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Enjoy your holidays.
Building a startup is a long endeavor, often requiring entrepreneurs' full dedication for a decade or more. The journey doesn't become easier with time, and it is critical that entrepreneurs learn how to achieve “work-life harmony,” as Jeff Bezos calls it. Being able to go on holidays is part of the equation.
In the early days, the amount of things to fix seems daunting - how could you possibly dream of taking a few days off? At that stage, entrepreneurs tend to be doers-in-chief, leading by example and driving the business with their energy. Leaving is a challenge operationally, but the myth of the entrepreneur who never takes vacations adds to the difficulty.
Working hard is a critical part of success.
I don't know anyone who’s really successful that hasn't worked hard to achieve their plan. One of the inspiring readings on the compounding effect of hard work is "You and Your Research" from Richard Hamming, a scientist at Bell Labs where they’ve witnessed some of the most groundbreaking discoveries of our time. He stresses the importance of having a plan, working 10% more than anyone else, and the satisfactory aspects of doing great work. Personally I read it anytime I need a boost.
Going on holiday doesn't mean you’re not working hard.
All creative people have down time. Taking breaks is necessary to allow your mind to rest, wander, and have new ideas. What is critically important is falling in love with what you are doing, because then you’ll magically think about your business even when not working.
Going on holiday is a great test of the maturity of your business.
The best founders I know become polymaths that master every aspect of their company, yet their input isn't needed everywhere. As their companies grow and become better decision-making machines, they avoid becoming bottlenecks by building:
knowledge bases to ensure knowledge is transmitted throughout the company, processes are documented, decisions can be made swiftly.
distributed ownership and decision-making frameworks to empower each and every employee to take decisions without the approval of their N+1s.
redundancy to not have any employee be mission critical for the business. Companies build overlapping competencies between employees to allow for departures, holidays, illness. This includes founders’ missions.
Yes, sometimes you can't leave.
There are circumstances that can prevent you from leaving: being at the finish line to close a large client, the last push to secure your fundraising round.
But you should never use reasons that have no strict deadlines to not go on holiday.
Do yourself a favor and go.
It protects your health. I have been close to founders for a long time now, and I have seen my fair share of breakdowns and burnouts. Maintaining good physical and mental shape is part of the job.
It reinforces your leadership. Being able to take time off conveys confidence and serenity and also greatly empowers your team members. They want to identify themselves as accomplished leaders, not workaholics.
It shapes a positive culture. Your employees will feel respected and trusted if they see you take time off and feel they can do the same.
And when you do take time off, do it for real.
Make your holidays longer than you originally thought about.
Tell your team you are completely off and only available for emergencies.
Delete your communication apps (Slack, email, ...).
Don't do 'long-term work'.
I know how hard it is to let things go, but trust me, you deserve your time off.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!