SMB OWNERS––channel pros included––often fail to take time off to refresh and recharge. But spending quality time with family, decompressing after a stressful period, or investing energy in a passion unrelated to your work are not only healthy breaks, but can make you more effective at your job. Channel business owners, experts say, can and should carve out downtime for themselves and encourage their staff to do the same.
Workflow and backlog are the main reasons channel pros don’t take time off, according to Karl Palachuk, owner of Small Biz Thoughts, an MSP-focused training firm based in Sacramento, Calif., and author of Relax Focus Succeed: Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives and Be More Successful in Both. “We are in an industry with a never-ending flow of work,” Palachuk explains. Unless channel pros can gain perspective into the backlog, they’re likely to remain at the office.
“That’s where tools like a good PSA come into play, because you can put time estimates on every single ticket and then add them up, and there you have your backlog,” Palachuk says. This information, when combined with data on bill-ability and availability of technicians, can help define what an acceptable backlog is for your organization, and thus help you get away with a clear conscience.
You need to get away in order to alleviate some of that stress, or else you’re just not going to be productive when you get back to your office.—EVAN STEIN, PRESIDENT, CMIT SOLUTIONS OF WALL STREET AND GRAND CENTRAL
Having a solid staff of individuals who are authorized to make decisions when you’re not around is also key, according to Evan Stein, president of CMIT Solutions of Wall Street and Grand Central, an MSP and IT services provider based in New York. In addition to well-documented processes and procedures, competent, empowered staff enable Stein to take time off. With documentation in place, employees have the information they need to respond to issues as they arise. Admittedly, he says, getting to this point was “probably a 10-year effort,” but “you’ve got to find people that you can trust.”
While it’s important for the boss to get away, employees, too, need to be reminded to take vacation time. Palachuk suggests applying cultural practices, such as mandatory lunch hours (for staff and owner alike), where people may remain at their desks if they want, but aren’t allowed to work. Little things like this, he says, help employees understand that leadership values downtime.
Stein urges fellow channel pros to book time off consistently throughout the year, rather than cramming vacation time into a couple of weeks during the summer. “Being a small business owner is stressful, and most of that stress is usually around cash flow and making sure that our clients are happy,” he says. “You need to get away in order to alleviate some of that stress, or else you’re just not going to be productive when you get back to your office.”