Not long ago, I took ten days off to go see our daughter, who is living and working in Spain. Upon my return, I was speaking with a colleague—another small business owner—and told her about the trip. Her response?
“Man, I wish I could take some time off.” Followed by a big sigh.
Interestingly, I didn’t say that I didn’t work for 10 days because, like most small business owners—indeed like most of us these days—it is difficult to completely unplug and get away; it is just so darned easy to stay in touch, for good or ill.
But my friend’s response was telling, especially around this time of year. Indeed, while summer is supposed to be a fun and more relaxing time, scheduling woes often restrict the entrepreneur.
But it need not be. With a little planning, everyone can get some time off this summer – even you!
You can do so in 5 easy steps:
Step 1: Communicate: Understandably, employees expect to be able to take time off in the summer, what with the kids being off from school, the nice weather, partners getting time off and what have you. So, your job as a small business owner is to run a shop that allows them to do just that, while still getting the job done.
That begins with communication. Start early to get an idea of what everyone’s desired time off needs are. And, while you obviously do not want to be a jerk about it, it is important that you set deadlines for employees to submit vacation requests so that you have sufficient time to figure out how to fill absences, resolve scheduling conflicts, etc.
Step 2: Preparation: Once you know who wants to be gone when, then you can begin to prepare to schedule for the absences.
Also, have the people who are leaving create an outline of what they are working on, duties that need to be covered, and key contacts. Checklists can be very helpful. Files, data, and other relevant info must also be made both simple and accessible to the fill-in help.
Step 3: Divvy up the work: Instead of having only one person be responsible for covering for the absent employee, what often works better is to divide up the person’s duties and schedule among several colleagues. This is usually much easier on everyone involved.
Of course, if having staff go on vacation would leave you short-staffed, then you should start to look for, hire, and train temporary help now. With regard to vacation, your No. 1 priority should be to be a good boss, take care of the employees who take care of you, and give your team the time off they desire. If that means hiring, so be it.
Step 4: Offer incentives: You will likely find that certain weeks are more popular than others in terms of wanting time off. In that case, it would behoove you to offer other employees bonuses and other incentives for filling in during those peak popular periods.
Similarly, you can allow team members who have similar positions to trade time off and vacation dates. As long as the work gets done and the office doesn’t suffer, that should work.
Step 5: Apply all of this to you: It doesn’t serve you or your business to be like my colleague and bemoan your fate as an overworked entrepreneur.
You’re the boss. Be a good one. Especially to yourself. This means following the same protocol as above to the extent possible. Schedule time off. Let your team know when that’s going to be. Have fill-in assistance ready. And then get the heck out of Dodge for a while.
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success. © Steven D. Strauss.
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