July 13, 2024

You’re the Boss: Father’s Day and the Vacation Dilemma

Thinking Entrepreneur

A widely quoted recent study done by American Express says that only 46 percent of business owners are planning to take a vacation this year — down from 67 percent in 2006. Given the economy, gas prices and rising airfares, this probably will surprise few business owners. For entrepreneurs, the decision of whether to take a vacation can be complicated and gut-wrenching.

People offer many reasons for going into business for themselves. One of the more common ones you hear is, “Being able to come and go as I please.” Some experienced owners will find that both funny and sad — and more than a little ironic. Many people who go into business to find freedom end up a slave to the business, at least for a while. Maybe a long while. Maybe forever. For these people, the notion of taking a vacation is completely foreign — either because of money constraints or because they don’t have someone to run the business or because they suffer from a combination of fear, anxiety, guilt and obsessiveness. Maybe it is just me, but I doubt it.

As I’ve said many times, running your own business is very different than having a job. No one awards you a two- or three-week vacation. If you take one, there may or may not be someone to cover for you, and if there isn’t, it is your problem. And there’s something else that doesn’t come automatically, a thing called a weekly paycheck. Maybe you can take one, maybe you can’t. Maybe there’s a weekly loss. Which is another reason not to take a vacation and gets me to the intersection of Father’s Day and summer vacations. As I have gotten older, I have changed my view of taking vacations.

For me, Father’s Day is a time of reflection. My father has been gone for several years now, and it has given me a different perspective. I can more clearly relate to my father than I used to, but at the same time, my thoughts on my son-father relationship have slowly been overshadowed by my thoughts on my father-son relationships — I have three sons. The youngest is a senior in college, and I can’t help but wonder whether I spent enough time playing father as I did playing entrepreneur. This is, of course, an important part of the vacation dilemma.

Vacation or no vacation, that is the question. I have three different answers, depending on your situation. First of all, kids grow up quick. You may have a window of 10 or 12 years between the time they will remember a vacation and the time they start to question whether they want to go on a vacation with you. I know. It’s cold. But come 18, they are perfectly happy going without you. So my first answer is that if you can both afford the time and money to take a vacation, you really don’t need any advice from me. Bon voyage.

The second scenario is a little harder. You are short of cash, or you don’t have the staff to cover for you. Your business is still in a precarious situation, and you are feverishly working on getting to that next level (which may include getting your life back). It might be a couple of years, or it might be more. One of your non-business-owning friends might suggest that you should just do it, that you worry too much. Maybe this friend will lend you the money along with the advice. Probably not. Putting off taking vacations can be one of the prices you pay for starting your own business. It is hard to relax when you are not paying your bills and you are concerned with taking care of your hard-to-come-by customers. I had more than a few of these years.

My third scenario is hardest of all. You think that you shouldn’t take a vacation even though you can probably afford it. No, you are not rolling in cash but a couple of thousand dollars is not going to cause you to be late on bills or force you into bankruptcy. Your business can run while you are not there. You have a cellphone for any questions, even if they are not an emergency. But you are still hesitant — like a mother leaving her new baby. But in this case your business is not your only baby. Those kids you had a few years back — remember them? They won’t be kids forever. Next thing you know, if all goes well, you will be dropping them off at college. You will probably be sick to your stomach. On your ride home you might wonder if you were home enough, if you took enough vacations, if your kid’s roommate is a drug dealer.

So here is my entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur advice: If you can take a vacation, take a vacation. There is always more you can do at work, there is always something more you can spend money on — excuse me, I mean invest in. There is always some paranoia about what might happen when you are not there. You are not alone. It is an occupational hazard. But the place will be there when you return. And a vacation will do you good. Besides, your employees can probably use a break from you, too.

Here is the bottom line: the bottom line of your business is not the bottom line of your life.

Happy Father’s Day.

Jay Goltz owns five small businesses in Chicago.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5a2100fe1055fec48fa97cbaded2cbf7

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