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Small Business Lessons Learned From A Family Vacation

Taking time off is great. It’s even better when it’s a vacation with family. But as small business owners, just because we’re physically away from the office, it doesn’t mean that we’re ever completely away. It comes with the territory of running your own business. The closest thing that you can relate it to, is being a parent. Just because you’re taking some time for a vacation away from the kids, you’re still thinking about them, you’re still worried about them, and you’re still trying to do your best to be a parent while you’re gone.

One of my father’s friends used to say about being a business owner, “You’re always on holiday, you’re never on holiday’. It means that as a business owner, you don’t have anyone telling you that you can’t take a day off, or you can’t have that 5 hour lunch with 10 adult beverages of your choice. It also means that even though you might be physically away, there’s a part of you that will be mentally and emotionally still working. It means that unlike people who are in the employ of others, or who are even self employed, you’re still likely thinking about work, stressing about salaries, and worried if clients and projects are properly taken care of.

You’re always on holiday, you’re never on holiday

I was recently away for a month with my wife and daughter. We went to Taiwan where my wife is from, so that my wife could spend some much-needed time with her parents; and so that our daughter could meet and spend time with her grandparents. But with projects ongoing, I still needed to be accessible to my team and my clients. With potential clients in the pipeline, I still needed to be able to connect and nurture those potential clients. So, I thought I’d share some of the lessons I learned from this trip.


When I was young, we had another family friend that was a business owner who was running a very successful business. We all went away one time on a cruise, and I remember that even when we were all out basking in the Caribbean sun having lunch, he was there, but still going through files. I remember that he’d walk away throughout the day to go to the business room to send a fax (yes, we were using faxes back then. Lol), or go wait for one. My father said that this was the life of a business owner.

Communications these days are a lot more accessible. So long as you have access to the internet, you can email, use chat apps, and even video call. And while this can make you physically present, you might as well not be, if you’re going to be buried in your phone and/or laptop. Put down the devices and spend the time with your family. You deserve it, and so do they. Of course, there are times when things are going sideways and you need to put out fires, but as much as you can. Be present for your family. This precious time with them is time that you’re not going to get back and they’re memories that you are forging together.


With the aforementioned being placed in a high priority, my wife and I discussed different ways that I could carve out time for me to get some work done. Of course, I overestimated and ended up overextending myself. During the winters, Taiwan has a 13-hour time difference with Toronto. I figured if I could get a couple of hours in, bright and early in the morning, and then a couple of hours after they went to bed, that I could work the first few hours of ‘office hours’ in Toronto and the last few ‘office hours’. I figured that I could work from 5AM-7AM in Taiwan (4PM-6PM), and 9PM-11PM in Taiwan (8AM-10AM).

What I hadn’t accounted for was how much being out and about would be tiring me out. So by the time they went to bed and I started working again, to be quite honest, I wasn’t being particularly effective. And while it was ok for taking a few meetings here and there, the rest of the stuff, was more like staring at a screen. Another thing that made this not work, was that I hadn’t considered the time necessary to settle in and start focusing. Essentially, if you’re sitting down from a break, the average person needs at least 10 minutes to get back into focus mode. And if you’re tired, then that time gets extended.

So what we ended up doing, was setting time in the morning. I worked from 5:30AM-7:00, took a break to have breakfast with my family. My wife would take my daughter out a bit so that I could continue working; from about 8:30-10:30. This proved to be a lot more effective as I was more alert and awake, and it didn’t take me near as long to settle back in and get some of that work done.


Whether you’ve got a thousand employees on your team, or just a business partner. You brought these people to your team for a reason. Trust in them. Have faith that things are going to be done. This goes back to what we keep talking about at Koyoti when we say that Branding happens at every point of contact. If your team shares your brand’s core values and shares your brand’s vision, trust that they are representing the brand to the best of their abilities. Of course we need to check in on them occasionally, trust that the next team meeting is going to have a positive result. There are also additional benefits. If they perform well while you’re away, you also know that they can likely handle more. You’ll be able to save yourself MORE time moving forward by delegating more to them.


We should always be working on this anyway, but be clear with both your family, your clients, and your team what to expect from you. These expectations might need to change, and be clear with them at that point also. Let them know when you’ll be checking messages and when you’ll be responding. This allows for everyone to have a realistic expectation so that they don't need to fret about having their questions/concerns heard.

Let your family know what hours you’re going to be working. If something does come up during the middle of the day, let your family know what it is you need to handle, how long it’s going to take, and work with them as to what adjustments you can make as a family so that you don’t lose out on that precious time with them.


Short of cutting your trip short, there’s not likely a lot that you can do while you’re away to put out fires anyway. There are going to be some things that you just aren’t going to be able to handle while you’re away, or at least, not handle very effectively. Make a list of all those things that are probably better to handle when you get back and tackle them then. Not while you’re away.


At the end of the day, taking a vacation and spending quality time with your family is absolutely necessary. Not only do we, as business owners need to find a way to destress, unwind, and relax, but quality time with family is the reason you’re taking this much needed holiday. Enjoy it. What about you? When's the last time you had a vacation away from the business? Are there any tips you can share?


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