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Owners: Please Go On Vacation—Your Company Will Thank You For It


Owners: Please Go On Vacation—Your Company Will Thank You For It

One remodeler’s perspective on how taking time away from your company benefits your business

By Dave Pollard June 16, 2023
Remodeling business owners should take vacations
Photo: Song_about_summer | stock.adobe.com

It’s that time of year: school is out. Friends and family head to the beach, mountains, or on that cross-country road trip. For you, vacation sounds great, but not for your business.

From one business leader to another: Take the vacation.

Why Not?

It often feels like there are so many reasons not to take time away: What if you leave and your year fails because of it? What if clients get angry that you’re enjoying vacation while their home is torn apart? What if your employees are jealous and don’t perform because they want to be at the beach also?

I’m here to tell you that temporarily stepping away from your company, and even going off the grid, isn’t an act of abandonment or exceptional privilege—it’s a valuable personal exercise and an even more valuable exercise for your company’s growth.

Many large companies offer employees sabbaticals. McDonald’s and Microsoft both give their employees eight weeks paid time off after 10 years of tenure. These companies see the benefit to the business and the employees, building it into their systems, processes, and overall model.

Small business owners, at the very least, should be able to take this benefit without feeling guilty—as long as the correct culture and processes are in place.

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Operational Stress Test

In a lot of small businesses, to-dos get done, but no one really knows how. Often it’s the owner filling in the gaps and helping scrape a project by just in time and just on budget.

This is not a recipe for consistency, scalability, or even happiness for that matter.

Your vacation will be a stress test that will expose the holes you were silently filling. Be honest with yourself and your team and have them track those things that aren’t getting done but used to when you were there.

Use the opportunity to assign those items to your team and let them own it. Often they will solve it with a simple process that is part of their job. You, the owner, may have made it more difficult by slapping on a band-aid and moving on.

Reinforce Trust and Respect

Like a trust fall, your temporary removal from day-to-day operations will put your money where your mouth is in terms of trusting your team.

Before you head off, take time to talk to your team and plan it out. Let them lead the planning while you ask questions, identify holes, and, ultimately, trust them to build their roles and responsibilities in your absence. Some of these might be temporary, but some may stick and be the right shifts for your business in the long term.

Impetus for Change

Companies are always evolving, whether they know it or not. Markets, geographies, and services change, employees come and go. But all of these changes can happen faster than the organization itself can evolve.

Often we lag in shifting roles, delegating tasks, or formalizing processes. An owner vacation forces the operation to get up to speed solely on the fundamental need to survive. For example, if you have been thinking about offloading payroll from your weekly to-do list, going on vacation is the perfect time to put that change in place so that your team can get paid while you are gone.

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An Example

A colleague of mine, Dan Zimmerman, co-owner of Charlottesville, Va.-based design-build firm Alloy Workshop, took a seven-week sabbatical last year. Asked about the experience a year later, Zimmerman said, “I came back with a clearer vision into my role in the company. I came back ready for another five years. I didn’t realize how much I needed to do it.”

Zimmerman told his team about his planned trip about six months before and went to planning with his team, ultimately front loading the design pipeline so that production could take over and the design team wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Some operational changes shifted to different departments and onto Zimmerman’s business partner Zach Snider. Upon Zimmerman’s return, many of these changes were for the better, and remained shifted.

“I think doing this [sabbatical] allowed Dan to see a potential future that would have been difficult to see without taking that time away,” said Snider.

Reduces the Fear of Failure

In the famous words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

Problem-solving is a major part of any remodeling business, and recognizing that your construction project isn’t a mission to the moon, but a lot of trial, error, learning, and improving, will be reinforced when you empower your team to solve problems.

They will likely have some failures and some successes, but they will be learning, and feel more confident and like a more integral part of the team. Reinforcing that your organization doesn’t punish failure, but instead rewards initiative and innovation, will allow your team to thrive.

Organization Psychologist Adam Grant reinforced this idea in Fast Company when he said, “An organization that’s afraid to grow and evolve is choosing to stagnate and eventually become irrelevant.”

Want to hear more from Dave Pollard? Register today for The Pinnacle Experience to see Pollard speak

In Zimmerman’s case, he described his staff as “more confident and self-assured” upon his return.

In the big picture, the owner gets away, sharpens the saw, and the team steps up to new roles, responsibilities, and ownership. A long leave of absence tests the systems, culture, and entrepreneurial spirit of the entire company.

Well-run small businesses frequently display incredible resiliency through family leave and illnesses. Whether it’s a birth, loss, or other personal issues, the team steps up to keep things moving with an absence. Sometimes these are planned absences, and sometimes there is no notice, but either way, if you have a good team, everyone will want to step up, and they will grow when doing so.

Sometimes called the “hit by a bus” scenario, building team processes and systems so the company can move forward in case you suddenly lose a team member should be part of every small business, and should also include a plan for the owner. But the benefit of testing this during your planned leave is that you get to plan ahead and actually take a relaxing family vacation, and that is way more fun than getting hit by a bus.


Dave Pollard is the principal, co-founder, and creative director of Liv Companies (LivCo), a design-build remodeling company based in Burr Ridge, Ill. He studied Architecture and Building Construction at Virginia Tech and holds a Master of Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. 


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