March 1, 2021

You’re the Boss Blog: A Business Owner Tries to Get Away for Two Weeks

Thinking Entrepreneur

An owner’s dispatches from the front lines.

I have just returned from the second two-week vacation I have ever taken, the last one being 15 years ago. I usually go away for one week, but this time I went to Argentina and two weeks was necessary. Unlike my last two-week trip, I had to make a big decision this time: bring the laptop or leave it resting comfortably at home? Disconnect partly or completely?

Three things that had an impact on this decision have changed greatly in the last 15 years. First of all, I am now minimally involved in the day-to-day running of my companies. My staff members take care of customers and vendors, and I am seldom needed to “put out fires.” Hurray. It has been a long and slowly productive 15 years. Second, most people communicate with me by e-mail now instead of by phone. I found the idea of coming back home to  300 e-mails less than appealing. And lastly, I now write for this blog. Will The New York Times come to a screeching halt if I am not available to offer my insights? Probably not, but I knew I would be spending a decent amount of time on airplanes, and I have found this to be an excellent opportunity to collect thoughts. So I took the laptop.

And, all in all, I was glad I did. There was plenty of time to delete e-mails, which I found quite satisfying. And as expected, I was happy to have the computer on the flights. But in hindsight, I realize that I made two mistakes. I recently changed cellphone service to get an iPhone, but I did not realize that my new service would not work in South America. Not the end of the world (actually, where I was is the end of the world), but there is a certain peace of mind that comes with knowing that people can get hold of you if necessary. But I am not one of those who need to check in. As a matter of fact, I would rather not. Still, the next time I go away I will be sure to talk to my service provider to make sure that my cellphone will work. The second lesson I learned was a little trickier.

I am fully aware that it is good to get away, gain fresh perspective, recharge the batteries, and exercise all of those other clichés. But different people have different jobs, responsibilities, stresses and perspectives. And I prefer to stay somewhat in business mode; I like business. For years I have bristled at the notion that to be successful as an entrepreneur, you should just “follow your passion.” If only it were that easy. If it were, no cupcake business would ever fail. Almost everyone would be successful. I have found that while you do indeed need to follow your passion, whatever your product or service, you also have to be passionate about business: the good, the bad, the ugly. The accounting, the hiring, the firing, the marketing, the management, the everything. With that in mind, at least for me, it is not possible to turn off the business thinking while I am on vacation. Observing the culture in another country, the way people advertise, the way they take care of customers, can be a valuable experience.

That said, there’s only so much business thinking I want to do while away, and my second mistake was in not discussing this with my staff. No news is good news. Buried in the e-mails I was happy to clean up while away was a sales report. One of my businesses did not meet our projections, and it made me think too much. I would have preferred to stay in my happy zone and deal with the report when I got back. There was nothing I could do from there, and there was nothing I needed to do.

It certainly didn’t ruin the vacation, but it was an unnecessary distraction. The lesson? Next time, I am going to instruct my managers to spare me the details of anything that is beyond my control that might be classified as bad news. That’s right, I am going to take a vacation from bad news! Why not? The good news is that I came back to three voice mails and only one day of e-mails. A very pleasant re-entry. I might even take a three-week vacation next time. But don’t count on it.

Jay Goltz owns five small businesses in Chicago.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3865fdcbf96dd1b4782bd42b6c31458a

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