How to Take a Vacation and Have Your Business Run Without You
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
Since starting his Chicago-based web design company in 2006, Naveed Usman has routinely worked 60-hour weeks, late nights and holidays and had never taken time off until he reached a breaking point this summer.
“I felt burned out and fatigued for sure,” said Usman, principal and owner of the Usman Group, which designs and builds custom websites for multi-million dollar companies and organizations across the Midwest. “I would work late evenings and 99% of the time, be the last one out of the office.”
Like many nascent entrepreneurs, Usman believed he had to be involved in every aspect of running the business because he feared his company would not run smoothly without him.
“This company is something so near and dear to me. It was my baby. I felt no one could take care of my baby except me,” Usman said. “I had a chance to go to Singapore in 2010 with a buddy. I ended up backing out at the last minute. My friends were devastated. You feel you have to be there working.”
Usman finally realized the stressful toll that non-stop working had taken on him. In July, he handed the reins of his company over to his 10-employee team and for the first time in seven years of operating the Usman Group, he took a much-needed vacation to Maui with his wife and two children ages 9 and 6.
“To know that we were on the beach in Maui and business deals were getting done at the office without my involvement helped me realize, I was the bottleneck in some cases of things not being done the way they should be,” Usman said.
Many small business owners and entrepreneurs I’ve met over the years strongly believe they must be at the office 24/7 in order to run a successful company, and so consequently, they fail to empower their employees to step in so they can enjoy some down time.
For example, Usman let go of some parts of his business such as web design, project management and business development and hired the right people to fill those shoes.
“If you’re running a company and you have the right people and you’ve given them the right responsibility, the right authority to do what they’re supposed to do, you should be able to take a break,” said Phil Gafka, business coach and founder and principal at LEAP Associates, an executive coaching and business development firm.
Vacation is critical to personal growth and success, and experts like Gafka advise small business owners to take an occasional break or vacation to reconnect with family, rejuvenate themselves and find meaning in their lives.
If you haven’t taken a vacation in a while out of fear your business won’t run without you, here are some strategies to consider so you can rest easy on the beach or at your lake home:
Learn to trust your employees.
There’s the adage that says when the cat’s away the mice will play. This doesn’t have to be the case if you build trust – by preparing your employees for the inevitable – the day you step away from the game.
“This galvanizes them. It gives them a chance to do something awesome,” says Usman.
Totally unplug from the business while you’re away.
This may be hard for many entrepreneurs who pride themselves on working endless hours to build something of their own. But if you refuse to check up on what’s happening with the business while on vacation, you’re demonstrating trust and respect for the people you have left in charge.
Put family first.
Give your complete attention to the people who love you the most. They deserve it. Besides, this is your chance to make up for all those late nights and weekends at the office.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun. This can be a hard concept for many entrepreneurs whose sole existence often is centered on making more money. Use the time off to do something you really enjoy like horseback riding or water skiing.
Keep in mind that a fun and relaxing vacation is good medicine for you. The time off will replenish you and refill your reserves so you come back with more motivation to tackle the challenges of growing your business.
Just ask Usman. “You come back stronger,” he said. “I came back last week and was ready to rock.”