Fifty-four percent of American adults say they won't take a vacation this summer, according to a Rasmussen poll taken in May. And it can be particularly tough for entrepreneurs who are the lifeblood of their businesses. American Express released a survey in May that concluded that, while 67 percent of small business owners took a vacation in 2006, only 46 percent plan to do so this year.
A deep freeze has not destroyed the crop of pina colada ingredients, nor have trade union disputes led to a shortage of tiny parasols to adorn the tops of coco frios. Rather, small business owners tend to push themselves even beyond their limits, says Craig Jennings, a serial entrepreneur and regular vacationer. "Self-employed people are absolutely relentless.”
But business can go on while you're out of town. Here are 5 tips to help you take a break this summer:
1. Make sure your house is in order.
Set up your business to run efficiently without you around. Joanna Shows of ActionCOACH, a business consultancy, says that the entrepreneurs she works with plug away for long hours, and may not be able to find time—or reliable enough staffers—to take a vacation for the first couple years of business. “It is all about paying the piper up front and dancing later instead of dancing now," Shows says. "It's all about deferred gratification."
The way a business owner gets to the point where he or she can take a vacation, Shows says, is by putting all the proper systems in place so that the business can run smoothly without him or her. She adds: "The owner needs to be able to have a team in place, the systems leveraged to the max. If I had to say one word why the small business owner cannot walk away, it would have to be systems."
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2. Use your most productive time to plan your great escape.
Small business owners should "steal the most productive time they have during the day and put it on their calendars," Jennings says. "That's the time to plan your vacation." Organizing a trip properly takes time, and busy entrepreneurs may get frustrated scheduling flights and booking hotels, causing them to ditch the idea all together. Line up the trip while you’re at your best, and undistracted, to ensure that you get away.
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3. Plot. Connive. Scheme.
A little white lie can help keep your employees from picking up the phone and dialing your number every time a problem arises. "I think lying is good," Jennings admits. "Invent an obligation like caring for an old grandmother, or any excuse that is morally unassailable. Say you have to go take care of your grandmother for a week and then go to the Riviera and raise hell."
Jennings adds that he and his wife, who are both self-employed, take this tack when they go on vacation. They consider the Machiavellian machinations they devise to give themselves a weekend at a bed and breakfast part of the fun.
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4. Is it a vacation you need?
Remember that a long trip isn't the only way to revitalize. Sometimes just a summer day off or a night at the opera can help an entrepreneur rejuvenate. While nothing beats a week (or two) away to truly get away from it all, a mini break can also allow a small business owner to enjoy outside interests or hobbies, rethink and prioritize work goals and commitments, and get creative juices flowing again.
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5. Rethink how you use time off.
Once business owners are on vacation, they don't need to maximize time the way they do while they're working, says Shannon Graham, a life coach who has clients in New York and Los Angeles. Graham encourages his clients to carve out space and time to truly refresh, and turn off the go-go-go mindset, even if it means shutting down mobile phones or email connections.