Time for a Break!

Now that summer has officially arrived, the focus for entrepreneurs often shifts from business to personal and family life. And, when some business owners are working 60- to 80-hour workweeks, a restful vacation is much needed! But how do you find the balance to take a break while keeping the business going? It can be stressful having divided loyalties with how to spend your time:  business or family?

With small businesses, this dilemma can often mean that the business owner is deprived of having a well-deserved and much needed time away from the business. If not taken, though, this can be the start of a downward spiral of fatigue, stress, health-issues and even depression. These are all symptoms of negative stress created by work overload for extended periods. The reality is that taking a vacation can be the best thing you can do for the business. After fully relaxing your brain, you will find renewed energy, productivity, enthusiasm, creativity and business strategies that previously were not apparent. It can be the springboard to launch a new phase or stage of the business. Therefore you owe it to yourself AND your business to take a break.

Here are some ways to find some extra time this summer:

1.  Vacation closure: Some businesses tend to slow down anyway during the summer months especially during the first few weeks of July, when families tend to organize trips with their children out of school. So it can be ideal time to close the business for a week or two. Be sure to send/post a notice in advance to your clients to let them know that you value family time and therefore are closing for a week or two to allow your employees (as well as yourself) time with family. You may wish to have a “re-opening special” to invite your clients back after your return.

2.  Staggered hours: When the business activity doesn’t slow down, and closing for a week isn’t an option, you may wish to adopt a special summer schedule that will enable you and your staff to enjoy a modified workweek with early closings, every other Friday off, etc. to allow you and your staff longer evenings and long weekends.

3.  Temporary Staff: If you get creative, there are a number of ways that you can call in extra help. Forwarding your phone line to an answering service that can keep you in touch with urgent calls by email during a closure or modified work schedule can give you peace-of-mind. Students are often looking for part-time work and work experience, and this can be a valuable resource, as well as contracting out certain projects or using a reliable temporary placement agency.

I know, it is easier said than done, and it takes time to put such actions into motion. Some business owners forego taking vacations because they feel the business can’t continue without them. The problem with most of them, though, is that they do not have “systems” in place. Systems are detailed step-by-step operating procedures for every aspect of the business, including an up-to-date database and client profile. With such procedures in place, it is easy to bring in temporary help without spending literally hundreds of hours in training the new staff.

While it may be somewhat late for this year, this will give you something to contemplate over the summer months:  What would happen to your business if you became critically ill and could not return to work? Would your business be able to continue without you?  If not, then establishing systems and operation manuals should be something on your “to do” list upon your return.

Having systems in place would reduce stress and provide you with peace of mind so that you could get away on more vacations. It would also mean that you have an “exit” plan and would make your business more saleable.  This does not have to be a costly and time-consuming undertaking, and can be easily contracted out to a technical writer. Often the colleges and universities are looking for 3-month internships for their students where they can gain work experience in a business setting. Participating with such internship programs can be a great resource of “free” or “low-cost” staff.

So whether you take a “staycation” or actually leave town to enjoy a welcome break this summer, be sure to reward yourself with sufficient relaxation and downtime to recharge your batteries and come back to your business with renewed energy and passion!

Diana Gray is the co-author of The Complete Canadian Small Business Guide and Home Inc.: The Canadian Home-Based Business Guide, both published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson. She owns and manages Central Park Business Centre, a full-service business centre that provides full- and part-time office rental, virtual offices and telephone answering support to small and home-based businesses in Collingwood (www.executivesuite.ca).