When you run a small business, it’s easy to feel guilty if you step away for even a second. After all, business will come to a screeching halt if you’re not there, right?

Unless you’re a “solo-prenuer,” or a one-person show, that fear probably isn’t very realistic.

The fact is, you probably have a team (and hopefully some processes in place) that can help you unplug, even for a short time, to enjoy a well-deserved break this year. Now’s your chance for some much needed rest and relaxation!

Here are some tips smart small business owners use to unplug and unwind during the busy summer months — without the guilt or worry.

1. Set expectations early.

Many busy business owners get plagued with guilt when they step away from work. One of the reasons this is so common is because you set the expectations for yourself, your team, and maybe even for regular customers that you’re always on call.

When you’re first starting a business, that may make sense. Every little decision is important, and you need to be aware of the moving details. But if you’ve been in business for more than a year, it’s time to start setting expectations that you’re there for the big stuff, the escalations.

Once you decide you’re ready to take some time off, let your team know in advance. Give them a month or two advance notice if you can, and start talking early about how you expect them to handle your absence.

Answer questions like:
  • How long will you be gone?
  • Will you have access to phone or email? How often will you check these?
  • Who will fill in for you with urgent decisions, if you’re unreachable?
  • Are there some things they can or can’t do in your absence (like invoicing large projects upon completion)?

Pro tip: If you set the expectation that you won’t be answering emails, stick to it. Unless there’s a literal fire to put out, resist the urge to respond to a few emails, even if you get the chance to. It’ll show you trust your team to get things done, and they’ll feel more inclined to step up in your absence.

2. Empower staff to step up.

Speaking of your staff stepping up, make sure you give them the tools to do so.

Telling them they can make decisions in your absence just isn’t enough. They need the appropriate access and training on your systems, and they need a list of tasks you’re comfortable (or not) with them handling.

Pro tip: Think of some of the most common issues you handle on a daily basis, and list out common problems that get escalated to you. Give your team examples of these, and let them know how you’d handle each and why. Then, ask them to document anything that comes up while you’re out.

Nervous to give your team that much responsibility? Don’t be. The worst thing that could happen is you have minor damage control to do upon return. On the other hand, the best thing that could happen is your team can take more work off your plate for the long haul.

3. Schedule your vacation on the team calendar.

There’s something permanent about marking time on a calendar, especially one your entire team can see. Do this as soon as you know when you’ll be out.

This is for both your benefit and the team’s.

For you, you’ll avoid accidentally scheduling important meetings, projects or events over your anticipated vacation time. So, when it comes time to actually take off and enjoy yourself, there’ll be no temptation to put it off for next year.

For your team, they’ll get advance, regular notice of your upcoming time off. They’ll know they need to come to you either before or afterward with issues. And, it’ll be there for reference if anyone forgets where you are.

4. Let your email pick up the slack.

This one’s a biggie. If you’re like most business owners, your inbox can get full…fast.

To avoid letting new leads and consumer inquiries fall through the cracks, use an auto-responder (otherwise known as an out of office message), or consider giving a member of your staff access to your email account.

You don’t have to give up your interactions with regular contacts and customers just because you’re out, either. Use your email marketing tool to schedule campaigns in advance. Tools like Thryv help you pick from any number of marketing campaigns and set them to trigger when customers take a certain action or at the time of your choosing.

That way, just because you’re out on vacation, you won’t go radio silent as far as consumers are concerned.

5. Turn off online booking.

Do you regularly book services online with an online booking tool? The best tools let you choose specific time parameters for when you’ll accept new appointments.

While you’re on vacation, consider adjusting your team’s shifts to pick up the slack or limiting the bookable appointments you offer online. You might even want to put a message on your website or booking tool letting consumers know you’ll be out briefly and exactly when you’ll be back and able to take new appointments again.

Try something like:

“It’s summertime! To enjoy the season, we’re taking a much needed (oh-so-short) break. If your inquiry can wait, we’ll be back on XX DATE. Cheers from our team to yours!”

Don’t forget to remove your vacation statement upon return. You won’t get overbooked, and your team won’t get overwhelmed!