation. Think “vacation” and give us a call to talk about how we can help.
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