Home Accountant Unplugged vacations benefit you and your accounting firm

Unplugged vacations benefit you and your accounting firm

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What if you could do something that improves the quality of your life now, helps build a stronger team, allows you to clarify your practice, and increases the value of your business when you’re ready to sell?

Disconnecting from your business altogether and taking a regular vacation will.

In my years as a broker for an accounting firm, four main parameters have the most impact on the price of a firm: turnover, cash flow for the owner, number of employees and the number of days the owner left. This last metric is often overlooked but has an impact on the other three.

A business is more valuable when it doesn’t revolve around the owner. I have observed this time and time again with CPAs who have built very successful, very profitable businesses. The most successful and happy practice owners take a lot of free time. They can leave their desks for weeks on end, never checking emails or responding to their team’s texts, confident that their team will be able to handle just about any crisis that arises.

How to take a disconnected vacation

Logging out of your business for an extended vacation can seem like an unaffordable luxury, especially for accountants whose normal mode is running all the time. And when a business revolves around one person, walking away can seem almost impossible. But by following a few step-by-step instructions, you can prepare yourself for a much-needed break.

  • Block your vacation. The first step is to simply block your vacation time well in advance. It can take up to a year to prepare your business – and yourself – for an extended absence, so start planning early. In addition to planning when to vacation, think carefully about how long you want to be away from the office. A good minimum duration is eight days because it usually takes about three days to stop thinking about work. Then you have five days to completely relax.
  • Work on your state of mind. The other crucial first step is to lose the guilt of leaving your business behind. What you are doing will help your business. You are the most valuable asset in your business. By refreshing yourself, you give your business an immediate upgrade.
  • Use the “three buckets” to delegate. You will never be able to disconnect from your business if you are in the weeds of work. I love teaching business owners the “three bucket” technique to help them delegate work. The first bucket is “Things you want to keep”. These are the types of work that you want to continue doing for the foreseeable future. The next bucket is “Job you want to give up someday”. These are things you don’t like to do, but maybe you don’t have anyone in your office who can do them yet. The last compartment is about “things you can delegate right now”. Don’t be afraid to start small here, especially if you’re used to doing all the work. The key is to start small and let go. Delegating work also means choosing the right team members so that you can confidently hand over the work to them.
  • Set boundaries with your customers. One thing that I have observed time and time again is that high performing business owners have big limits around their free time. Business owners must manage customer expectations, or those customers will dictate how you work. If customers expect to be able to reach you at all times, you won’t be able to disconnect from your work.

The timetable for unplugging

Disconnecting successfully requires planning. By logging out of my own business and working with business owners, I have developed a timeline that makes the process easier.

  • Four weeks in advance: Alert customers and key personnel. You can’t just disappear, so you need to let people know that you will be out of the office and unavailable. I do this either when I’m on the phone with them or in an email. I tell people where I am going, the dates of my departure and I give them the name and contact details of the person who will take over during my absence. I’m also giving some clients a little reminder of any outstanding items we need from them so we can get this work done before I go. A hard term like a vacation can help speed up upcoming work and sometimes spawns new projects that weren’t even on your radar.
  • One week in advance: meet your team. Make sure everyone is clear about expectations and what to focus on while you are away. Delegate the work to have less on your plate when you return.
  • A few days in advance: confirm details. Go back with another meeting to make sure no details are overlooked. If you have a good team, they will step up and find they can do more than they thought possible.
  • Departure day: Unplug from the office. Edit your voicemail message and set up an auto responder on your email. Leave your laptop and tablet behind. I leave my work cell phone at home and only take a personal cell phone for maps or other travel related applications. Someone in the office has a phone number where I can be contacted, and they have instructions for sending me only good news.

/ haveseen – stock.adobe.com

The advantages of disconnected vacations

Unplugged vacations are one of the most profitable practices I have seen accountants implement. The benefits go far beyond a break from work and a change of scenery.

  • Overcome burnout. Accountants tend to work insane hours, and the resulting burnout can cause many CPAs and accounting and tax professionals to simply give up their careers or businesses. It’s amazing how taking a break from work for an extended period of time can help. I have worked with owners who were willing to sell their high performing accounting firms, but who, after taking a disconnected vacation, came back energized with new vision and enthusiasm.
  • Get more clarity on your business. Taking time off can allow you to see growth opportunities that are hard to see when you’re in the weeds of work. I always have at least one aha moment on every trip. A lot of the accountants I work with come back with clarity on the job or the clients they need to leave, and the areas they enjoy and want to focus on. When you come back you can clearly see which staff have stepped up and which haven’t. You can identify future leaders who deserve special attention and the dead weight that just needs to be released.
  • Retain and recruit the best people. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving your employees a chance to disconnect from what has been an endless busy season can help them stay on board. It can also be a powerful recruiting tool, especially for hard-to-fill managerial positions where candidates may have worked virtually non-stop for years.
  • Increase the value of your business. As an accounting firm broker, this is a benefit I constantly see when working with buyers and sellers. Regularly disconnecting from your business requires you to create a business that operates on its own. Fewer owner hours makes it more appealing to today’s young buyers, who don’t want to work as many hours as their predecessors.

These are just a few of the most common benefits I’ve seen when business owners take vacations without an outlet. Reconnecting with family and creating fond memories, as well as exploring new interests and areas are priceless. It is a practice that brings great joy into your life and helps you develop a more profitable and valuable business.


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