How Much Time Off Should Small Business Owners Take

Nov 20, 2023, Written by Sue Miley

small business owners vacation

As Thanksgiving approaches, like many small business owners, I find myself in a mad rush to complete tasks so I can take most of the week off. The common notion is, “You own the business; just take off.” However, if you are a small business owner, you know. It’s not that simple. We have commitments to clients and a team to consider; the work must continue. How a business owners can take a vacation?  

Flexibility with Responsibility

Owning a small business does offer more flexibility compared to traditional corporate roles. In my past corporate experience, I accumulated significant vacation and sick leave, which supported me during my twins’ pregnancy and subsequent maternity leave.

Now, as a business owner, I manage to take 2-3 weeks off annually, along with holidays, without needing many sick days. No accumulation occurring.

The Role of the Working Owner

Growth and team cohesion in a business often involve an actively working owner. A business’s maturity often dictates the owner’s ability to take time off.

For instance, a well-established business with a competent management team overseeing day-to-day operations affords the owner more freedom to take time off.

The Balance Between Work and Rest

Unfortunately, many owners risk burnout by not taking enough time off, while others might take excessive breaks, raising questions about their commitment. It’s crucial to find a balance.

Experiencing burnout myself, I understand its dangers and do not recommend it…to anyone. Yet, I also recognize the necessity of hard work during certain growth phases of a business.

Considerations for Time Off

  1. Business Lifecycle Stage: In startups or new businesses, an owner’s presence is critical for momentum, cost control, and business development. Similarly, if you have a new team, your guidance is essential for their learning and growth.
  2. Management Structure: The absence of a management layer makes extended time off challenging. If you’re managing most aspects, you might feel constant pressure to be present. Preparing for the future, such as grooming a team member for a management role or hiring a manager, can alleviate this.
  3. Timing and Seasonality: Wise timing for vacations is crucial. For example, retail business owners would benefit from being present during peak sales periods like November and December. Recognize the seasonal patterns in your business and plan accordingly.
  4. Team Coordination: Coordinate your time off with your team’s schedule. Ensuring key personnel are present when you’re away can keep operations smooth.

Owner vs. Employee Time Off

I am not suggesting that you can’t take more time off than your employees. I know you work late, worry about the business 24/7, and have invested your money as well as your time. It isn’t the same for most employees. And all the responsibility of making sure your employees are okay is also added to your mental plate.

It is stressful and, at times, exhausting. You need to recharge. You need time away. I am just suggesting:

  • Plan and communicate your time off well.
  • Arrange backup for your responsibilities.
  • Set a positive example for your team.
  • Ensure customer needs are met.
  • Avoid busy periods or times when key team members are absent.

Additional Considerations

  • Financial Implications: Assess the financial impact of your absence, particularly for businesses where owner involvement directly influences revenue. My husband, my son-in-law, and I all work in the business. Family vacations can hurt revenues and the bottom line.
  • Client Relationships: Consider your role in client relations. If you’re integral to maintaining these relationships, your absence might require strategic planning.
  • Personal Well-being:  Prioritize your health and well-being. Overworking can lead to diminished effectiveness and personal health issues. And if you burn out, it takes years to recover, so avoid at all costs.

When you do take time off, fully disconnect to achieve genuine rest and rejuvenation.

This blog is brief, but it’s a task I wanted to complete before my own time off. So, checked off the list.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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