Sometimes It’s Good to Take a Break
Vacations Can Do You and Your Business a Lot of Good
by Adam Pratt, Game Grid Arcade & ArcadeHeroes.com
There are many advantages to becoming your own boss, but it’s not exactly a utopian gravy train. The cons are plentiful, too, as you have to manage people (staff and customers), cash flow, repairs, bills, taxes, marketing and more. Granted, in larger companies, many of those roles will be given to specific people to handle, but no matter what, any position of authority comes with plenty of daily stress.
We’ve all read headlines that talk about the positives or negatives of stress. To be honest, I find it difficult to stay still for very long so I’m used to working on something and it feels strange if everything is “done.” But while it might only be a minor stress that’s hanging out in the back of my mind, it is almost always there.
That said, negative stress in particular should be dealt with. I’ve known people whose health deteriorated due to too much work-related stress that built up until it became almost lethal. While working for our daily bread is an essential part of life, so is balance. Enter the vacation, a chance to clear your head, recharge your batteries and return to your business refreshed.
Now, I don’t really count visits to tradeshows like IAAPA or Amusement Expo as vacations. They’re “working vacations” at best. My feet certainly don’t feel like they vacationed after walking a show floor all day long, and my brain doesn’t either as it goes into video editing mode while I work to document everything I saw. It’s fun, but not exactly the “get-away-from-it-all” sort of thing that everyone needs at some point.
So what does the busy small business owner do about taking a real vacation? It can be a stressful task in and of itself.
As I contemplated the prospect of going on vacation not long ago, there were phases to it. The gut reaction was: “FINALLY a break!” Then the stressful thoughts of getting everything covered settled in. You also have to figure out where you’re going to go and also make sure that space (hotel or camping) isn’t sold out. That will also include figuring out who is going, how you will get there, when, and how much it will all cost. Then I have to worry about my arcade.
For many, especially route operators, you don’t need to worry about the location itself. It’s more about being on call for whenever there’s an issue with one of the machines on location. (In that instance, informing your locations of when you’re going to be away and ensuring that things are operating normally before you go is part of the process.)
In my case, I need someone trustworthy to take care of my mall arcade during the hours it’s open for the duration of my trip. Before leaving, I need to make sure that anything I can have fixed is taken care of. I also need to make sure bills that would be due while I’m gone are paid, that the security cameras are operating properly and recording, and so on. It doesn’t hurt to let the landlord know that I also will be out of town in case something happens.
When you really break it down, the process feels a little daunting. My advice is to not go it alone. Plan with family or friends, and delegate some of that burden. After all, a good leader is already used to delegating tasks!
If you’re going to be able to recharge and refresh while you’re on your well-earned vacation, it’s important not to be thinking about work while you’re away. I know that can be a tall order. Back when I worked for a distributor, my family and I vacationed in Brazil. It was very difficult to disconnect and not worry about the enormous amount of emails and voicemails I’d have to respond to upon returning. I had to keep reminding myself that this was supposed to be my escape and that I had prepared properly (and having done so, things would work out back at home).
If you can’t disengage mentally, you’ll waste a lot of energy worrying, which just brings the stress back. The same goes for anything that goes wrong on the trip –– vehicle troubles, missed flights or something else. Don’t let those things derail you.
For my most recent vacation, the first major trip we’ve taken since Brazil four years ago (yes, I said four years ago), we took the family to Yellowstone National Park. While it wasn’t exciting from a storytelling perspective, nothing went wrong! We didn’t get to see a lot of the wildlife the park is famous for, but the landforms were beautiful. Overall, it was great to unwind from the business grind and feel truly refreshed.
One caveat though: Too much of a good thing can be a problem –– vacations need to be kept in balance. While we all need a break, too much of a good thing can actually damage your business and professional relationships. Nobody likes that boss who’s regularly jetting around and isn’t connected with the company’s daily challenges. Or worse, the boss who seems to always skip out when the busy season hits. A leader who isn’t around to guide the ship when it’s trying to weather a nasty storm destroys company morale.
Finally, remember that the need for vacation and a chance to recharge also applies to employees, too. The best leaders are those who are able to keep the needs of their team in mind. If you have essential, loyal employees who also haven’t had a vacation in a long time, work with them so they have the opportunity. The better refreshed they are, the better they will perform. That helps you, your business and your bottom line.
If it’s been a while since you took a vacation, get on that as soon as possible. Think of it as applying the “pay yourself first” principle to your mental well-being. It might just be that simple thing you need to move your business to the next level.
Adam Pratt is the owner and operator of the Game Grid arcade near Salt Lake City, Utah. He also publishes the Arcade Heroes blog site and serves as an advisor for the web-based game supplier BMI Worldwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.