Everybody deserves a vacation, and that definitely includes small business owners. Whether you soak up the sun in the summer, spend time with family over the winter holiday season, or go on a city or country break anytime in the year, time off is essential.
Especially for small business owners.
When you’re responsible for a thriving business, it can be extremely difficult to take a break. It’s even harder if your business is going through some teething issues (it can happen to the best of us). Small business owners’ vacations tend to be put off for a more convenient time, or delayed until “the business is on its feet.”
But taking a break is vital for clearing your head and recharging your batteries. In fact, your business will probably run even better after you’ve had a vacation. To help you seize the moment and take that holiday, we’ve brought together tips on how to take a vacation as a small business owner, and why a companion like vcita makes it all less stressful.
Why should you take vacation as a small business owner?
You might feel like you can’t possibly leave your business, but taking a vacation is vital both for your health and your business. Even if you’re running your dream business doing something you love, burnout can still hit you if you overstretch yourself. Vacations help lower your stress levels, clear your mind, and rest your body, so you can return with more energy and strength.
You need time to relax, build relationships with people you love, and think about things that aren’t work-related. These all improve your mental and physical health, lower the risks of heart disease, and boost creativity and problem-solving. Vacations have been proven to improve productivity and help you sleep better, which also increases your concentration and helps you make better business decisions.
Taking a vacation can actually be beneficial for your business. When you go on vacation and leave your team to run the show, it demonstrates that you trust them and have confidence in their capabilities. This helps improve employee satisfaction and engagement, generates a positive atmosphere in the workplace, and encourages employees to take the initiative in more areas of the business.
Small business owners can find it hard to delegate tasks to other people — understandably enough, because your business is your baby. But your time and energy are limited, so you can’t grow your business unless you delegate. What’s more, at some point you might have no choice but to temporarily step away from actively running your business. Taking a vacation forces you to set up processes that keep things running even without your presence, which makes your business more resilient.
How long a vacation should you take?
Small business consultant guru David Finkel encourages entrepreneurs to take at least 4 weeks of vacation a year, with one week off every quarter, and the Journal of Happiness Studies calculated that the ideal vacation is 8 days long.
However, according to an OnDeck study, only 57% of small business owners vacation for any time at all. Even those who do take an average of just 5 days leave. Another study found that 70% of small business owners work on the holidays, including Thanksgiving.
We recommend that you buck the trend and take full-length vacations. Of course, you can’t leave your business for weeks at a time, but you can and should take short breaks at regular intervals. It’s even worth it to take a long weekend away, but the most benefits come when you’re away for around a week.
Why do many small business owners NOT take vacation?
With so many good reasons to go on vacation, why are people still asking if business owners can take a vacation? Here are some of the main reasons why business owners are still at their desks.
They can’t let go
Small business owners love their business and are extremely dedicated to making it thrive. This is wonderful, but it results in the feeling that things won’t get done properly if you’re not present. It can be hard for small business owners to feel confident about delegating tasks to employees, let alone leaving the entire business in someone else’s hands.
Less often, you find solopreneurs who really struggle to work with other people. They view themselves as the stars of the show and can’t step aside to let anyone else take the helm, not even temporarily.
They worry about finances
Being a small business owner can be financially precarious. Your business is your livelihood, and probably the place where you invested all your savings. The US’ Small Business Administration Office reports that 75% of SMB owners use their own funds to start their business, with another study finding that 21% invest their retirement savings. If anything goes wrong, you could face financial disaster.
That’s why small business owners worry a lot about cash flow, profitability, and operational stability. The fear of revenue loss, decreased productivity, or unexpected expenses during their absence looms large, creating a sense of unease and reluctance to step away.
They lack resources
Many entrepreneurs run their businesses on a shoestring. Everybody wears at least two hats, and the business owner probably wears many more. It doesn’t seem like there are enough people for one person to be absent for any length of time, so small business owners feel indispensable and even guilty about the idea of taking a vacation.
How do I take a vacation if I own a business?
Despite all the reasons you might have for staying at your desk 365 days a year, it’s vital for entrepreneurs to take a vacation. And not only that, it’s also extremely possible. Here are 8 tips to help small business owners vacation like the best of them.
1. Plan ahead
Start planning your vacation not just weeks, but months before you’re scheduled to leave. It’s best not just to plan, but to overplan, so that you can prepare for every likely scenario. You can expect to have to work overtime for several days before your vacation, so that you can tie off any loose ends and finish all the projects on your desk, but it will be worth it when you finally switch off.
2. Take vacation during slow periods
If your business is seasonal, schedule your vacation for the low period when work is slow. It’s also a good idea to plan your time off for a period when all the rest of your employees are available, so as to minimize the disruption. Of course, sometimes you have no choice about when to take a vacation, like if you’re tied to school holiday schedules.
3. Establish vacation protocol
Once you finally go on vacation, you don’t want to spend your whole time worrying about what’s happening in your absence. Decide in advance when and how often to check in with work, so that you can get peace of mind without taking the business with you. You might arrange to speak to one employee once a day for a full report, or keep up with Slack channels or email threads. Either way, set yourself specific times and then stick to them.
You should also restrict how often you check your work emails or pick up messages on your work phone. To prevent people from calling you by mistake, set an Out Of Office (OOO) message on your voicemail and email account, so that everyone will know that you’re not available.
4. Delegate your work
The best way to prepare your employees to cope with the tasks you do while you’re away is to delegate them before you leave. Teach your teams to carry out all the vital work that can’t be put on hold till you return, whether that’s completing admin or handling clients. You might even find that some of your tasks can be delegated permanently, leaving you more time for work that nobody else can do.
5. Prepare your team
If Murphy’s Law has ever been right, something might go wrong while you’re away. Run through every scenario you can think of with your team and leave extensive instructions about how to respond to different situations. Inform your team about which clients need extra attention, who to call if the internet goes down or the van breaks, and what to do if someone breaks their ankle in the middle of your vacation. Being prepared will make all of you feel more relaxed about your absence.
6. Inform important clients about your vacation
It’s not always easy to know how to tell your clients you’re going on vacation, but it’s critical that you give them advance notice. Ask them to send any work that would fall due during your absence in advance, so you can complete it before you leave. Tell each client which of your employees will be responsible for their issues while you’re away. This way, they’ll feel valued and won’t resent your vacation time.
7. Choose a second-in-command for urgent issues
It can be a good idea to appoint one employee as your “point person” for anything that comes up while you’re away. This should be someone you trust and who you can communicate with well. For example, if it’s time for someone’s office birthday celebration while you’re away, your second-in-command should know what to do (gift basket? paid day off? gift card? so many options!).
You might also want to arrange to talk to your point person every day while you’re away, or for the point person to send you updates about how things are going during your vacation.
8. Rest and relax
Remember, the whole point of going on vacation is to recharge your batteries and switch off from the stresses of work. That won’t happen if you spend the whole time worrying about what’s happening back at the office. Trust that your employees have your back, and allow yourself to leave work mentally as well as physically.
Extra tip: Automate your business
There’s another way to take a vacation, whether your business is a one-person-show or a team effort: software. Using a business management system will enable you to automate much of your day, saving you time while you’re working, and giving you peace of mind while you’re away.
vcita’s all-in-one small business management platform automates many of your most important tasks, like finalizing appointments and bookings, organizing billing and payments, marketing and promoting your business, dealing with client questions, and more.
Here are the top ways that the vcita business management app helps small business owners to ensure smooth sailing when they’re on vacation. For our users, we’ve even included the links to get you straight to where you need to go within the platform. If you’re not a user, try a 14-day free trial!
- Vacation announcement. Tell all your clients that you’ll be on vacation a month in advance, with automated email blasts. Don’t worry about forgetting to notify someone, just schedule the announcement as soon as you book your ticket.
Schedule an announcement
- Billing. Automate the process of sending invoices to clients through email or SMS. Include online payment links so they can pay you without having to pick up the phone or ask for bank details.
Automate my invoices
- Reminders. Set automatic SMS and email reminders to your clients about overdue invoices.
- Auto-reply. Set an automated OOO message with a link to book a call, schedule a meeting, or contact someone else in your business.
Set an OOO message
- Accept appointments. You can set bookings to either be automatically confirmed upon your availability or to confirm bookings from existing clients automatically and request manual confirmation for new ones.
Auto accept appointments
- Marketing promotions. “Set and forget” marketing emails, seasonal discounts, and special offers so they reach your customers on time, no matter whether you’re in the office or on the beach.
Set up automated marketing emails
Can small business owners take a vacation? The answer is “yes!”
Don’t let your commitment to your business take over your entire life. With the right planning and help from automated business management tools like vcita, small business owners can (and should) take vacations on a regular basis. Your mental health, physical wellbeing, and even your business will thank you!