Body_AllWork.jpgby Sherron Lumley.


You don’t have to tell Jason Piatt that running a small business is a labor of love. Piatt founded the electronics manufacturer Praestar Controls with his father Jim in 1995. Today the business has grown to include design, manufacturing and consulting services with locations in eight states and two countries. “It’s not an eight-to-five day where at 5:01 I flip off the switch,” he says.  In fact, there are times when he finds himself working seven days a week on the business.


Many small business owners and their employees would no doubt empathize with the sacrifices required to run a successful company. According to data from the Families and Work Institute National Study of the Changing Workforce, feeling deprived of time with the important people in one’s life is on the rise, especially in small businesses. Of those surveyed, 75 percent feel they don’t have enough time with their children, 63 percent of people don’t have enough time for their partners and 60 percent say they don’t have enough time for themselves. When comparing small companies to large, the study found the small firms were even less likely to provide time off for vacation or flexible time for managing work-life issues.


Still, it’s all too easy for entrepreneurs to get all-absorbed by their business ventures (and expecting their employees to as well). However there are several important reasons to pay attention to that age-old proverb: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Regaining a sense of balance is just one of the benefits to enjoying time off this summer. Here are five more reasons to give yourself permission to take a break:

PQ_AllWork.jpgReason #1:  Set a good example

Piatt says setting an example for his employees is one of the main reasons he takes time off. “From my point of view, with a smaller team, if you don’t take time off to relax, everything can grind to a halt. “We’re working as hard as we can to meet demand,” he says.


“The worst victim could be your best employee,” Piatt explains. “Whether it’s to take a few days or let’s stop for the day, I want to make sure that they are taken care of, too.”

Reason #2: Get a fresh perspective

On the other side of the country, AnnMarie Hudson co-founded Millenium Dance Complex in North Hollywood, California with her husband Robert Baker in 1992, and after 20 years of steady growth, they are now expanding their dance studios both nationally and internationally through franchises and other opportunities. Their celebrity clientele includes the likes of Diddy, Gwen Stefani, Katie Holmes, Britney Spears, Pink, and Paris Hilton, to name a few.


“The beauty of having an arts business” says Hudson, “is it’s very fulfilling and now that we are franchising, I’m helping people starting out. I have to show them how valuable it is to always maintain other aspects of your life.”


Hudson practices what she preaches. “I’m more productive when I go away on a retreat weekend to relax. Getting a full night’s sleep and a change of scenery helps me to keep my head on my shoulders,” she says. “That filters down through the company.” And even when she can’t get away for a long weekend, Hudson finds ways to take quick micro-vacations from her busy company. “When you’re home, you’re working 24 hours a day and there are work triggers,” says Hudson, “so I try to find friends outside of my business to go and spend a day and not talk about work.”


Reason #3: Refresh your mind, body, and soul

For Piatt, there’s a philosophical benefit to physically and mentally clocking out of work. “If you don’t take time off, you lose sight of why you started [your business] in the first place. It’s detrimental to your health,” he says. To maintain a healthy work-life balance, he will sometimes take a few days from his schedule and head into nearby Washington, D.C. to visit museums and art exhibits for intellectual nourishment.


“I don’t want to be away that long,” he acknowledges. “There is a little bit of the guilt factor, thinking perhaps there is a better return using that money to reinvest in the business.”


Maria Gamb has seen this guilt factor before. Gamb, a best-selling author who left the corporate world behind to found her own small business, now mentors highly successful people through retreats and workshops. 


“I know many business owners have a difficult time justifying taking time off from work. But I do advocate taking down-time, scheduling it if you have to. Otherwise, you burn out. The reason most people became entrepreneurs was to have time and freedom. Often they don't take it,” says Gamb.


“Someone with clarity is infinitely more attractive to work with than someone who is stressed out and whose brain is over-taxed,” Gamb adds. “Being that example benefits each of us on a personal level—mentally, physically and spiritually.”


Reason #4 Family comes first

Like Gamb, Sander Flaum struck out on his own after decades in the corporate world, starting his consulting firm Flaum Navigators, after retiring from a global corporation. Today, he’s chairman of Fordham University’s Leadership Forum, which brings the world’s top CEOs in to speak on the subject. However, Flaum maintains that for true leaders, work-life balance often appears as a mirage. 


“It’s about performance,” says Flaum. “Trust me, if you want to stay on top, your mind is on staying on top and getting the work done. You have to focus. There is work and when there is time, there’s balance.”


There is one soft spot in his armor, however, and that is his family. There was a moment, now long ago, when Flaum’s son was pitching a baseball game and he was not in the stands to see it—instead he’d hopped on a flight to London at the last minute to close a deal. Missing out on events such as these can’t be undone. “Family is number one,” acknowledges Flaum, “clearly there is no number two.”


Reason #5: Do it for your health

Plenty of science also backs up the notion that taking time to relax and go on vacation is good for your health. In the famous Framingham Heart Study, which has tracked the health outcomes of 5,209 townspeople from Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948, researchers from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute have looked closely at correlations between lifestyle and longevity. And that’s just what they’ve found. The participants who took more vacations also lived longer.


So, take a vacation—your business and life may very well depend on it!

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