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A Small Business Owner's Guide to Taking a Vacation

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Vacation. The favorite time of year for corporate employees is often a stress inducer for the small business owner. You started your business for freedom but how can it operate without your presence to deal with any crisis or capture opportunity? As you exit for a week of rest and relaxation, your mind is still thinking business. What can a small business owner do to ensure a vacation really is a vacation?

    Vacations Around the Globe

    To prepare for the vacation mode, accept the fact that vacation time is normal no matter where you live on the globe. It's more likely if you are living in America you'll take less vacation time than your counterparts in other countries. The World Tourism Organization reports the average annual vacation days taken as:

  • Italy 42

  • France 37

  • Britain 28

  • Canada 26

  • Japan 25

  • U.S. 13

  • A Source of Inspiration

    Instead of spending your vacation fretting about your top customers or missed business opportunities, use this time to renew your corporate vision or see the world from a new perspective. Vacations can be a source of inspiration for start-up ideas, inventions, corporate programs, or even a company name.

  • Multi-million dollar company, Boston Duck Tours was conceived by investment manager, Andy Wilson during a vacation to Memphis where he observed a tour bus traveling over land and water.

  • Campground wireless Internet service provider, TengoInternet, got its name from the inspiration of Eric Stumberg when vacationing in Mexico. The company name in Spanish means "I have Internet."

  • On vacation in New York, Mary Anderson noticed streetcar drivers looking out opened windows to see when it rained. This simple observation on her travels led to the invention of the windshield wiper.
  • During a horse ride while on vacation, Hyperion software CEO, Godfrey Sullivan, was struck with the idea to create a corporate program to help employees deal with escalating gas prices. Godfrey offered a $5,000 incentive to employee who bought a hybrid car.

Understanding the positives of vacation time can be easier than the process of leaving the office behind. To ensure your small business runs smoothly while you're away, incorporate these 3 tips for a worry free vacation:

Let go of Control: A difficult aspect of business ownership is the ability to concede control. Taking a vacation is the perfect opportunity to test the abilities of your trusted staff members to handle the ship. Have your staff make a list of top priorities to have them buy into the accountabilities of running the office before you leave. Remember to let go of control and you'll have greater success in delegation.

To Call or Not to Call: Should you call the office while you're on vacation? Over 40% of entrepreneurs stay in touch with the office on most vacation days and 29% contact their business every day, according to a recent Hudson survey by Rasmussen Reports.

Prior to your departure, determine whether you'll take the approach of no contact (unless there is an emergency) or call in occasionally. If you really can't get your business out of your mind while on the beach, a 10-minute debriefing with your staff can help calm your fears. Be careful not to undermine your delegations to your employees.

Have an Emergency Plan: The best way to have peace of mind while on vacation is to have a contingency plan ready in case of emergency. For small business owners with employees, provide staff with the when and why to contact you in case of a dire situation. For the self-employed professional, such as a solo computer consultant, make arrangements with other trusted peers to deal with any of your customer emergencies.

Vacations can be a much deserved time away from the office for the small business owner. If you're worried your business can crumble during a week off, it's time to re-examine your business operations and management abilities. Take the vacation you need for the sake of your customers, employees, and future growth of your company.

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