How to Take Time Off as a Small Business Owner… Without Your Business Burning to the Ground

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To say most small business owners are … protective … of their businesses is an understatement the size of the Brooklyn Bridge. So getting them to take time off — no matter how much they may need a strong daiquiri on a distant beach after a deep tissue massage — can be as impossible as getting all of New York to agree on the best bagel or pizza in the city.

But research shows that taking time off is important for a person’s mental health. You — yes, even you — need to get away every once in a while to recharge and reset your brain so you can come back and run your business with new vigor and drive.

So how do you take time off as a small business owner without your business burning to the ground without you? By following these 6 steps. Duh.

1. Plan, plan, plan, plan, plan, plan, plan…

Don’t look at us like that. We know this is kind of a no-brainer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth mentioning. Plan for your vacation well in advance of your flight. Months in advance, if you can. Not only will it help you ensure your projects are handled before you run away, it will give you some serious peace of mind.

Planning for your vacation will give you a big picture of what needs to happen before you leave so you can rest easy and stop worrying. Take a look at your business and plan to take your time off during the slow season (if such a thing exists). Write it all down and stick to the plan.

2. Decide what to do with your business

We’re not saying you need to sell your business just so you can take a long weekend in the Poconos, or that you have to freeze it in carbonite to protect it. You just need to decide if, or how, your business should function while you relax.

Part of your plan should be deciding what to do with your business while you’re away. If you’re a small business one-man-band, keeping the business open while you’re trying to relax will only make you even more stressed. And there’s nothing worse than being the one guy at the beach with a laptop, working.

If you plan far enough in advance, you could feasibly shut down the business while you’re on vacation. This will give you time to complete projects and arrange deadlines to suit your trip.

But if you have employees — especially employees you can trust — you could leave your business open and in the capable care of people you have trained. Just make sure that none of your employees are pyromaniacs and you’ll be fine.

3. Tell your clients and customers

Reassurance is like a warm blanket during the last Nor’easter of the season. Tell your clients and customers that you’re going to be out on vacation, but reassure them that you will be back and have no plans to drop everything and become a permanent ski bum.

Let your clients know who is going to be handling their work while you’re out, or make it clear how often you will be responding while you’re out (if at all — it’s your vacation man, you do you).

Send out regular reminders during the weeks leading up to your time off, add it to your email signature, mention it at the end of every meeting and call, and make sure you set an out of office auto-response so you can cover all your bases.

4. Define “emergency” with your staff

Different people have different definitions of the word “emergency.” For some, anything that requires the police or fire department would be considered an emergency. For others, well … there’s this.

Take the time to discuss what kind of emergencies they should contact you about. Paper jam in the printer? Probably not worth a call. Jack the intern stole all the toilet paper on his last day? Maybe worth an email and a serious reconsideration of your internship program. Computer systems crash for no reason? Probably could use a call.

Your manager comes to work to find all the furniture stuck on the ceiling? Probably worth a call… and an exorcist. Set the definition with your team and make sure they stick to it.

5. Set a check-in schedule

No. You do not have to check your phone and email once an hour on vacation. That’s not a real vacation. That’s a stress-cation, which isn’t even a real thing. No one goes away to make themselves more stressed. Do they? We certainly hope not.

If you have a team, tell them you’ll call to check in at the same time on certain days (or every day, you do you man). If you are checking in on clients, check your email every morning before breakfast and then let it go if you can.

But don’t cause yourself unneeded stress by forcing yourself to not check in on things. If that tingling in your gut won’t go away, take 30 seconds to check your phone. Nothing on fire? Then go back to fly fishing.

6. Relax, man

Take a deep breath. Feel the sand between your toes. Let it all out. Just relax, man, and enjoy your vacation. You’ve earned it.

Here’s some inspiration to get you psyched for your trip. Now start planning with these steps in mind and your vacation will be just as amazing as your small business.

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