4 Ways to Take the Vacation You Need

by Rachel Hartman on April 25, 2012
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“Small-business owner” and “weeklong vacation” may sound like phrases that don’t belong in the same sentence. After all, running a small business is a full-time (plus overtime) commitment. Taking a break, however, may be just what you need to stay energized and healthy and to keep your business on the right track.

The good news: Turning your dream of a relaxing holiday into a reality may be easier than you think. The key is to start planning early. The Intuit Small Business Blog asked a few small-business owners for their tips on how to prepare your operation for your absence and take the vacation you need.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Tell clients and employees you plan to take a vacation. If you’re a sole proprietor, let clients know in advance which dates you’ll be on vacation (and thus unavailable), says Marjorie Asturias, president of Blue Volcano Media, a Dallas-based web marketing and creative content company. Send out reminders the week before you go, and set up an automated “out of the office” email reply for the days you’ll be gone.

If you have employees, train one to run the ship in your absence, says Asturias, who took a vacation earlier this year. “My project manager knew months ago that I would be taking this week off, so from her first day on the job back in November, she made it her goal to know the business well enough that she could run the operations without me,” Asturias says. “Sure enough, she did — and very well.”

2. Prioritize business tasks. Kristin Fintel, the innkeeper of Chehalem Ridge Bed and Breakfast outside of Portland, Ore., hired an inn-sitter to cover her duties while she went on vacation. She trained the sitter and created a “how to be me” manual to follow during her absence. “Odds are, the inn-sitter will not be me perfectly,” she says, but when it comes to priorities, “my guests’ happiness is number one, running the business successfully is number two, and details are number three.”

Decide what “must” be done while you’re gone. If emails and phone calls need to be answered, have them forwarded to a trusted employee or co-worker. If there are tasks that can wait (such as cleaning the office), put them on a to-do list for after you return.

3. Tailor the vacation to your needs. Think about where you actually want to spend your time away. If rest is what you need, opt for a cruise or a beach vacation and steer clear of an action-packed tour, says Ian Aronovich, co-founder and CEO of GovernmentAuctions.org, a site that compiles and provides information about government auctions of seized and surplus merchandise nationwide.

For weeklong getaways, try to keep flights short to maximize your R & R time. If you’re on the East Coast, consider going to the Caribbean; if you’re on the West Coast, opt for Hawaii. “The goal is to get as much rest as possible, so you can recharge and come back to work fully refocused,” Aronovich says.

4. Make your vacation coincide with your business cycle. If you run a seasonal business (like a ski resort, water park, etc.), take a break during the shoulder or off season. However, if you need to get away during the high season, don’t rule it out. Fintel, who runs the bed and breakfast in Oregon’s wine country, plans time off during the summer, when the inn is completely full. “I do occasionally have to clean up some details when I return, but the vacation is so worth it,” she says.

Rachel Hartman is a writer who frequently covers topics related to small businesses. Her work has appeared in The Costco Connection, Wells Fargo Conversations, Pizza Today, Bankrate.com, InsuranceQuotes.com, CreditCardGuide.com, and many other outlets.

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