Entrepreneurship is a glorified lifestyle. Images constantly flood social media, blogs, and online publications of startup owners on yachts in Italy, sipping piña coladas in the Caribbean, partying in Spain, and meditating in India.
But what many entrepreneurs don’t share is that we spend a lot of time on those trips working. The truth is, when you own and run a business, there is really no such thing as a vacation.
Someone will always need your opinion, especially if you’re a solopreneur or work with a small team. Some emergencies may require your final signoff. And some clients will blatantly ignore any need on your part, for personal time or space.
But with planning and proper execution, you can manage to have something that sort of resembles a vacation, and for the committed entrepreneur, it’s enough. In fact, here’s how I unplug from Alexis Chateau PR when traveling, and how you can too.
Get a Head Start.
Some businesses have tasks that must be completed on a regular basis. This could be monthly, weekly, or daily. The owner must find a way to delegate or automate these tasks for the scheduled vacation time.
Some of these tasks, though done routinely, are not time-specific, and may be completed at an earlier time. Owners should try to get a headstart on these items. These might include scheduling social media posts, writing newsletters and articles, or submitting payments.
There are plenty of apps available to help with scheduling these tasks. Some platforms, like Facebook, WordPress, PayPal, and most banking apps already have built-in scheduling and automation features.
Give a Heads-Up.
Keep in mind that you’re not the only one who needs a head start. Your clients, customers, and teammates will need a heads up, as well. Don’t wait until the last minute to let them know you’ll be out of town.
Most people will forget if you tell them too early, but letting them know too late leaves very little time for them to prepare. Aim for at least a week’s notice, or however long the maximum time is for your team to complete regular tasks.
Let teammates and clients know what to expect when you’re away. Will you be reachable by phone or email? How often will you be checking in? What if there’s an emergency?
It’s also wise to ask if there was any work they planned to assign during your scheduled vacation time, so you can get it out of the way before the trip.
The week leading up to takeoff is always the busiest for us at the firm, as we try to finish up any and all outstanding tasks and obtain approvals.
Appoint a Stand-In.
If you are the primary point of contact for the business, clients probably won’t be too thrilled about losing direct communication with you. However, ensuring there’s a Stand-In, especially one they are familiar with, will help to give them peace of mind, and maintain trust.
But don’t just appoint someone whose name will ring a bell. Appoint a competent Stand-In, with even a second and a third backup to act as a liaison between you and the clients. The more they can handle on their own, the less likely they are to call you.
Train your Stand-Ins. Give them free reign. Include written and detailed instructions they can consult if necessary. And trust them to do a good job.
If you’re calling in every ten minutes to make sure they don’t burn down the office, you’ll sabotage your own vacation.
Leave the Work Phone.
Unless you’re going on a business trip and plan to conduct business on that trip, you shouldn’t bring your work phone.
You know exactly what will happen if you do. Work will follow you in your pocket, call when you’re supposed to be relaxing at the spa, and have you searching for signal on the hiking trails.
Leave the work phone, at home, in the office, or with your Stand-Ins. If the Stand-In needs you, they will call your personal line.
Finally, resist the urge to sign into email and social media on your personal device unless absolutely necessary. The second you see those messages and emails coming in, you’ll fall right into that rabbit hole again.
It’s important to play catch-up immediately after returning. Get an update from the Stand-Ins first, and then check in with the clients to reassure them that you’re back and ready for business.
Be sure to contact them individually. Check if projects are on track, and if there are any assignments they need help with. They will appreciate the gesture.
Some clients are also considerate to a fault, and will put a hold on work entirely at any cost, until they know for sure that you’re back, well rested, and ready to work again. These are the clients you should reach out to first.
Unplugging from work is one of the hardest things to do for business owners and top level executives.
Even so, with proper planning, clear communication, and a lot of practice, you can finetune your vacation-taking skills, so you can head to the airport knowing business is well taken care of, until you return.
About the Author
Alexis Chateau is the Founder and Managing Director at Alexis Chateau PR. She is an activist, writer, and explorer. Follow her stories of trial and triumph at www.alexischateau.com.