As business owners, it can be difficult to ever truly “check out” from our businesses, much less, take a vacation. We work long hours that continue even after we’ve gone home. The truth is, there is always some aspect of our businesses— contracts, equipment repairs, a team member that’s struggling, etc.—that can keep us up at night. But there are good reasons why business owners need a vacation.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 67% of employees—those who are W-2—take one week of vacation time per year. Those who have been with their employer for at least five years, take two weeks of paid vacation each year, on average. Now, that’s in addition to any holidays where the business is closed, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, many business owners struggle to step away from their businesses and take an actual, real live vacation.
In fact, a recent survey by Capital One found that 88% of business owners really enjoy business travel. Speaking from firsthand experience, business travel is NOT a vacation. Oftentimes, I will go on a business trip for six or seven days and put in twenty-hour days during the entire trip. When you combine this with the fact that Harvard Business Review found that the average business owner works 72 hours per week, it becomes increasingly obvious that business owners need a vacation. In fact, that same HBR study suggested that business owners need about four weeks of vacation per year.
But how can we step away from our businesses when we never truly “leave” our businesses? Furthermore, why should we? As we dig deeper into this subject, I want to look at what it takes to actually take a vacation and what benefit it provides, not just to our own well-being, but to our businesses as well.
When you’re an employee of a business, preparing for a vacation is fairly simple. You put in your vacation request, decide where you want to go, pack up, and leave. However, vacation prep is much more involved for business owners. We typically go from 70-hour work weeks to 100-hour weeks in the time leading up to our vacations. This is because we have to make sure that every situation and need has been prepared for and provided for our teams, during our absence. In my own case, my dear, sweet wife, Mrs. Emily helped me by ensuring that the office had at least enough supplies to get them through the week. Additionally, she took care of the farm and prepared it for us to be away.
Being the spouse of a business owner is a full-time job, too. Thankfully, I have a wonderfully loving and supportive wife who understands all that must be done to prepare for my being away from the business. Because of this, she took the “extra stuff” off of my plate, allowing me to focus on crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” in the weeks leading up to our vacation. Essentially, we business owners must do all of the work that we would have done during the week of our vacation in the weeks leading up to them. This includes client and vendor meetings, ordering, scheduling, budgetary reviews, the delegation of responsibilities, and just about anything else one could possibly think of. Only after all of this work is complete, can we step away. Only when this is finished can we feel confident enough to “turn it off” and enjoy ourselves.
When we finally load up the vehicle with luggage, snacks, and family and begin to set out on our vacations, we go through a cycle of sorts. There are three primary phases of every business owner’s vacation. Each one plays a very important and specific role in our psyche. But we have to be mindful that we don’t allow them to bleed into the other’s time or we could be shortchanging ourselves.
This is the first phase of our vacation. During the unwinding period, we are traveling out of town and gradually allowing our thoughts to leave our businesses. The faster we can get through this, the more time we have to enjoy our families and whatever beautiful surroundings we’ve chosen to spend our time in. This is typically where we, close our eyes, take a deep breath, and acclimate ourselves to the slow pace of vacation.
During this phase, we are really living in the moment and enjoying ourselves. This is such an important and necessary thing for everybody, but especially business owners, as it allows us to reconnect with God, our family and friends, and even ourselves. Having that time to leave the stresses of business ownership behind refreshes us and helps to give us new insights into our own organizations that we can’t see when we are so invested in them.
Finally, we have the wind-up phase of our vacations. This is where we begin to prepare ourselves to reenter the everyday rigors of owning and operating our businesses. Additionally, this is the time when we can think through some of the fresh insights we may have had while we were in the second phase. However, as I cautioned earlier, you don’t want to allow yourself to go into the wind-up phase too early or you could cheat yourself out of very much-needed rest. As a result, you won’t reap the full benefits of your vacation. For me, I typically begin the wind-up phase when there are around two days left on our vacation.
Let’s start with the obvious here. Taking a vacation allows us, the business owners, to rest and recenter which enables us to be the best versions of ourselves. Likewise, vacations allow us to plan for the future. Additionally, we are able to troubleshoot our business’ systems. Which ones work and which ones need improvement? However, perhaps one of the most important benefits that taking a vacation offers our businesses is that it provides an opportunity for the business to shine.
If you’re sitting there thinking, “Justin, what does that mean?” here’s what I’m saying. If you are the epicenter of your business, then you have a business that will never sell. Businesses that cannot function without their owners pulling all of the strings fall apart when the owner is removed from the equation. When we take a vacation, it gives us perspective on so many things, including how far removed we are from the epicenter of our business. Once we can effectively remove ourselves from the daily operation of our businesses, we will have businesses that can be sold, if and when we decide to do so.
If you have further questions about how to turn your business into a salable commodity, contact us! The team at Financially Simple has owned and sold many businesses of our own!