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As some of you know, I recently took a three week holiday in Vietnam – the first holiday in eight years that I have been away from the office for more than 1 week.  

Unfortunately, a lack of long holidays is an all too common occurrence amongst business owners. In 2015 Xero undertook a survey of businesses and discovered key reasons why Australian small business owners struggle to take time off:

  • 42% said they need to be available at all times as they are the decision maker
  • 37% of business owners said they are unable to take holidays as they are the sole employee of their business
  • 25% said they are ‘just too busy’ to take holidays and
  • 32% said that they are ‘unable to relax if they don’t know what’s going on in their business’

For me the first and last points were the main reasons why I hadn’t taken holidays away from the business. When my wife booked our holiday I was stressed about leaving and not being in control; but now that we have been, I can say it has been the best thing for the family – and the business – and I am looking forward to the next one! 

What I learned from taking time off

  1. Just go ahead and book the tickets!
    Do this first, then you will have a set date to be prepared by. Consider the timing of when you go (i.e. when is a quiet time for your business) and book it for that time. If you wait until you think you are prepared, then you will never go. 
  2. You are not as important as you think you are
    This is the hardest pill to swallow, but when you realise this the holiday is the most refreshing.  As we are so used to doing things ourselves we often just keep doing them; I have learnt that I have excellent staff that are just as capable as me even though they may do it or word it in a different way.  For a sole trader with no staff consider associates or contractors that could step in if there are emergencies.
  3. Make sure your processes are known
    The biggest barrier to me taking leave was that I knew so many different processes in my head that weren’t effectively written down and able to be done by others … or so I thought.  In the lead up to going on leave I implemented new software that documented the processes for clients’ work so that others could do it in my absence.  What things do you do that with a bit of time could be taught to others?
  4. You can communicate effectively anywhere in the world
    Apart from one period of time when we were on a cruise, there was internet and phones everywhere. When we were travelling there was a lot of times when we were waiting for something (e.g. airports); these moments are perfect opportunities for you to catch up on emails or communications if you need to.
  5. Limit your communication.
    I made a point on not spending any more than 15 minutes per day doing work. When I did work, I made sure email responses were short and to the point or I asked my staff to reply.  That way I didn’t slip into work mode. To avoid interruptions and temptations, I left my phone on flight-mode and replied to messages only if urgent.
  6. Accept that some things will be left undone.
    No matter how hard you try to plan ahead, taking the time to relax will, more than likely, mean letting a few things go. Most of the time, they will be there when you return 

How my business has improved since I had a holiday

  1. I have come to appreciate my excellent staff and I need to remember to delegate work that can be effectively done by others.  This means that I can respond quicker to clients and undertake other things that are important to the business. 
  2. Better procedures and processes are in place that will benefit the business in the future – especially when introducing new staff or if staff take leave.
  3. More capacity to take on extra work. (Yes I am looking for new clients … so if you know anyone that assist please pass their details onto me!)
  4. In the event that I am sick I know that the business will function effectively while I am unable to work.
  5. If I want to retire, the business has a higher value as there is less reliance on me and a new owner can take over with less time to pass on knowledge. But don’t worry I am not thinking of retiring for at least another 15 years.
  6. I know that I can take 3 weeks off in the future.  And my wife is already talking about or next holiday!

If you feel that you are unable to leave your business and are struggling to implement the strategies discussed, please feel free to call and discuss. Your business and your well-being will thank you for it!

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