Owning Your Own Business…and Trying to Take a Vacation

Let’s face it: after being ingrained in the nine-to-five grind five days per week, fifty weeks per year, it’s hard for anyone who has regular work responsibilities to truly get into “vacation mode.” Typically, you finally feel like you’re starting to unwind the day before your vacation ends. Owning a small business is stressful–sometimes VERY stressful. If you are a small business owner, you know it’s not easy to a) find the time for a vacation, and b) actually take, and fully enjoy, one. Just like everyone else, we small business owners need time away to recharge, experience quality family time, and just cut loose. But after the hard work establishing and maintaining a business, it’s difficult to break the habit of reaching for the iPhone, just wanting to take a peek at emails to make sure everything is alright back at the office.

When there was only one set of footprints, that was me running away.

When there was only one set of footprints, that was me running away.

So how do we do it? What is the way to “responsibly vacation” when you own your own business? Is there such a thing? After years at the helm, I am still trying to figure that out. Here are a couple of observations from my recent family trip, and a couple of ideas on how I hope to improve my approach when taking the next one.

Observation one: I am a worry wart, and a bit of a control freak, so I’ve allowed technology to sabotage my relaxation with nagging thoughts like “dare I look at my email?” “Should I check in?” “Am I a bad business owner and employer if I don’t look?”

I am fortunate to have a wonderful staff that is more than capable of handling things while I am away, yet I often insert myself into work situations by giving in and picking up the phone, checking emails, etc.

Idea one: Go somewhere where there is no cell service, completely isolated from the evil internet, allowing me to avoid falling into my own trap of insertion. Or use a second phone, without email set up, to which only the people who really need to reach me (family, one emergency contact at the office) have the number. And leave the work phone at home.

Observation two: I like to cross things off my list. Additionally, I don’t like the idea that a task is waiting on me for its completion. If you’re like me, you understand how it creates anxiety about returning to the office. Before you even leave for vacation, you’re already thinking of the things that won’t get done until you return.

Idea two: Plan vacation time around the pivotal points on current projects. Avoid sending out any invoices, estimates, or communications that may vie for for your attention while you’re away. Do your best to find a time to vacation that gives you a little break before and after your travel days.

Like I said, I am still learning how to have a guilt-free vacation. Next vacation, I’ll try my new ideas, track my progress, and keep you posted–but I’ll try not to dwell on it too much until I’m back in the office.

Attack of the Twelve-Pound Catalog

"Here's your hernia, ma'am."

“Here’s your hernia, ma’am.”

Anyone who has proclaimed print media “dead” must not be on the Restoration Hardware mailing list. If that’s the case, thank you. You’ve done your part for preserving both trees AND the overworked spines of UPS drivers across the country.

In May, at Vellum’s offices, we received a plastic-wrapped bundle of Restoration Hardware catalogs weighing seventeen pounds. SEVENTEEN POUNDS. Next month, at our homes, we received another bundle, but this one was a slimmed-down, eleven-to-twelve-pound, “fun size” version (you know, for households).

A local UPS driver, while catching his breath, told us that each driver, on average, delivers two hundred of these catalogs; and, while it can lead to some tasty overtime, it has put a temporary strain on his family life. According to this particular employee, UPS will have delivered 4.2 million of these catalogs by the time they’re finished.

While these catalog bundles (or “source books,” as Restoration Hardware calls them) make for great step stools and bludgeons, many consider them to be a space-hogging nuisance that, despite being made of some recycled paper, is also an unprecedented waste of resources. At Vellum, we frequently receive several redundant copies of catalogs (Crate & Barrel, I’m looking at you). But, unlike catalogs from Restoration Hardware, their combined weight coudn’t flatten a typical house pet.

Redundant Catalogs from Just Two Days in November

Redundant Catalogs from Just Two Days in November

The target audience for these RH catalogs seems to be “anyone who has ever ordered anything from us—or current resident.” I, for example, haven’t ordered anything from Restoration Hardware for at least three years, and I believe it was a few pencil holders when I did. Surely, the profit that RH garnered from said pencil holders pales in comparison to the production, and delivery, costs of their new source books.

Media outlets such as CBS This Morning and The Boston Globe have called attention to the behemoth books and the ensuing consumer woes, but these are solitary voices that were quickly lost in the crowded media landscape. In a brilliant public relations move, Restoration Hardware has long ago stopped using its Twitter feed, and it lacks an official Facebook page altogether; therefore, there is no central location at which consumers can meet to complain in unison. This could be one of the reasons that there hasn’t been a more centralized backlash.

According to fool.com, Restoration Hardware’s strategy started in 2011 when they sent out a large, three-pound catalog, which was met with consumer outcry…and then extremely high sales numbers. In 2013, the catalog weight doubled to six pounds, which again irked many consumers—yet, again, increased sales figures for the retailer. If the 2014 bundle leads to further increased sales, expect a delivery in 2015 weighing somewhere around two hundred and eleven pounds, give or take. Find a good chiropractor now. In fact, maybe your UPS driver can recommend one.