Has your business consumed your life? Are you the victim of a monotonous routine like so many us business owners have become at one point in our lives? Over the years I’ve learned a valuable lesson about this topic, one that can be summed up in just a few words… TAKE A BREAK! Yes, you read that correct, go ahead and read it again if you’d like. The fact is, if you don’t take a break, you’re liable to hit the proverbial “wall” at some point, and you wouldn’t want that to happen at the wrong time, that’s for sure.
According to a Discover Small Business Watch survey, about 31% of entrepreneurs work at least 10 hours a day, and 15% work every day of the week. The poll also found that 59% of respondents define a day off as being available for calls and emails, or working at least part of the day. That’s just madness!
It happens to the best of us
I’ve had first hand experience with this years ago while building my first retail business. Day after day of the same routine, walking customers through the same sales pitch over and over again. I had some great days when everything seemed to go amazing, and then there were the days that just wouldn’t play out the way I wanted, or needed for that matter. The cyclical-like pattern started to annoy me; and not that I expected every day to be a great day, but there was more of the not-so-good days than I was willing to cope with. Something had to change, and quickly.
During this time in my life, there were just a few people, that I knew personally, that I sincerely looked up to regarding business. The one thing that seemed to be a similar trait for all of them was their personalities. They were always so pleasant, and somewhat fun to be around. How could they possibly be happy all the time with all the stress of running a business? I asked that to myself regularly. I think at one point I may have doubted whether I was supposed to be in business since I couldn’t seem to carry myself like they were. So, like my mother always said to me as a child, when you want something, just ask nicely and you’re likely to get what you’re looking for. And that’s exactly what I did. I decided it was time to find out their secret to sanity.
One of these folks owned and operated an Italian pizzaria in town. This place was always busy. You could go there any day of the week and you’d see him behind the counter making pizzas, hundreds of pizzas every day. If that’s not monotonous than I don’t know what is. And yet, he always had the biggest smile, even when you weren’t directly looking at him; that was authentic to me. Something else that always got my attention was his ability to take a few minutes to comfortably talk to people, as if the chaos and stack of order slips behind him didn’t matter. Nobody ever seemed to complain about the wait either; it was as if they just knew that’s how he ran his business, and it was acceptable like that. It was amazing to see. I had to know what he knew that enabled him to be this way, and so I asked nicely.
His first comment to me was, “Do you love what you’re doing Frank?” I didn’t know how to answer that since I was obviously not real happy all the time. “Initially I enjoyed every aspect of my business, but then it seemed to take over my life” I replied. He just nodded his head and said, “If you want to be successful, you have to run your business, it can’t run you. When you get up in the morning, you need to know that you’re calling the shots, you’re in charge, and everything else comes after that.” He then followed with, “It’s pretty simple, when you give your best everyday, your customers will see and appreciate your commitment; they’ll know you’re doing everything you can to make sure they are happy with what you are doing for them. When you’re stressed, and you’re business is running you, your customers will know something is wrong and they’ll know they’re not receiving the best you have; which will inevitably lead to unhappy customers and more aggravation for you.” He said, “When I am starting to feel even the slightest bit of stress, I know it’s time for a recharge. There’s a lot of things I love to do in addition to making pizza, so when I feel the need to get away, I do, and I can do that because I run my business, it doesn’t run me.” “But how can you afford to get away from your business, aren’t you afraid of what can happen while you’re gone?” I asked. He immediately responded with, “How can I afford not to do that? That’s the way I look at it. If I don’t invest some of my time, and maybe even some money, into me, than how can I count on myself to continue to run my business the way I expect to? Every business owner has limitations; it’s only those of us who can identify them that can make better choices regarding how we run our businesses. If I asked you to give me a few days of your time and maybe a small fee, nothing too substantial, and in return I will guarantee that your business will improve and you will become a better business owner because of it, would you do it?” Of course I said yes to that, and then he simply added, “That’s what taking a break is all about. You make the decision to get away for a few days to recharge, and your business will essentially thank you when you return with a new head on your shoulders. You will significantly decrease the chances of not offering your best to your customers.”
I decided to make the change. I was ready to become a better business owner. And let’s be honest, now that I knew a few days away could be justified as an investment into my business, I didn’t feel so guilty about it.
So, how do you convince yourself it’s OK to do this?
Here’s the thing that was difficult for me to digest, all my life I heard how much hard work was admired, and how taking breaks was for the weak. This is something I think a lot of people are faced with. It has to do with the generations of prior that came from a much slower moving world, one that didn’t have a technology fast lane like we do now. The pace at which we function today is comparable to the difference in the generations of cars; vehicles from the 1930’s could never have driven as fast as a 2015 model, at least not out of the factory anyways, and they were harder to drive. That said, today’s world presents an over-abundance of stress related factors that business owners are faced with on a regular basis. Just 10 years ago you could still rely on simple marketing and advertising as a solution to draw in new business. Nowadays, most of your highest quality marketing will come from your very own fingertips, or you’re going to have to pay a premium to have someone else do it for you if you want your marketing to be effective. And that takes up time, valuable time that you could probably be dedicating to something more productive, or at least that’s what it feels like when you’re sitting in front of your computer and wondering what you’ll post today. If you’re stress levels are running high, it’s likely that you’ll end up pushing several things off until later, which eventually becomes never. Then you’re faced with this overwhelming feeling that nothing ever gets done, and that attitude gets conveyed into every other project thereafter. So if all of this makes sense to you, you should now have enough reason to be OK with taking a break. It’s time to recharge.
We recommend keeping a journal so you can keep track of the daily activities you regularly perform in your business. This will prove to be beneficial in the event you’re able to trust someone to operate your business while you’re away. It will serve as a guide for them to follow. Before you take your break, address all the immediate tasks that need to be taken care of. This will give you a bit of breathing room so you aren’t handing someone else a mess to clean up as you take your leave. You may want to contact your most important customers to let them know that you will not be available for however long you’ve decided as well. Inform your stand-in of these customers to be sure they continue to receive special attention. Finally, plan for something you know will occupy your mind. Do something you love to do. When you return, immediately plan for your next break so you have something to look forward to. Over time, this will become a part of your culture, and everyone around you will want to know how you do it. Good luck on your journey as a recharged entrepreneur!
Frank Sepko is the founder and managing director of Northeast Sales Partners, LLC., a business, marketing, and sales consultancy located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. For more information, or to connect with Frank, please visit www.northeastsalespartners.com.