I never thought I could go a week without email, until I finally did.
I started my business 15 years ago, when I was a senior in college. Of course I’ve taken many vacations over the years, including personal trips, long weekends, an 18-day honeymoon back in 2006, and more.
But this past January was my first “real” vacation since I started the business. Here’s why.
In 2000, while a Senior at Yeshiva University, I started Tabush Group – originally as a general IT Service/break-fix company, and since 2010 we’ve changed to focus on Managed Infrastructure and Cloud Services. Despite the change, the bottom line is that we still are the “IT guys” for approximately 100 companies and are responsible for maintaining thousands of servers, desktops, and network devices.
IT is different from other service-industries in that emergencies are part of the deal. There’s no “closing the office for a week” or telling a client “Let’s work on the issue next Tuesday”. Our clients rely on us to be available pretty much 24×7.
Like all entrepreneurs, I was always mentally “at work,” regardless of where or when. Before 2003, I would check email remotely via VPN, terminal server, and even a dial-up modem (remember those?). As we all know, Blackberries, smartphones, wifi, and international roaming this just fuelled our “always connected” habit.
Taking time off is important to everyone. We all need a break from work and our day-to-day lives to enjoy time with friends and family, see new places, experience new things, and recharge. After all, isn’t that the reason we work and save money, so we can enjoy it? I’d go through the work of planning a vacation, spend the money on flights and hotels, set my Out of Office auto-reply, and button up whatever I could in the office.
But I would of course constantly be checking in on the business from my hotel room, the pool or beach. What’s worse, I started to realise that being hundreds or thousands of miles away only amplified my anxiety over any issue going on at the office. I would immediately start firing off directives to my (very capable and seasoned) team, only to ruin the rest of my day worrying about the molehill that I was making into a mountain. Sound familiar?
So, this past January, as my family and I packed for a week-long vacation to Mexico, I announced that I was not going to look at email for the entire week. Most of my management team has been with me for 5+ years, I couldn’t imagine what could possibly happen during my vacation that they couldn’t handle. At the same time, I figured that if something really does go wrong that would have required my involvement and couldn’t wait a week, then I have bigger things to worry about and probably deserve the outcome.
The night before we left (Wednesday), I set my (very brief) out-of-office message, asking people to contact the office for any emergencies and turned off email on my iPhone. Eight days later, we returned home from warm and sunny Mexico to bitter cold Brooklyn. It wasn’t until the next morning (Friday) when I got to the office, after I said hi to everyone, got my coffee, cleaned my desk, and jotted down some to-do’s, that I opened Outlook to go through my email. It was the first time since I started my business that I went eight days without touching email.
And do you know what happened while I was gone? A lot, actually… we landed a new client, dealt with hundreds of support tickets including one semi-outage, got a few leads, did proposals, etc… In other words, it was a very typical week at Tabush Group, and everything went just fine. Without me.
To be honest, of course I thought about work while I was away; for something I’ve poured my heart and soul into for the last 15 years, it’s impossible not to. I had a bunch of ideas pop into my head, which I put into Evernote, and I had a few concerns on different projects we’re working on, but I resisted email. My partner and assistant both knew they could call me if they absolutely had to, but they never did.
Why am I so proud of this? Firstly, because it proved to me that the business can run day-to-day without me.
As a business owner, it gives me the confidence that I really can work ‘on’ the business, not ‘in’ the business (Michael Gerber’s ‘The E-Myth Revisited’ is big on this), and I’ve been doing just that, focusing most of my time and energy on Boxtop, our newest offering. Secondly, it gave my team a chance to shine and prove themselves to me, which I’m sure all the HR consultants out there would agree is good for their morale.
Finally, it made me enjoy my vacation so much more than I ever had in the past (of course my wife and kids, the great weather, and hotel bartenders all played a roll in this). I really was on vacation, and came back to the office energised, recharged, chock full of ideas, and ready to rock and roll. And isn’t that what vacation is all about?
For over 15 years Morris Tabush been involved in IT Project Management, consulting, business process analysis, product design, and systems support. He is the founder of the Tabush Group and a member of EONYC.
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