BUSINESS STRATEGY & GROWTH • January 8, 2015
3 minutes Read
According to travel ads, vacationers awaken each morning refreshed, relaxed, and reveling in their time away from their day-to-day grind. It’s an idyllic image, and one that sells lots of cruises, airline tickets, and foreign tours. Unfortunately, the real-world experience of business owners is somewhat less laid back, and is often fraught with worry about all the things they should be doing, rather than enjoyment of their time away from the office. There are, however, things that an owner can do to minimize the worry and actually have fun while on vacation, while still keeping the business on course.
Be realistic in making your vacation plans
It is easy to slip away and forget about a job when you’re an employee, but as a business owner, you have much more invested, both financially and emotionally, than your employees do. It might be possible for a lower-level employee to disappear into some remote locale for a couple of weeks, but to most business owners, being completely away from your place at the helm is not only unnerving, it can prove to be disastrous to the company if you haven’t prepared for most contingencies ahead of time. Proper preparation is essential, and your “presence” in the business must continue, even when you are away. How long you can be absent depends upon how well your employees’ attitudes are in sync with your personal mission statement, and how effectively each of them can fulfill their responsibilities. With a well-trained and motivated crew, you should be able to get away for a reasonably extended vacation with only minimal periodic check-ins. With a workforce that is not as well prepared, you may feel limited to only a brief absence and/or more time spent in contact with the office, rather than soaking up the sun on some secluded beach. Gauge how much you can be away as carefully as you would consider any other business action or expenditure.
You’re not likely to enjoy your vacation if your absence leaves critical tasks undone. Thankfully, most of your own responsibilities can be fulfilled by different members of your senior staff, so long as you’ve given them both the information and the authority to perform the needed tasks. This isn’t a task to be undertaken a couple of weeks before you depart, but should be a core element in your business philosophy. Train your people ahead of time, and let them know that they have your trust and support, and the vast majority of those little fires you always have to put out will be taken care of, even in your absence.
Keep in touch, but don’t hover
It’s understandable that you’ll want to call in to the office from time to time, if only for your own peace of mind. Most managers do check in periodically, but the trick is in finding the balance between prudent oversight and obsession. Decide ahead of time how closely you’ll monitor the business while you’re gone, and let your managers know whether to expect regular check-ins. You don’t want your people to feel abandoned, but calling in too often will not only leave them feeling like you don’t trust them, it may also cause them to put off making important decisions or taking critical actions until they’ve discussed them with you. If you’re going to call every couple of hours, you might as well just stay home and take in a movie or two. You’ll save a lot of money that way, but you’ll deny yourself the breather that every business owner occasionally needs. Not to mention that you will miss the opportunity to see just how well your staff functions on their own. Set realistic and appropriate communication boundaries for yourself and your employees, and your vacation time will give both you and your business the shot in the arm you need.
Have an emergency backup plan in place
Make certain that you’ve left information on how to reach you with your senior managers, but with clear instructions as to when and why you are to be called. Let your managers know how much they can spend to handle unexpected situations without negatively impacting the company’s bottom line, and when they should consult you before acting. You don’t want to sacrifice your vacation to put out little fires, but neither do you want to come home to chaos. (Remember: Most people – business owners included – need some time to decompress and recuperate upon returning from a vacation.)
Do some performance analyses upon your return
You evaluate any new process your company undertakes, to see where it was most successful, as well as where the process needed improvement. The same scrutiny should be applied to your vacation. Look closely at what worked well in your absence, so that it can be recreated not only on future vacations, but in the day-to-day operations when you are present. And look even more closely at things that could have been handled better, not as a means of assigning blame so much as an opportunity to improve operational policies and/or employee training and indoctrination. Some things will have gone wrong, but barring employee malingering or malfeasance as the source, many of the hiccups can be prevented in the future with better training and communication.
You’ve worked hard to make your business successful, and you deserve some down time. By using your planning skills in preparing for your vacation, you can make it a rewarding experience for everyone involved, without negatively impacting your business.
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