Are Vacations Part of Your Business Culture?
Set a positive example for your employees and your business community by taking time off from your business.
Too many entrepreneurs say they can never take a vacation. There are many excuses, but are they reasons? Taking time off is not only good for business, it does wonders for your mental outlook.
Before I became a business owner, my outlook on holidays being a part of my life was cast early on. My family took yearly vacations. They were not extravagant events; we traveled within the state or visited and stayed with family. Dad owned a business and it was good for him to be able to get away.
When I first started working for the YWCA in the ’70s, vacations were a treasured perk. Poorly paid but rich in benefits, we began with two weeks’ annual leave and before we knew it, we had four weeks.
Four weeks!! I couldn’t afford to go anywhere for four weeks. However, I still carved out the time and carefully calculated how to budget my limited funds to put the time to good use. The organization built a culture by placing a high value on its employees’ health even though they could not provide corporate-level salaries.
Business Owners – What’s Your Excuse?
Taking time off is critical to your health. You don’t need me to tell you that. We have to get off our high horse when we say; the business can’t run without me. Or, I cannot find the time. I’m too busy. My clients need me. I can’t afford not working.
Setting the example of taking time off is right for your employees to see. It sets the stage for them to value this as an expectation in their jobs. It also says a lot about trusting them enough that you feel you can get away.
In your business community, what do others think of you if you say you can’t take time off? They might think you are a weak leader, that you cannot manage your staff, clients, or your business well enough to take even a long weekend. God forbid that they might think that you’re not bringing in enough money because you say you can’t take time off. That is not a message you want to portray.
You don’t need to go all-in on your first time out with a month-long vacation. Start with small bites to learn to trust your staff and work on your attitude that this can be a good thing.
3 ways to make vacations a part of your business culture.
Change your mindset to one that you are not available 24/7, 365 Days a Year.
We’ve created a culture of constant availability to our clients, employees and even our community. We answer emails and messages every waking hour. We teach our clients that they can reach us at a moment’s notice. We feel bad if someone doesn’t hear back from us in an hour or two.
I believe that we feel we will miss out on a sale or lose a client if we are not always there. However, we can train our clients to understand our availability and trust me, and they will accept this.
Define What Is Reasonable?
Reasonable availability depends on your business model and maturity. My first business was a container garden design, installation, and maintenance service in desert homes. As a solo entrepreneur during the first three years, it was difficult to plan to take time off. Time away meant giving up marketing and sales opportunities.
However, my business model was built on a restricted Monday through Friday schedule and in the hot desert summer, I worked a four-day week. My business culture of valuing long holidays and vacations was founded on those two decisions and applied to my future employees and me, growing in time through the years.
Develop a Down-Time Culture
From the very beginning, you want to set your boundaries. If you need, chart course corrections now. Create a communications plan and create processes for greater efficiency and customer contact that added to your business culture and set your business up for handling your longer absences.
Let clients know upfront what to expect in terms of communications. Establish availability hours rather than office hours. These are the periods you will pick up the phone, return messages and emails. Turn off message notifications during your” off” hours. Your clients will accept this because they know what to expect from you.
I highly recommend you do not give out your cell number. This should only be necessary if you handle real emergencies. These strategies will help you maintain your balance and set the tone for your clients’ expectations.
Set Your Sights
Craft out your goals for vacation vs. work. What would you like to do? Build up slowly. Start with long weekends regularly and build from there. However, think about how your ideal year would look.
Would you prefer shorter periods of total downtime and have more each year? Some of my clients take a long weekend every month and two 2-week vacations each year. They are still working full time in their growing businesses.
Are you aiming towards taking your business with you for more extended periods? Another full-time business owner who has two locations separated by an ocean is working towards semi-retirement. She wants to alternate her work schedule and spend three months at each site twice a year. Therefore, she would reduce her billable direct care hours. She is experimenting with this model by training her staff to manage without her physically present.
If you sell physical products, look for ways to outsource the delivery. In addition, it may be time to transition your business to a different “product,” leveraging your expertise into one that uses your time without needing to physically in front of your clients. Don’t let self-imposed demands get in your way of setting your goals.
Be honest with your clients, and don’t apologize. Start from a position of strength, as a great business leader who knows how to live the good life.
Ask Yourself, “What if?”
Once you have your plan laid out, don’t let other barriers get in your way. If cash is an issue, there are options. The easiest way to start is to plan a long staycation weekend. Plan something fun around your home and community. Don’t make it all about chores. Sleep late, go out for coffee. Better yet, take your coffee out onto your porch and enjoy the fresh air and the beginning of a new day.
Another possibility is to look into house swaps where you trade your home with someone else to experience a different area. If you are starting with a long weekend, try to swap with a family close by, maybe only an hour or two away. You want to protect your time and not use the majority of it traveling.
You can also visit friends and family who have a private room where you can stay. Hopefully, you will have a private bathroom, but if not, try to slip into their routine. Talk in advance with the homeowners to let them know they don’t have to take care of your every waking need. Go out on your own and maybe make dinner for everyone. With that in mind, be sure to be a gracious guest. Pick up after yourselves. Take a gift for the host. Gradually build up to a reasonable length of time that works for yourself and your family.
These short spurts will help you fine-tune your business operations in your absence. And I promise you, when you come back, you will feel refreshed and ready to exceed your goals for the next few months before it is time for your next vacation!
Written from a cruise ship, sailing home from Australia.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories. Have you established the right balance of vacation and work time? What practices have you embraced to get there?
If you feel you work too many hours, what are the first steps you can take to make a significant reduction this next year?