What Every Business Owner Should Do Before Going on Vacation

Gusto Editors

Stepping away from your business to bask in the summer sun may feel like an evil betrayal. Shouldn’t you keep your momentum going? Won’t everything crumble if you’re not there to run the show?

Not quite.

Sustaining a company means making sure it runs smoothly—even when you’re oceans away.

As the economy strengthens, many small business owners are warming up to the idea of taking PTO. The 2014 Cox Business Barometer survey found that 66 percent of entrepreneurs said they were planning to take at least one week off during the summer–perhaps a sign, according to Cox, of cautious optimism about how successful they’re doing.

Fortunately, there are ways to take the vacation plunge without spending the entire time tapping away on your phone. Here’s what to do before and during your trip to ensure smooth sailing (or swimming, or cycling, or… you get the idea).

How to actually take PTO while running a small business

1. Get comfortable with delegating

Now is the time to let your employees shine. Figure out who the best people are to make decisions about specific aspects of the business and then enable them to do so by delegating everything that needs to get done.

Determine the types of decisions that should get escalated to you, like resolving a shipping disaster or working with an important client, and which calls can be made in your absence.

Pro tip: Create a vacation edition of your organizational chart so everyone knows where the buck stops.

2. Give clients and customers advance notice

If your role involves interacting with clients or customers, it’s a good idea to let them know beforehand exactly when you’ll be away and who to reach out to when questions come up.

Consider making a list of the top questions customers ask along with the contact info for each person in charge. That way, your customers will know that when they have questions about returns or pricing, they’ll go to Zara instead of Greg.

Communicate these messages to your clients in advance so you can sort out any weirdness before you leave.

3. Plug in or out—but make a call

Decide how much time, if any, you’re going to spend answering emails, calls, and Slack messages. You may think it’s impossible to completely unplug, but with a little planning, it can be achieved.

On the other hand, if you feel more relaxed by checking in occasionally, you’re not alone. The “Getaway Survey” from ADT found that 45 percent of small business owners say it’s very hard for them to completely check out while on vacation.

In fact, 44 percent of owners call, text, or email employees every single day of their trip. Don’t be that business owner.

4. Set up boundaries and stick to them

Your fellow vacationers will appreciate it if you set up a boundary between your personal and work life, so they know exactly when they’ll have your undivided attention.

If you need to be in touch with the office, consider having short, scheduled check-in calls—for example, every other day at 10 a.m. for twenty minutes.

Scheduling check-ins the same way you do regular meetings will encourage your employees to organize their questions so you can deal with them all at once.

5. Anticipate imperfection

While you’re away, your business may not run exactly as you envision. And that’s okay. It’s better for your mental health if you accept it and focus on empowering the talented group of people you work with.

Your employees may make a few mistakes or do things a little differently than you would have, but if you arm them with as much knowledge as possible, they’ll be able to handle anything that comes their way.

Taking time to do the (non-work) things you love will not only clear your mind, but it will also help bring the inner workings of your business to light. Leaders will come out of the woodwork, people will step up, and your team’s confidence will grow. While it may be hard to break away at first, a vacation could be exactly what you need to make your business soar.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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