For staff at most organizations, the summer is a slower season and a time for vacations that offer all-important rest and rejuvenation.
Yet downtime isn’t necessarily a summer staple for everyone. Entrepreneurs, whether small-business owners, consultants or any type of self-employed person, often find taking time off in the summer a real challenge.
While it’s never easy for entrepreneurs to grab some “me” time when they’re running their own show, it’s particularly hard against the backdrop of a recession, where every contract or chance at growing the business is not to be missed. And even though Canada has fared relatively well in the recession, the cascading economic effects of other countries’ financial misfortunes on our own economy exerts a psychological pressure on business owners to keep on working.
Many small business owners are afraid to rest, lest they lose the gains they’ve fought to make, or lest their business suffers further from the economic decline. Many know how important a rest is to performance, rejuvenation and work-life balance. Nevertheless, the idea of delaying a contract, closing up for a weekend or committing to a family vacation can keep them up at night.
The dilemma is a classic vicious cycle. Entrepreneurs know that without a break, burnout is a possibility, not to mention family and relationship strife with loved ones, who after weathering busy times, at other points during the year, are looking forward to him or her finally downing tools for a holiday.
So what to do with fears of losing ground, missing chances and the possibility of being without business loom?
There are four ways business owners deal with their concerns about taking a break:
1. Find Stop-Gap Measures
When fear sets in it is easy to engage in perfection-oriented thinking. For example, “I can’t let the business continue while I’m not there because orders will be missed, mistakes will be made and big opportunities will be lost”. In other words, I can’t allow anything less than the best happen at my business. It is true that when others run our businesses they don’t do it like we do. But, being willing to let your business not be at its best for a few days or “hobble” along for a weekend, can be the way to take a break.
2. Identify the best time to go
Many businesses have busier times than others or days that afford time away more readily than other days. Timing is everything when you consider turning the door shingle to “Closed” for a few days. While a few people may miss you for the time you are gone, many understand the need to refresh yourself. During the summer months, volume for many organizations slows down. If you are in an industry where the reverse is true, begin to think about the appropriate season to attempt a decent break. Plan your rest when you don’t have a major crunch, deadline or customer need occurring. If an emergency does come in, be prepared to deal with it while away. However, if your rest is short, well-timed and your replacement staff sufficiently trained, a few days away will do you and the business good in the long run.
3. Talk To Your Customers
Begin to talk to customers, clients and others about your plans and ask them to schedule appointments, meetings and telephone calls or requests now, to be followed-up upon your return. You’ll feel like you are coming back to something and your customers will know when they will be able to patronize your business again. Giving people a head’s up that you’ll be away will help you feel like your business won’t flounder while you are gone. It gives customers the chance to plan their purchases, or needs accordingly.
4. Think Long Term
Use the opportunity to think about your business and what it needs to succeed. Chances are that being unable to take a break because you are indispensible to day-to-day operations is fine if you are a start-up. However, if you are established and this is still the case, look hard at your business plan and how you may be hampering growth. Or, making your business’s daily functioning completely dependent on your presence can have disastrous effects especially if you are injured or become seriously unwell.
5. Bring In A Trusted Colleague
Although you may think you’re the only person who can run the show, bringing in a trusted colleague to take over while you’re gone for a couple of weeks will not bring about your business’s downfall. You can reciprocate for your colleague and that way you’ll both get a break.
Entrepreneurs are some of the hardest-working business types in the world, scrabbling for a dollar, going the extra mile for a customer and spending long hours toiling on the premises. Once the business is thriving, many on the outside think it looks easy. Business owners know this isn’t true and many have to battle fatigue and fears that can come with the territory. However, the rewards of building something yourself and seeing it grow, provide a tempting challenge. Even so, it’s important to look after yourself a little bit too, and in so doing, you’ll balance more than just the books. You’ll balance your life as well.
Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.