Talking Business

Marvin Carolina Jr.: Time off is time well spent


I talked in another article about why it’s important for small-business owners to get plenty of rest, and I began that article by saying, “Stop working nights and weekends.” Studies and time-management experts agree this is good advice, but staying away from your business on nights and weekends is not enough. You also need a vacation.

I was a small-business owner, so I know how it feels to get so overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities you feel like you’ve lost control of your business. I learned that to formulate a plan to regain control, I had to be able to think clearly. And to think clearly, I had to have a well-rested mind.

If you’re like I was, when you get tired — even though you know you need a vacation — you convince yourself you can’t afford to take a vacation because you have so much to do. I’ve learned this from experience: When you’re tired, you can’t afford not to.

What’s the big deal?

In his book “The Laws of Lifetime Growth,” Dan Sullivan disputes the ideas that entrepreneurs and small-business owners should work long hours and that they are too busy to take a vacation. According to him, those ideas hurt their performance and keep them exhausted, stuck and earning a fraction of what they could earn. For entrepreneurs and small-business owners to be as creative, energetic and focused as possible, he says, they must take time off.

Business is built on creativity and sound judgment, and it’s no secret you need plenty of uninterrupted quiet time to tap into your creativity and make wise business decisions. Getting away provides this time. In addition, it allows you to recharge your battery, reflect on how your business is performing and refine your business strategy.

Even though there’s a mountain of evidence proving that time off is necessary for you to operate at your best, if you have no plans of vacationing, you’re not alone: According to OnDeck, a small-business lender that polled 200 small-business owners from a variety of industries, 43% of them said they had no plans of taking a vacation.

Are you setting a good example?

When you take a vacation, take a vacation! The time you have to reflect on your business — looking at the big picture — will get compromised if you focus, instead, on fixing the latest problem. But most vacationing small-business owners allow their time to get compromised: According to OnDeck, 67% of them call the office at least once a day. Only 15% of them disconnect from the office completely.

Vacation time is meant to give you a much-needed break, so that’s what you should use it for. In addition, since you set the tone for your business, if you’re calling the office while you’re on vacation, what message are you sending to your employees? You’re saying when they’re on vacation, you expect them to make themselves available for calls from the office.


Here’s what frustrates me more than anything else about small-business owners: They intentionally do things they know are wrong! Sometimes it’s because what they’ve done has worked, so they don’t think it’s necessary to change, but often it’s simply because they’re too tired to invest the time and energy to do what they know they should do.

I’m in the airport a lot, and every now and then I see a tired couple with kids. Their kids are running wild in the airport and riding on the baggage-claim belt, but their parents’ expressions say, “We don’t have the energy to make them sit still. As long as they don’t hurt themselves or anyone else, they’re OK.” These parents know they shouldn’t allow their kids to run wild, but they do.

Are you the kind of small-business owner who lets the business run itself? One small-business owner actually said to me, “I’m making payroll, and the business is making money. So things are OK.” He’s wrong. Running a business by letting the business run you is not OK. Businesses left to run themselves are grossly inefficient and ineffective.


I talked in another article about the importance of giving your business a periodic checkup to ensure it’s operating as effectively and efficiently as possible, and while your business checkup and personal checkup are both important, give yourself a personal checkup first. That way, you’ll have the energy to conduct a thorough business checkup.

Even if you work only eight hours a day and steer clear of the office on nights and weekends, at some point you’ll get tired. When you do, stop, rest and retool.

According to Scientific American, “downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to … achieve our highest levels of performance.” When you return from vacation, you’ll not only be focused and refreshed, you’ll be happier, and decades of research have proven that a happy worker is more productive than an unhappy one — 31% more productive.

Marvin Carolina Jr. is a vice president for JE Dunn Construction. He can be reached at