Q: My business is growing strong, and I love the momentum, but I need a break! I’d like to get away with my family before school starts, but I am a solopreneur. Do I even get to take vacations?! If so, how do I make it work?
A: Thank you for asking a question that I know so many business owners wrestle with, but very few ask. Instead, they toil away in exhaustion and silence, thinking that endless work with no vacation is their lot in life as an entrepreneur.
It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it shouldn’t. Every entrepreneur needs time to step away. The need to recharge and restore themselves so that they can return to their business with new vitality and ideas. It’s like the oxygen mask on airplanes--you need to put on yours to be sure that your business can breathe. As an accountant, I'm here to tell you that it can be good for your bottom line.
When you are the only person attending to every aspect of your business, I understand how it can feel impossible to step away. How will it run without you? I face this every time I go on vacation, but in the end, am eternally grateful that I committed to get away.
An article from Entrepreneur said it all in the title: "Why Rest Is the Secret to Entrepreneurial Success." The author, Aytekin Tank, talked about his own experience.
“In the early days of my 12-year entrepreneurial journey, I was the anti-cheetah. I thought success required 16-hour workdays. I was constantly building, growing and hustling. Over the years, I’ve learned that busy and successful are not the same thing. Yet, many of us spend the whole day sprinting, to the point where we’re stressed and exhausted.”
Do you want your business to be successful for a sprint or a marathon? It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll achieve longevity through less motion and activity, not more.
Yes, even solopreneurs get to take time away. Here are steps to help you achieve that vacation reality:
1. Make the commitment.
Give yourself permission to spend some time away from your business. This step may be the hardest of all--convincing yourself to view your time away as adding to your overall productivity, not taking away from it.
2. Set a date.
Determine the dates for your vacation as soon as you can. Then, establish how much time you have before now and then. You’ll need to outline a plan of all the necessary steps to be ready to go in time.
3. Communicate with your customers.
Now comes the time to notify your customers that you will be away. How will you inform them? Will it be in-person, via email, or both?
Now, consider your plan will be for your time away. Will you close up entirely, have limited access to email, or make yourself available via phone or text message for emergencies?
If you are a brick and mortar business, do you have ways to communicate with your customers so that you can share the news of going away in ways that supplement telling them when they come in and posting a sign on the door?
Come up with a template message informing them of the dates that you will be away, if you will have any availability during that time, and when they can expect to hear from you upon your return. Here is an example:
"Hello Ms. Client,
I wanted to let you know that I’ll be on vacation time this summer from [date] to [date]. I will only have sporadic access to email, so I will be in touch before that time to ensure that we are on-target for our project.
The great thing about taking a vacation this time of year is that many of your customers will likely be away as well, so it may turn out that you won’t miss much on your break!
4. Have a plan for your projects.
Look at your calendar and evaluate what work you have due around your time away. If you’re able to put in a few extra hours in the weeks leading up to your vacation to complete a few projects early, it will be time well-spent. This will enable you to think far less about work while on vacation, which is just as important as taking the time to get away.
5. Set clear expectations for yourself.
As a business owner, it is incredibly hard to stop thinking about your company. It’s been on your mind non-stop for years, so it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll be able to make a clean break.
But you have to give your all. Model the behavior you want to achieve. You’ll be thinking about work for the first couple of days, but don’t act on those thoughts. By doing this, you’ll be able to be fully present with your family sooner rather than later.
If you’ve told clients that you won’t be responding to email, then don’t. If you’re planning to monitor messages periodically, determine ahead of time the days and times that will happen (for instance, for a half-hour on the Tuesday and Friday of your vacation). Here are a few other ideas:
Turn off notifications on your phone.
Put your phone in airplane mode.
Temporarily remove the apps you use most.
Limit time on social media.
6. Set an Out of Office Autoresponder.
Let people know via your out of office message that you are away and when you will respond to them. This will catch business contacts and prospects who reach out while you’re away and let them know when they can expect to hear from you.
Set your out of office message as the last step before you turn your devices off and prepare for your well-deserved break. You’ve earned it!
While I've talked primarily about solopreners in this post, the advice is applicable to all small business owners. If you have even a handful of employees, you have more flexibility to arrange your vacation time, such as appointing a point-person for when you are away.
Thank you for your question, and have a wonderful holiday!
Photo by Mohamed Ajufaan on Unsplash