Small business owners are notorious for not taking vacations. In fact, according to a survey on vacation time commissioned by Sam's Club, nearly 50% of small business owners take only major holidays off or nothing at all. In my own poll that asks how much vacation time you take, almost a quarter of respondents (24%) say that they take only a day off here and there.
And even those who do take time off find it very difficult to relax while on vacation. According to a survey by American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, two out of three entrepreneurs worry while on vacation, about everything from missed business opportunities through employees slacking off. Throw in concerns about the economy and ever-rising fuel and energy costs, and it's no wonder that so many small business people are reluctant to take some downtime.
But as Alice Bredin, American Express OPEN small business advisor, says, "For all of us and especially entrepreneurs, a vacation even if downscaled, is a necessity not a luxury; especially when times are stressful."
So what can we do to get the worry-free vacation time we need to keep ourselves and our small businesses thriving? Basically, there are three options.
1) Close the Shop
One popular option for small business owners is to close down during vacations. For instance, a local bakery has a history of being closed for the month of January while its husband and wife owners take a vacation in warmer climes. Closing down a service business for a brief period of time is also possible with some advance planning; it's basically a matter of not scheduling appointments/commitments during a particular period of time and letting clients know that you're going to be away in advance.
Closing your business temporarily to take a vacation works well as a worry-free vacation plan for some because it eliminates so many of the things we small business owners can't stop worrying about while we're gone. Employees can’t slack off, for instance, if they're not there.
However, I don't generally recommend closing your business as a vacation solution for two reasons; closed businesses don't bring in any money and being closed forces your customers and/or clients who can’t wait to take their business elsewhere.
(Need to know what to do if you're closing your business permanently? See How to Close a Business in Canada.)
2) Take Your Business with You
Many small business owners are able to take advantage of current technology and take their small businesses with them when they travel - a great way to get a worry-free vacation. As long as you can work remotely and are vacationing in places with adequate technological resources (reliable electricity and wireless bases, for example) you can use your smart phone/laptop/tablet to keep your business operating.
Your chances of a worry-free vacation are much improved because you're still able to keep tabs on things and deal with problems as they crop up.
Obviously, though, taking your business with you when you travel will not work for some businesses which require face-to-face interactions and/or hands on production. It doesn't matter how many muffin orders the bakers I mentioned above are able to take if there's no one on site to bake them.
And I think it's a poor choice in terms of a business person's personal health. To do what it's supposed to do, rejuvenate and refresh you, a vacation should be a period of time you experience differentness, not do more of the same.
3) Find Replacement Management
For most small businesses, this last worry-free vacation option is the best. The business continues to operate and bring in money and from a personal point of view, the small business owner gets what he or she most needs - a real break.
There are two things you have to do if having someone look after your business while you're gone is truly going to be a worry-free vacation experience for you; pick the right person to manage your small business while you're on vacation and train them to do it ahead of time.
The best way of running a business while on vacation is to have someone else manage the business while you're away. These worry-free vacation tips will help ensure that you actually get a vacation when you go, rather than endlessly calling or texting to see how things are going.
Running a Business While on Vacation
Pick the Right Person
If you have employees, choose the most capable and reliable person and designate him or her your second-in-command. (You should do this even if you're not planning a vacation as you never know when you'll be unable to work in your business for some reason.)
If you don’t have any employees, one ideal solution is to swap "vacation time" with another business person in the same or a similar area.
For instance, a financial adviser might cover another financial adviser's business for a week or two in exchange for having her business looked after when she goes on vacation. You might also ask a retired business person to fill in, or one of the members of your advisory board.
Training Them to Manage Your Small Business
1) First, if you are not a one-person business operator, and you're not already doing it, you need to start practicing delegation. Admittedly, this is more about training you then about training them, but you have to be able to let go before someone else can do it.
2) Make a list of important procedures and information. What does your replacement/second in command need to know to keep your business operating while you're gone?
3) Decide what an emergency is. Under what circumstances do you want your replacement to contact you while you're on vacation? If a certain client calls? Only if there's a fire or an earthquake? Be clear about your expectations.
4) Meet with the person who's going to be running your business while you're away, share the information and see what other concerns she or he has.
5) Have some trial runs. Before you go on vacation for a week, practice turning over the reins and taking a break from your business. Take a real mini-vacation or pretend you are and do something different such as taking the weekend off.
Having someone else be in control of things for brief periods, even if it's just a day, will give you both the chance to see how things go and work out the details of your "away" plan - and give you personally a chance to get used to the idea of not working on your business.
Running a business while on vacation will take a bit of work in advance on your part, but it's the best way to actually get a worry-free vacation when you do actually take one. And, once your vacation plan is in place and you have someone prepared to back you up, getting to take a vacation in the future will be a whole lot easier.