A key harbinger of success for your business is your personal commitment. When the chips are down, the deadlines are up and you're worried about paying rent or making payroll, it's your unwavering commitment to your business that will keep you going. Yet commitment can be a double-edged sword. Burnout happens to everyone, but it's a particularly pernicious threat for American business owners. According to Hiscox's most recent DNA of an Entrepreneur, U.S. entrepreneurs take just 10 days of vacation per year, compared to the 20 days taken by their global counterparts. Not only is that no fun at all, it's also a recipe for burnout.
While taking a vacation is known to have considerable health benefits, the verdict is still out on whether it can improve you bottom line. Nevertheless, it seems intuitive that less stress will lead you to make better decisions about your business and improve your creativity. Since that marketing plan isn't going to write itself, you may want to consider these tips for recharging when you're strapped for time.
Set Yourself Up to Relax
Why go through the motions of planning and executing a dream vacation if you are going to spend your holiday worrying about what's going on back at the shop? Luckily, there's a thing called business liability insurance that can help you put your fears aside and enjoy your respite.
General liability insurance protects your business from third-party claims of bodily injury, associated medical costs and property damage. Similarly, professional liability insurance (also known as errors and omissions) protects your business if you are sued for negligence, even if you haven't made a mistake. If you're among the 33% of entrepreneurs who doesn't have small business insurance, go through the quick process of securing a policy before you hit the beach.
Don't Be Afraid to Delegate
As a business owner, delegation is arguably the most important management skill you can possess. But don't start delegating authority right before you leave on vacation. Assigning responsibilities should be a regular part of your management practice. In the long term, it's a great way to develop a succession plan if retirement is in the cards for you one day.
Before you leave for vacation, make detailed lists for anything that must be accomplished while you're out. By the time you get back, your employees may be ready to take on some of these tasks as part of their regular responsibilities.
If you don't have employees to cover for you while you're gone, consider hiring a short-term contractor to answer phones and emails and keep the lights on. Find someone you trust and whom you can train before you go. And don't worry - your business liability insurance covers employees and contractors too.
Communicate with A-List Customers in Advance
Not all of your customer are equal. Some are more likely to buy higher-value products than others, and some are simply more profitable. And you probably have some customers who need more hand-holding. Plan to give these A-list customers a heads up that you'll be out of contact for a few days, and handle any concerns they may have in advance. If you're leaving someone in charge, make sure your top customers know that person's name and how to reach them. These important customers will likely appreciate your personalized approach to customer care, and be flattered that you value them so highly.
Start Small with a Staycation
If taking a long break from work isn't feasible in the near term, start small with a staycation--a vacation for which you stay at home. Staycations have the unique capacity to offer the relaxation of a regular vacation at a fraction of the cost. But beware - being in familiar surroundings can tempt you to 'just make one quick phone call' or 'send a quick email.' Make sure you don't do any actual work.
Consider taking this opportunity to become a tourist in your own city. Check in with your local chamber of commerce to find out what's happening nearby. You'll come back to work feeling refreshed, with interesting stories to tell about what's going on in your own backyard.
Give Your Non-Work Life the Focus it Deserves
Nearly one in five entrepreneurs spends more than 60 hours a week at work. If that sounds like you, your work-life balance may be an unexpected casualty of your success. Give your time off the same focus and attention you give your business. With your customers forewarned, your 'out of office' message on, and your team ready to step in, take the big leap and turn off your phone. Use your vacation as an opportunity to focus on what matters outside work; reconnect with your family, catch up with friends, or just sit back and reflect on what's important in life.
A vacation is also the perfect time to reflect on your motivations and recharge with the ones you love the most. Remember, it's better to disconnect completely for two days and return to work refreshed and reenergized, than to spend a week half available, entirely unproductive and deprived of the rest you need and deserve.
Ignore All of the Above
If you ask a hundred entrepreneurs what's the secret to a successful small business you'll get a hundred different answers, and the same is true for a successful vacation. Your choice of whether to take a vacation, how often and for how long needs to work for you and your business. There's no right vacation for everyone, and you need to take the vacation that will let you truly relax. As a nation our vacation habits are as varied as our small businesses, but the fact remains we're taking half as much time off as entrepreneurs overseas.
Are American entrepreneurs getting the work-life balance right? Let us know in the comments below.