We all work hard in this business. Our personal energy is the fuel many of our small businesses run on. We give it all we have. Installers and service techs work long hard days crawling around construction sites that are either too hot or too cold. The sales force fights hard for every sale and burns shoe leather running all over town in search of the next big job. Then they work into the night catching up on writing proposals that always needed to be delivered yesterday.
While everybody thinks they want to be the boss, few onlookers understand the enormous pressures that rest upon the shoulders of the small business owner. Installers work from sun to sun. The owners work is never done.
If you are the owner, your neck is on the line every day and the buck stops with you. If there is a slump in sales or cash flow, you are the one struggling to figure out how to cover payroll. If an employee quits, falls off a ladder, or a truck breaks down, its your problem. Even if a client says he is going to sue you, the show must go on and you must jump in and somehow save the day. Running a business takes skill and involves risk. No matter what the problem, the owner is ultimately responsible. Between long hours, solving problems and keeping the business alive, the stress on an owner can really build up at times.
Its not easy for the owner to break away for two weeks. As you prepare to leave for your vacation, the work just wont stop. Nevertheless its time to get away with your family. You have to push extra hard to finish up critical jobs. After a long, stressful week of putting out the last fires, you close down the office around 7 p.m. on Friday night. Your wife has been waiting for you to finally leave the office so you can start to pack your suitcases. After doing your whole exit prep list, you fall into bed exhausted around midnight.
The alarm goes off at 6 a.m., and you wake the kids and start loading the car to head to the airport. Your wife wasnt really sure if you would ever stop working. But as you board the plane, she smiles at you and breathes a sigh of relief that the family vacation is finally underway.
Little does she suspect that this vacation will be the true test of your ability to break away from your work. When you unpack your bags in Hawaii, will you quietly hookup your laptop to the Internet? While the family is having lunch at the beach, will she catch you thumbing on your BlackBerry to the guys back in the office? Can you really let it go?
On one hand, you may have a personal problem. You could be a hopeless workaholic who cannot allow himself to really relax and take quality time off. If your wife keeps accusing you of this, she is probably right. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to personal recovery. On the other hand, this situation might make it clear that your company is the problem.
The real tests are: Did you build a business with competent staff and put systems in place that can keep it running without you being there in person constantly? Or did you build something that cannot function without you there every day? In other words, did you build a growing business or is this just a one-man operation with a group of employee assistants? There is a huge difference between creating a company versus having a job.
At the end of the two weeks ask yourself, What if I stayed away for two months? Would your company self destruct? Would there be anything left to salvage when you returned? This conjures images of employees gone wild, empty warehouses, banks repossessing your service vehicles, and AT&T shutting off your phones while clients explode in anger.
Your long vacation gives you time to step back from the barrage of daily emergencies. While you are away, you can gain priceless insight into what people and systems are working and where the weaknesses in your system show themselves. Without quality business management systems in place, it all breaks down and chaos results.
The solution for your business is like teaching your kid to ride a bike. You can train and coach him for just so long. After a while, you must take off the training wheels and let go of the bike. Sure, your kid will crash a few times and even bloody up his knees. The good news is once he knows how to ride the bike alone; he will never forget how to do it for his entire life. Once you train and empower your staff with quality systems, they will also ride confidently without your help ensuring you can enjoy your long vacation.
Next time, book a spot in Tahiti where BlackBerries dont even work.