Too many entrepreneurs, young and older, say they can never take a vacation.

When I first started working for the YWCA in the ’70s, vacations were a treasured perk. Poorly paid but rich in benefits, we started with two weeks of annual vacation and before we knew it, it had grown to four.

Four weeks! I couldn’t afford to go anywhere for four weeks. However, I still carved out the time and carefully calculated how to budget my limited funds to put the time to good use.

The culture of the organization placed a high value on their employees’ health even though they could not provide corporate level salaries.

Business Owners – What’s Your Excuse?

Taking time off is critical to your health, especially when you advance in age. You don’t need me to tell you that.

We have to get off our high horse when we say, “The business can’t run without me.” Or, “I cannot find the time. I’m too busy. My clients need me.”

No one expects us to work 365 days a year or 24/7. We’ve created the culture of constant availability to our clients, employees, and even our community.

If cash is an issue, there are options. The easiest way to start is to plan a long staycation weekend.

Another possibility is to look into house swaps where you trade your home with someone else to experience a different area.

You can also visit friends and family who have a private room where you can stay and be sure to be a gracious guest.

Gradually build up to a reasonable length of time that works for yourself and the family.

What Is Reasonable?

This depends on your business model and maturity.

My first business was a container garden design, installation, and maintenance service in desert homes. As a solo entrepreneur the first three years, vacations were difficult. Time away meant giving up marketing and sales opportunities.

However, my business model was built on a Monday through Friday schedule, and in the hot desert summers, we worked a four-day week.

My business culture of valuing long holidays and vacations was founded on those two decisions and applied to me and my future employees, growing in time through the years.

To be successful with regular time off, we learned to create processes for greater efficiency and customer contact that added to our business culture.

Develop a Down-Time Culture

From the very beginning, you want to set your boundaries. If you need, you can chart some course corrections now.

Create a communications plan for your longer absences. Let clients know up front what to expect in terms of communications.

Establish availability hours rather than office hours. These are the periods you will pick up the phone, return messages, and emails. Turn off message notifications during your ‘off’ hours.

Your clients will accept this because they know what to expect from you.

I highly recommend you do not give out your cell number. This should only be necessary if you handle true emergencies.

These strategies will help you maintain your balance and set the tone for your clients’ expectations.

Set Your Sights

Craft out your goals for vacation vs work. What would you like to do?

  • Would you prefer shorter periods of total down time and have more each year?

Some of my clients take a long weekend every month and two two-week vacations each year. They are still working full time in their growing businesses.

  • Are you aiming towards taking your business with you for longer periods?

Another full-time business owner is working towards semi-retirement with a goal of alternating three months in two locations and lessening her billable direct care hours. She is experimenting with this model by training her staff to manage without her being physically present.

  • If you sell physical products, look for ways to outsource the delivery.

In addition, it may be time to transition your business to a different ‘product’, leveraging your expertise into one that uses your time without needing to be physically in front of your clients.

Don’t let self-imposed demands get in your way of setting your goals.

Ask Yourself, “What If?”

Build up slowly. Be honest with your clients and don’t apologize. Start from a position of strength, as a great business leader who knows how to live the good life.

Written from a cruise ship, sailing the Caribbean. See you in a month!

Have you established a good balance of vacation and work time? What practices have you embraced to get there? If you feel you work too many hours, what are the first steps you can take to make a significant reduction this next year? Please share your stories in the comment section below.

Let's Have a Conversation!