Small business owners and vacation: An oxymoron?

‘Tis the season for folks to try to take some time off work. For small business owners, this is much easier said than done since (typically) so much of what a company does day to day revolves around or includes the business owner.

Just today, going through my Google Reader and other daily routines, I came across at least three blogs or articles with stats, advice and options on this topic:

Executive Street (CEO thought leadership blog) cites a recent study about business owners and the likelihood that they’ll be home for the holidays:

  • Over 70% expect to increase their work load during the holidays relative to last year.
  • About 86% will accept work calls during this period.

See related infographic about the crazy hours small business owners work.

Fortune Magazine acknowledges that its no easy task for a business owner to take time off but it can be done. A few hints:

  • Plan ahead (several months if possible) and let your employees and key customers know.
  • Mentor someone who can “be you” while you’re away.
  • Pay attention to business cycles and target low cycles to vacation.
  • Take more frequent, shorter vacations such as a 4 day weekend. Or a Wednesday to Tuesday week off that breaks it into two work weeks.
  • With lengthier breaks (more than 3-4 working days) plan to work for an hour a day while on vacation.

Rene Shimada Siegel writes in with an entirely different point of view entitled 5 Great Reason to Work on Vacation. Her rationale:

  • Avoiding surprises (or being made immediately aware of) such as a deadline that has been advanced while on vacation.
  • A different environment stimulates new idea generation and creativity.
  • Vacation offers a time to catch up on things like email.
  • Help to minimize the onslaught of stuff to do upon ones return.
  • Lastly is opportunity cost, specifically lost business and related income.

I’ll assume that Rene thinks that working while on vacation is wonderful and not working would hugely stressful for her. Its certainly not my cup of tea but “whatever floats your boat”.

My opinion:

Its very difficult for a business owner to completely walk away from their business for more than a few days unless they have a business partner or trusted 2IC. The best compromise while on vacation is to conduct a daily 30 minute conference call with your management team to quickly and only review issues that are:

  1. Importantonly the owner can make the required decision or
  2. Time sensitive - can’t wait till the owner’s return.

Everything else waits.

Thanks for reading my blog and please visit again.

Vincent out.

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