How to Take a Vacation When You Run a Business


Business owners are under so much stress that it's especially important for them to take regular time off. Yet surveys show that many entrepreneurs don't take breaks because they fear their businesses won't run properly without them.

“If owners are finding it difficult to take two to four weeks off a year, it's likely they need to revisit roles, responsibilities and processes to ensure they can get those needed weeks off,” said David Weiman, a Philadelphia psychologist and president of Weiman Consulting.

How to Better Prepare For Your Vacations

If vacation time isn't scheduled on your calendar for this year yet, try thinking of time off in a new light: as a way to prevent burnout and bolster your company's bottom line — and its long-term survival. Proper planning will help ensure that your business runs smoothly even when you're out so you can take the time you need to relax and recharge.

Plan Vacations Around Your Firm's Busy Seasons

Scheduling a vacation around your clients' needs is likely to make things easier all around. If you've been in business for a while, you'll know which weeks are busy and which aren't, even if your company's calendar doesn't fit the norm.

“Sometimes people think the first few weeks of the year will be very busy, but then it turns out that budgets aren't set yet and clients aren't calling,” said Ben Dattner, an executive coach based in New York City. “In other situations, summertime may be much heavier than you'd expect.”

Train Employees to Handle Your Core Responsibilities

Make sure that your senior managers know what you do on a daily and weekly basis and coach them on how to take over while you're away. This makes sense not only for vacations but also for times when you're under the weather or traveling to a conference or client meeting. Give one or two key employees the authority to make decisions on your behalf and gauge how they handle the extra responsibility. If they shine, they may be in line for promotions, or even be candidates to take over for you someday.

Get Ahead on Known Tasks and Projects

Do all the essentials before you leave, including paying the bills and wrapping up big projects. If there are specific tasks that must be completed while you're out, make sure to assign those tasks ahead of time so the person responsible is fully prepared and can ask clarifying questions prior to your leaving. Also, think through what you'll need to do in the week after you get back to the office so that you can hit the ground running when you return. This exercise helps you prioritize and identify which tasks will be completed prior to leaving, while you're away and when you return, ensuring peace of mind while you're gone.

Notify Important Clients Ahead of Time

Let important customers know you'll be gone and who to contact should they need assistance - but don't over-share. “Less is more when it comes to telling people you've gone wine-tasting or you've got a family emergency that's taken you out of town,” Dattner advised. If they're aware you will be out of office, they will likely make an effort to get in touch with you prior to that date if they need something and less likely to contact you during your time off - unless it is an emergency situation.

Limit the Amount of Work You Do on Vacation

Many business owners are tempted to take working vacations or long weekends, Weiman said, “but those don't provide enough time to truly unwind and get a break.” If you're going to take time off, it doesn't matter where you go but make it at least a week - and don't bring work along. That doesn't mean you can't think creatively about your business and its future, however. “Breaks can provide essential time to refresh, re-energize and even develop new ideas for the business,” Weiman said.

Even if you have a bit of planning to do before your next vacation, pick a date that's a couple months from now and start preparing your team for your absence. And meanwhile, consider taking mini-breaks every day to give your brain some downtime.

“Even five minutes away from the computer, desk or factory can help you recharge,” Weiman said.