Subscribe to Inc. magazine

Gary Hirshberg's Sacred Rule: Don't Compromise on Vacation

The co-founder of Stonyfield Organic says that even if your company can't afford the time without you, you must take breaks away from it.

Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farm, remembers those summer days in the early 1980s when his company was struggling. He couldn't justify any time off to take a vacation with his family. But he did it anyway.

You might think that taking a vacation while getting your company off the ground is borderline reckless behavior. Hirshberg, though, says during a Inc.'s Trep Life mini-documentary series that those vacations are the reason he didn't burn out, that his company didn't go under, and that he still has a family. He says it's reckless behavior not to take time off. 

Hirshberg says in the video that the lesson is something every entrepreneur should heed this summer: "Never compromise about vacations, whether you own [the company] or not, it doesn't matter. As a survival strategy, for us even when we were absolutely broke--leaping from Visa bill to Visa bill--we never compromised on taking vacation," Hirshberg says. "To this day, it's why we're still married." 

The bottom line is that you need to take a break--no matter how many days it actually lasts. A weekend can build family memories, strengthen bonds, and alleviate the effects of stress.

"We don't look back fondly on those hours of work, we look back [to the vacations we took]," he says. "Those were crucial for us. Not just for our relationship and our family time, but for my mental health. You can't be your best with your face always in it and up against deadlines. You need some distance. We couldn't afford it, we couldn't afford the time, it was pernicious to my partner. ... But my sacred rule here is don't compromise on the critical--if you burn yourself out you're no good to the enterprise, you're no good to the employees, you're no good to the investors anyways."

For more of Hirshberg's story and tips, watch the video below.

Last updated: Jul 21, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter,

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported on the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Register on today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments

Or sign up using: