If there's one thing entrepreneurs have to work harder for than winning business, it's some well-deserved time off. As mobile technology has made it easier than ever to work from anywhere, it also seems harder than ever to take a non-working vacation. You're expected to be on your smartphone no matter what's going on in your life—at least that's what we tell ourselves.
Like I've written before, sometimes the most difficult decision is saying “no.” But at least once a year, it's time to say “no” to long days in the office, to mentoring and monitoring your employees, and to interacting with your customers for a few days. Disconnecting from your office can be one of the best decisions you can make as a leader. As president of a payroll services company with over 30,000 customers, I know it's not easy to disconnect from your business, but I do it every year and have never regretted it.
I guarantee you'll be amazed in the benefits of a little away time to recharge. Even when you're doing what you love, you can't do it 24/7. Everyone needs a break. Taking some time away from my normal routine clears my head and recharges my batteries. If you're constantly drained from your normal routine, it's time to comb Priceline to start planning your get-away. And that means a bona-fide break—not just working from your favorite tropical locale to change things up. Unplugging is the only way to fully rejuvenate.
Going back to work fully energized not only boosts your productivity but also clarifies your thinking and priorities. When we're faced with big decisions, we'll often say “let me sleep on it.” I say “let me vacation on it.” You obviously can't hop on a plane every time you're faced with challenges, but you'll be surprised how your perspective changes after a good vacation. Besides seeing things in a different light, you may realize that what you thought was an urgent priority is actually a minor concern. When you're not under the gun to make a decision, you can think from a viewpoint that, in my experience, leads to the best solution.
And you won't be the only one in your company to benefit from vacation. Once you're out of the picture and unavailable for questions, your employees have to learn how to function without you. While I don't think baptism-by-fire is the greatest way to create strong leaders and independent thinkers, giving your staff the freedom to make decisions in your absence lets them grow as professionals and become more valuable to your organization.
When I'm around, projects often end up with my voice, direction, or suggestions—even when I try to stay out of it. But when I'm pool-side with a good beach read, my team needs to step up and make decisions then move forward. I find I learn as much from their decisions as they do when they're in the trenches without back-up. Once you're willing to place the trust in your employees to run the ship while you're on leave, your staff will discover the need and value for more process and structure that will allow your business to scale and grow. Remember that your business can only grow so much until you start letting go of some responsibilities.
Did you take a vacation this summer? I'd love to read your comments to see how other entrepreneurs recharge so they can tackle things with a refreshed mind.
MICHAEL ALTER is president of SurePayroll, America’s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University. @michaelalter