Setting up a business in Dubai is no doubt an exciting venture that can lead to very good returns. The city is fast moving, with a rapidly evolving market where new brands and innovative services have the ability to become an overnight success.
That said, those first years in particular make up a very hectic period of planning, networking, financing, business development – and endless meetings to keep you running around this very active and intense environment, leaving you all but exhausted at the end of each day.
Given that, how many of you entrepreneurs out there include time off as part of your business plan? Probably not nearly enough of you. And I bet I know the reason: You fear that any time away will have a negative impact on your business. After all, you are needed 24/7 in those first few years, right?
Wrong. And in fact, getting away will actually do your business good. More than that, it is a necessity.
But before addressing this, let’s take a quick look at the state of the working world in many developed countries today by focusing on a recent study out of the UK from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the British government.
We’ll skip to the hard numbers from the study: Working days lost due to stress, depression, and anxiety amounted to 11.3 million in the UK in 2014 – or 39% of all work-related illnesses in the country.
This is a problem throughout the Western world, with stress-related conditions tremendously impacting the workforce. It is also one of the main reasons new business owners struggle so much. They go too hard, this leads to burnout, and the end result is a very negative impact on the business – if the business is even able to survive it.
So yes, holidays are needed, and they are, as I alluded to above, good for your business. And now let’s get to the how on that: A survey in the United Kingdom showed that of 1,000 SME owners, 29% had a ‘Eureka!’ moment while taking a break. Those ‘Eureka!’ moments are often where ideas are born – ideas that lead to the building of better companies.Those ideas are hard to come by when we are bogged down in the day-to-day, too stressed to think about anything beyond the immediate task at hand. Our minds need to at times take a break – to become ’free’ and ‘creative’ enough to drive the proper evolution of the business strategy.
Now that we are all in agreement that vacations are a necessary part of any business strategy, let’s look at my three essential rules for giving ourselves that ‘real’ time off when on holiday.
1. Communicate with your clients in advance: Freelancers in particular need to plan ahead so that their clients’ expectations are managed. A lot of this comes down to simple communication with your clients. You can, for example, tell them well in advance (say two or even three months) when you will be taking holidays. Hey, unless it is a six-month sabbatical, none of your clients are going to fall apart because of your two-week absence. And if you really want to keep your clients happy, do some work in advance of your holiday to cover the period in which you will be away.
2. Fully delegate to your team: “But I am not a freelancer working alone, I have a team,” you say. Well, that is even better. As hard as it is for many first-time business owners to get used to, delegating is the best medicine when it comes to finding your work-life balance. And let us not forget that you made those hires for a reason: You need a team to get the work done. So let them do it. Make it clear who is in charge of what – meaning full accountability – and work with them to identify all potential issues or challenges that could arise in your absence and how each would be handled.
3. Set rules: You said this was a holiday, and so you’ll need to set some rules to ensure it actually turns into one. Yes, this is mainly about you and your communication devices. Laptops on the beach? Not allowed. Smartphones on your hip 24/7? Not allowed. Now of course we have to be reasonable. I know next to no business owners who fully detach, so realistically you are going to have to allow yourself the right to check in with the office every now and then. Just make sure it is on your terms. For example, set timeframe rules that let your team back home know what window of time you are going to be available each day for a chat or to respond to emails – and keep that window short. Ideally, if time zones allow it, do this first thing in the morning for 30 or so minutes, then again take another 30 minutes in the evening just before you go out. As hard as it may be for you to stick to the rules you set, this is perhaps the single most important thing you need to do in order to give yourself a real holiday. And for the truly brave, leave those communication devices behind.
Don’t live to work
It is particularly easy for entrepreneurs to live to work – to commit their entire waking lives to building that business and making it a success at all cost. If you are that type of person, it is important to make the distinction between ‘hard work‘ and ‘working too hard.‘
That’s because the latter is more often than not a hindrance to your overall performance, and that means the overall performance of your company. The most effective business minds and leaders work with a fairly clear (or ‘relaxed’ or ‘open’) mind, because that is how the decisions that lead to top and bottom line growth are made. The only way to do this, however, is to make sure your mind is properly getting away from it all whenever it needs to.
Neil Petch; Chairman at Virtugroup
With a history of business successes, Neil Petch is well known in the UAE and beyond as a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others establish and grow their own businesses. Neil founded Virtuzone in 2009 and quickly brought the company to profitability before launching Virtugroup, a holding company that has a wider mandate of supporting startups from formation through to successful market entry and beyond.