Back before we owned our own eCommerce business, there was a time when I had earned 4 weeks of paid vacation per year. I was able to take the time off and really relax. Though it was always difficult in the software sales business to do that the first day of vacation, by about the 3rd day, all those "pending deals" were a distant memory. My wife and I were able to spend 2 weeks and not really engage in real work. Cell phone connections were sketchy, no email to check every hour, no text messaging, internet connections were hard to come by, etc. And this was the in the mid-90's. Boy, does that seem like a lifetime or two ago!
Between development projects (summer 2007), horrible economic downturns (all of 2008), and keeping your staff lean until you are comfortable the economy is not tanking further (summer 2009), we really had not taken a vacation trip for more than a few days since 2006. I suspect many fellow eCommerce business owners have been a little "short" on vacation time in recent years as well.
2010 has been a good year, and we finally took a real vacation again. We just returned from a 10 day vacation in Kauai. See a few Kauai Pictures Here. I can't begin to tell you how refreshing and recharging it was for both of us.
We really did relax this year. Kauai makes that easy since we were very remote, 4 hours behind our normal time zone, and its so beautiful with plenty of things to do. We came back refreshed and recharged. If it wasn't for the 10 days worth of backlog in my email etc, it could not have been better. But, we also set ourselves up to "succeed" this vacation by planning ahead.
Here's a few recommendations on how to make sure you get some real R&R. It's really important for both you and your employees to get away from the daily routines. You don't have to travel to Kauai, just get away physically from your normal environment for a set period of time (more than a long weekend is recommended).
Besides planning your vacation details, make plans for your business while you are gone. Review the activities you are usually involved in and do things before you go. Approve/pay your bills for a couple of weeks. Adjust your PPC campaigns to a level you can feel comfortable with even if some keywords run a muck or your conversion costs go up a bit. Work with your staff to set up which promotions you'll be doing, who's going to deal with what types of issues. Place supplier orders a little in advance. Make sure your staff knows what they are expected and authorized to do in your absence.
If you do not have employees to back you up, set proper expectations on your website. Tell people you are on vacation and what they might expect for a response to questions or orders. We used to do that before we had employees. We'd see the business drop off for the first part of our vacation, but slowly pick back up as the day approached when we told customers we would be resuming shipments.
Really, you need to get away from your business physically, then you can begin to get away mentally. If you have employees, let them know when you are taking time off well in advance so they can be prepared. Empower them to make decisions and only contact you with certain types of questions or decisions.
When you are finally gone, minimize your connections to the business. I won't recommend to anyone that they should just ignore things, that's virtually impossible to do in today's world, but while we were in Kauai, I would take a look at orders and glance at my email while having morning coffee. Then, at the end of our day, I'd login and do the same thing again. I probably only spent about 30 minutes a day making sure things were in working order.
Most important! Your business will be just fine. Find things to do that don't lead you back to thinking about vendors, revenue, projects, etc. Read, play golf, go to the beach with your kids, go to the zoo, eat lavish meals, whatever you do to relax. I played golf a few times, read a couple books, took several hundred pictures, did a boat trip of the Napali Coast, did a ditch float through old irrigation systems, ate some great meals out, and just plain spent time talking with my wife and daughter.
While in Kauai, I actually did post some of my pictures on our blog, DailyBeadBuzz.com and on our Facebook Fan Page. Guess it was technically "work", but it did not feel like it as I was editing and posting pictures for our friends and family anyway. We received some very nice feedback for providing some different content.
Yup, you'll be faced with a pile of "s...." when you come back. Emails, issues, phone calls, you name it. But, if you do it right while you are gone, it really does not seem all that bad! I actually felt pretty caught up within about 3 days. Now, onto the summer project schedule!
Plan for Other Summer Vacations
Not yours! Your employees and customers will be doing the vacation thing too! Take some time and plan for employee vacations too. Coach them through doing some tasks and planning to minimize the impact of their absence. Make sure you understand where they left off on projects and that there is backup for their routine task while they are gone.
Finally, remember that vacations impact your customers buying behaviors also. Every business is different. We see business slow down right about now for a few weeks every year as our customers are out selling their jewelry in the outdoor craft shows and fairs around the country. Then we get the vacation affect in July/August. Suddenly, we get hit massively in late August when they realize they are out of inventory and need to replenish for the fall and winter. Oh, and vacations are finally over for their families too.
Enjoy your summer vacations!