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Why you should take holidays when running a small business

5th November 2015

We are coming up to 7 years in business. We started our web design business, Waterfall Way Designs, back in early 2009. In that time I have rarely taken a holiday, not a real one like when you were an employee. I have been on holidays with my family, but I always worked while they did activities. 

I thought I would share the justifications we make as small business owners as to why we cannot take a holiday. Then I will outline a few reasons why it is crucial for your small business for you to take holidays.

Money – "I cannot take a break, the money from the business is income we depend on".

When we started in business this was certainly the case. It is a stretch at the start, it is a leap into the unknown when you start your own business and finances can be tight. But your longer term objectives should be financial security. You work and build the business to escape living from job to job. You might implement software to assist you and reduce workload. You might educate your staff, allowing them to take on roles you currently fill. 

I'm Indispensable – "I am the only one who knows how to do this properly".

When starting a business you are responsible for so many things. You do the central work of your job - repair cars,  build houses, etc. But this actual work makes up a small portion of what you do, there are also many other roles you need to fill . Customer support, marketing, tax returns, quotes, etc. As your business grows you find the role that suits you best. You bring on staff for the other roles, or maybe outsource it to professionals. To have a decent holiday you need to release your role to someone else. You may need to train up staff to fill your role temporarily. Then if you are ever sick the business can carry on.

Public Image - "What would my customers think, it would be bad for business"

Your customers should be treated the same, whether you are there or not. Your business culture should create in your staff the same passion and vision you have for your business. If like us you need to wind back operations to have a holiday then it is crucial to communicate with your customers. Give them advance notice, provide support for critical issues, let them know when you are back and when they can expect there need to be met.

A lot of your customers might be business owners themselves and understand where you are coming from. 

What is so good about holidays anyway?

So why would you go to all this effort? educating staff, letting go of your business, setting up software systems for it to work in your absence. Here are a number of things we have found. 

Reduce Stress – running a small business is certainly stressful. It may seem minimal and manageable at the start, but over time it builds up. It can effect the performance of you as a manager and your business as a whole. Imagine having this pressure released. Imagine having a dinner out with your family, walking along the beach, dropping a line in the water, whatever relaxes you. Then when you return to work you will have the energy and resilience to build your business. 

Big Picture Business – when running a small business you tend to keep your head down and do the work. Get projects completed, build your customer list and get money in the account. In this mode you tend to take work that comes in the door. The local paper or radio might contact you and you place an ad because it is quick and easy. But you just continue to work, work comes in, you complete it and move on to the next job. However your business is now shaped by your customers and not you. You may find yourself doing repetitive, low margin work that you do not enjoy. 

If you have a holiday you have time to think about your business. Where you would like it to be in 5 years. What type of work you would like to do, what type of work brings the most money, what opportunities are there in your industry, are there different directions you would like to investigate. Time to identify ideal customers and work, to plan marketing, and to do more with your website. 

A holiday allows you to step back and evaluate your business, plan its future direction. 

Diversity – if you stop doing what you always do, you have an opportunity to see new things. Your business mind will never turn fully off, so while you are on holiday you will be viewing other businesses. You might find yourself inspired by how someone else runs their business. I have also found when you give your mind a chance it comes up with some great ideas. A holiday is a time to cultivate the unusual ideas for your business that might bring you great results on your return. 

Relationships – The long work hours and pressure of running a small business tends to strain your relationships. A holiday lets you mend connections, talk to your significant other, spend time with the kids. It does not have to be an elaborate and expensive holiday, the time with your loved ones is important. These are the people you should be building a business for, so spend some quality time with them before it is too late. 

Reward Yourself – no one takes on the workload and stress of a small business without dreams. Why did you start your business? Was it to have financial independance, no boss, to have more free time (hehe, good luck). Set your business on the path so you can reap some of these rewards. You have left the security of a paid job, make sure your business rewards you. 

Take Action 

Take your business back, take a holiday. Plan now when your next holiday will be. Add a few days around Christmas, in 3 or 6 months time, allocate 2 weeks for you and your family. Set things in place to take it and do not put it off. Take a breath and move your business in the direction you want.