The hardest thing for owners in small, professional services companies (like optometry) to do is take a break. After all, if you’re a solo-OD, you are THE revenue producer. When you’re not there, the practice isn’t seeing patients, except to dispense glasses. And the bigger your practice is – or the faster it’s growing – the harder it seems to go away.
But often, getting away is the most important thing you CAN do for your practice. Just like parents need to get away from their kids every once in a while, you need time away from your practice. Here’s why you need two consecutive weeks away from your practice, every year or two.
Because you need to decompress BEFORE you can rest
My pastor once told me that pastors MUST take two consecutive weeks of vacation. The first week, he said, was spent decompressing from carrying the burdens of a congregation on the minister’s shoulders. The second week was when rest actually happened.
As a small business owner, you have the weight of caring for your patients as well. You bear the weight of providing income and opportunities for your staff. And you’re constantly adapting to an ever-changing market. Everything is on you.
To maintain your sanity, you need rest once or twice a year. If you have a family, they need to rest with you once or twice a year. To be your best, an extended time away is just the ticket.
Because you need to get perspective and new ideas
My dad owned several businesses over several decades. Every time he returned from a vacation, he’d have a great new idea on how to improve the business: a new marketing message, a new product, or an internal process or culture change.
Sometimes you get so locked into the day-to-day business – a staff member called out, patients are complaining, a claim got denied – that making a bunch of $1,000 decisions gets in the way of making the decision that will be worth $100,000 in new revenue. Going on vacation gives you space to reflect on how things are going and some time to plan what’s next.
Because your team needs testing to earn your trust
Your practice – your staff, really – need the chance to show that they can survive, even thrive, when you aren’t there, just like your kids got to do the first time you left them alone. Consider what could happen when you go away for five to ten working days…
The practice could run better without you. No, really. It could. Many businesses do run better without their owner ‘blowing things up’ all the time. Now you might have a mandate to get away!
The practice could be just fine. What a relief. You can leave and the office won’t burn to the ground.
Something could go wrong. I hear you. Wasn’t it obvious that without your leadership things would fall apart?
Here’s the thing. If you DON’T go away, you’ll never know which of these things happens. And let’s say something does go wrong (you knew it would, after all). Did you know exactly WHAT would go wrong? Now that you do, focus on improving that area of your practice. An owner’s vacation is a stress test to see where your team needs to grow.
Because you need to be in control of your time
Owners own because they first want to be their own boss. They also want to earn more than they can working for someone else and have an asset they can sell when they retire. But the first, and most important skill you need to learn once you’re the boss, is to control your time. Forcing yourself away from the practice proves to you and the practice that it works for you, not the other way around.
So, take a vacation. Take it for your sanity and happiness. Take it for your staff and their growth. Take it for your family. Take the plunge and take a two-week vacation for your own personal flourishing and your practice’s continued success.
Please Note: OM Editorial Director to Appear on the Power Hour Tonight
Jim Thomas, Editorial Director of Optometric Management, joins Gary Gerber, OD, to discuss topics, trends and a few of his favorite articles.
Join the conversation between Gary Gerber and Jim Thomas on Power Hour tonight, Wednesday, July 17 at 9 PM EST.
Nathan Hayes is the Practice Finance Consultant for IDOC. He is a 10-year veteran of the eyecare industry, working at HMI Buying Group and Red Tray, Prima Eye Group from its inception and now IDOC. In his current role, Nathan helps OD practice owners manage their overhead, grow practice revenues and profits, and maximize their personal income, free time, and professional satisfaction. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.