Putting the ‘vacate’ in vacation: How small businesses schedule time off

Millions of Americans enjoyed a long Labor Day weekend that many small business owners only dream of.

 

In 2015, 29 percent of small businesses scheduled some workers on holidays, according to Bloomberg BNA. It is likely some of those who worked over Labor Day weekend were the business owners themselves - 57 percent of small business owners did not plan to take a vacation in 2013, according to OnDeck Capital. But a few Lubbock business owners who A-J Media talked with said they do find the time to take time off.

Closing shop

Restaurant owners are often the most apprehensive about taking a vacation. Deciding who to leave in charge or closing while they are out can cause more stress than the vacation is worth.

Richard Sung, whose family owns Seoul Restaurant at 4620 50th St., said they rarely take vacations and are lucky to get out of town once a year.

But when they do take a break, they usually close the restaurant for a few days. Sung said the majority of customers are loyal patrons who are told ahead of time that the restaurant will briefly close. Then they will leave a sign on the door indicating when they will be back.

“When we get back, there are always people who will come in and say, ‘I tried coming last week, but you were closed,’” Sung said.

But, they come back. Sung said it has never seemed like closing for a few days has negatively impacted business. If anything, it makes regulars more excited when they return.

Family members are the primary employees at Seoul. Sung said everything on the menu is his mother’s special recipe and the family greatly values the quality of the food served. To maintain that quality, Sung said one of his parents is almost always in the kitchen. That would not be possible if they are out of town.

When The Sungs do leave town, they often try to make it a multi-purpose trip. This summer, Sung said they went to Dallas to order products that are hard to get in Lubbock and visit his sister that lives there.

Finding a backup

Other industries offer more flexible vacation time. Randall Merriott, owner of Irrigation Dynamics sprinkler services, said he has approached time off differently through his 14 years in business. The first few years, he said he would often refer customers to friendly competitors when he was out of town. Now, he usually leaves an employee in charge.

Merriott said he still answers his work phone and responds to texts when he is out, but will also forward calls to an employee. The Merriotts often take camping trips, though, which can lead to unreliable cell phone service.

“Up there, there’s no cell service,” Merriott said. “If we go some place like that, it just goes to voicemail.”

Spring and summer are the busiest seasons for Merriott, so he said he strategically schedules vacations in the early spring or winter. Merriott also works the typical 9 a.m.-5 p.m. hours, and usually has weekends off as well. Sometimes, Merriott said, staying home for the weekend can be just as relaxing as travelling.

“A lot of times, the kids are out of school, so we’ll just take off and be at home with the kids and just hang out at the house and rest,” Merriott said.

Sometimes, rest is all a business owner needs. Take Back Your Time, an initiative that encourages employees to use their earned vacation time, suggests vacations help health, relationships and work satisfaction and should be taken more often.

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