Business owners are known to work a lot of hours, and most find it difficult to take time off. According to a study by the small-business accounting firm Xero, 85 percent of business owners work while they’re on vacation.
Getting out of the office and taking a vacation can help you avoid burnout that can happen when you work long hours for a continued amount of time. A change of scenery can get your creative juices flowing. And entrusting your staff builds and deepens your relationships.
So, get out your calendar and block out some time to take off. Here’s what you need to do before and during your vacation so you can get away and return refreshed and ready for work.
Train Your “Replacement”
While it sounds cold, everyone in your business should be replaceable, including you. If not, an unexpected absence could wreak havoc on your business. To find your own replacement, choose the person in your business you trust and consider to be capable and reliable. It can help if they are already a manager or have management experience.
Train the person to handle your daily tasks. It can help to have them shadow you for a few days or weeks before your vacation. While the employee probably won’t be taking care of big-picture actions, like long-term strategies, they may need to solve problems in your absence. He or she should be comfortable making decisions. Leave detailed instructions on the tasks you do. And create a list of trusted vendors and service providers they can call in case of an emergency, such as a crashed website or building problem.
Prepare Your Staff
In addition to finding someone to assume your duties, prepare your staff for your absence. Let them know who is in charge as well as the level of their authority. Make sure you’ve left your staff with everything they need to do their jobs. Also, let employees know when you do want to be contacted. Do you want a daily update via email? What types of things warrant a phone call? Should they text if they have a question or make a phone call? Be very clear about what warrants communication. It could be a call from certain clients, or only in case of a fire.
Inform Your Customers
Let your clients know you’ll be away on vacation, especially notifying those you consider most valued. Sometimes clients prefer to work with an owner rather than the employees. You don’t want your best customer finding out you’re away from an out-of-office (OOO) autoresponder email. It could send a signal that their business isn’t important. Be proactive, letting them know ahead of time, so they can plan accordingly by getting what they need from you before you leave or as soon as you return. Also, let them know who will be in charge in your absence if they need something before you’re back.
Create an OOO Autoresponder
Even if you’ve notified your VIP customers, it’s a good idea to use an OOO email or voicemail message while you’re away. Some of them might forget about your trip, or you may receive a message from a potential new client. Be sure to provide the name and email of someone at your business who is handling work in your absence. Don’t give into the temptation of responding; that negates the purpose of an OOO. Trust that your team can handle situations that arise or that your client will wait until your return.
Don’t Make Any Big Changes Before You Go
You want your business to be “business as usual,” so don’t make any big changes that might become emergencies. For example, don’t launch or redesign your website, don’t schedule a big sale and don’t create a new marketing campaign. You don’t want to have to deal with questions or concerns while you’re away that will be hard to resolve from afar.
Time the Trip
It can help to be strategic and time your vacation during your slow season. You’ll leave your staff with less to handle, and you’ll have more peace of mind that they aren’t overwhelmed. Or consider taking a shorter trip instead of an extended vacation. If your office is normally closed over the weekend, for example, tack on two days for a four-day getaway. You can still get lots of R&R with a shorter vacation.
Do a Trial Run
Before you leave, test the waters and see how your staff does. You could work from home for a few days or just go away for a day. Seeing how well your team handles your absence can give you the confidence you need to go away on vacation.
Set Rules for Yourself
When you’re gone, set some rules for what you will and won’t do. Even if you prepare before you leave, it’s easy to get drawn back to your business. You might think a quick call won’t hurt, but it’s important to set limits and rules for yourself. For example, limit checking business email to certain times of the day. Or make a rule to not check it at all. If you do check into the workplace, do it at a time when you are on your own, so you don’t disrupt the vacation of those you’re traveling with. Unplugging completely may not always be realistic, but you need to set rules.
Once you’ve prepared your team and your business for your vacation, it’s time to enjoy the time away. Owning a business gives you a level of freedom, and it’s time to enjoy it. When you take a vacation–really take a vacation–you will benefit from the time away and return feeling refreshed and ready to take your business to the next level.