Small business owners are notorious for not taking vacations. Instead, they calculate how much it will cost, how much money they may lose and then list all the things that could go wrong while they’re gone.

Yet there’s an argument to be made that your business isn’t really successful if you can’t take vacation without everything falling apart. According to the latest Office Depot Small Business Index, 66 percent of small business owners find it difficult, at least sometimes, to take time off from work during the summer; 76 percent will stay connected to their business in some way even if they do take time off.  Vacations are actually a very important part of your success as a business owner. Long periods of work without one leads to reduced productivity, diminished creativity and strained relationships–none of which is good for you or your business.

For certain kinds of small ventures–for instance, a bicycle repair shop or a bakery–it sometimes makes the most sense to just close up shop and have your staff plan to take their vacations at the same time you do. But if that’s not possible, here are five strategies that will help you to disengage and enjoy a vacation this summer (and any other time you need one).


Small business owners often find it hard to cede control but the only way you’ll be able to take a vacation is to delegate–not just dumping tasks on people but giving them the authority to do what’s needed while you’re gone. Choose one or a few people to run things while you’re away and clearly outline their areas of responsibility. Communication is key; let them know what is expected of them in their role as manager of that area.  Make a list of important procedures and information they need to know to keep the business operating well while you are away. Keep in mind that allowing your management team to think for themselves–and yes, possibly make some mistakes–is good for them. It shows you trust them and gives them a chance to develop leadership skills.

Define what is really an emergency.

Discuss and write down under what circumstances you want your second-in-commands to contact you while you’re on vacation. Perhaps you want to be contacted if a particular client calls or it could be that unless there’s a natural disaster like a fire, flood or earthquake, you don’t want to know about it.

Give it a trial run.

It’s a good idea to practice having your managers run the show without you there, at least a few times, before you leave for vacation. The next day do a quick debrief–giving your staff time to ask questions or raise any concerns.

Decide how connected you’ll be.

You’ll probably be able to enjoy your vacation more if you are at least somewhat connected to the office, but you want to confine those times so you feel you’re getting a break from work and actually on vacation. Pick a set time — perhaps at the beginning and end of the day–to do a quick email check and, if you must, a daily, ten-minute check-in call with your lieutenants to reassure yourself the ship is indeed still sailing. Be very clear with staff what the protocol for problem solving is while you’re away, including the chain of command they should access–with you being the last resort.

Let go.

Don’t try to micromanage from afar, that just undermines your staff, and if you can’t trust your employees to run things in your absence you probably have the wrong employees. Micromanagement also undermines your ability to truly enjoy the vacation–you won’t come back feeling refreshed or reenergized if you spent your vacation mostly managing your business from afar.