Can You Take a Real Vacation?

I thought it appropriate to ask if you regularly take a vacation. Why? Well, many business owners are more martyrs than managers and confuse service with servitude. If you feel some of this applies to you and would like a solution, then read on. Va•ca•tion: (1) a period of time devoted to rest, travel or recreation (2) a scheduled period during which the activities of courts, schools or other regular businesses are suspended. Hmm... There are reasons a business owner cannot take a vacation, at least a vacation according to the classic definition. We can travel but it's impossible to rest when we have to direct the work of others who are still at the shop. So, we can travel but not to areas where there is no cell phone coverage. Even at that, our travel time is restricted to long weekends or a trip to the trade show. That's because we can't travel when the shop is busy because there's too much to do. Then we can't travel when the shop is slow because someone has to make sure that people are busy. Okay, I’m teasing. If you'd really like to change the poor me, the martyr complex, then there are two things you can do. 1) Organize around functions, not people. This means you have to select, install and train others to make decisions without you. While it can be done (we'll go into it more in future editions), there's an easier way for most of us up to about 15 employees. 2) Close. That's right, close. Pick time when you are slow and shut the shop and have everyone go on vacation. That way you can actually rest because there won't be anyone back at the shop whose work you have to direct. Most won't consider it because the perception is that it has such an adverse impact on customers. However, not closing means a typical shop of six people works shorthanded 27% of the year. Do the math: 6 people x 2 weeks’ vacation each = 12 weeks, as only one can go at a time, plus a couple of sick or personal days each, and you have about 14 weeks of short handedness, or 27% of the time. The closing alternative, using the same math, is 11% of the year (2 weeks vacation + 2 weeks other). No wonder you feel put upon when someone wants to take off for their vacation. You are tired of being short handed. When? Unless your shop is unusual, close a week the first of July (Independence Day in US and Canada Day in Canada) and one between Christmas and New Year's Day. That's when business is s-l-o-o-o-w. Close. Yea, but .... yes, we've heard why it won't work before. Here are our answers to your anticipated questions: No, customers won't desert you. Take the opportunity to make a real sales call and prepare your customers for the vacation period. No, just don't send them a notice, actually talk to them. What do they need printed so they won't run out? In shops where this has been done, we have measured the two month period (prior to closing and month of closing) and find sales are the same if not more in closing years vs. non-closing ones. There's this customer ... We know. They come in every Thursday. Alright, figure it out. With advance notice, you and the customer will be able to come up with a creative solution. Alternative is not to figure it out and be a martyr; so figure it out. Employees won't like it #1. Hmm... Memorize the following and repeat it to the objecting worker: We all work for the customer and need to be here when they want us here. The reason we are slow during these periods is that customers are not here, so they don't need us here and therefore we will be closing for vacation at that time. Employees won't like it #2. They have already scheduled their vacation or want off at different times during the year. No problem. As long as you and the worker agree, they may take time off without pay at other times. But, no, they can not work during the vacation closing because no one else will be working then. And yes, they will receive their vacation pay only during the vacation closing period. Law Won't Allow It. Yes it will. There is no requirement that you grant vacation time off. So the vacation closing is treated the same as a holiday. If a person is employed during that time, they are paid. If not, they are not. Simplifies accounting for vacation pay accruals as well. Bottom line here is you can take time off for vacation rest, travel or recreation. Best way to do that for most businesses is to suspend activities. So be smarter than a martyr. Figure it out and just do it.

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