Taking a Break from Business

By Mark Graham, an EO Toronto member and president of Right Sleeve Marketing, Inc.

A few years ago, my family and I rented a cottage in rural France for a month. It happened at a hectic time in our personal and business lives, and I felt that going away for an extended break would give me some much needed perspective.

At the time, I had fallen into the common entrepreneurial trap of no longer being able to see the forest for the trees. I own a promotional products company, and after five years of running the business, I was starting to lose steam. Some time off was what we needed, but not the average “let’s take the family to Disneyland” kind of trip. We wanted to get away and really enjoy life by living in another country, away from the normal tourist attractions and without any formal agenda.

For four weeks, we were able to replace our normally hectic routine with more leisurely pursuits: farmers’ markets in the morning, two-hour lunches, siestas in the afternoon, wine tastings, long hikes in the surrounding countryside, home cooked dinner … and an hour of Skyping with the office in the evening. It was a fabulous way to spend the month!

While my mind was at rest, I was able to start thinking about my business in a different way. During my walks in the countryside, I started developing an Internet strategy that went on to reshape our entire business model, ultimately allowing us to stand out within a crowded marketplace. I also learned to re-set my priorities when it came to my work and home life, emphasizing the importance of happiness and balance over mercurial things like business success.

Thinking back to this travel experience, I was reminded of Bill Gates’ “think weeks,” where the Microsoft founder locks himself up to do nothing but think for the week. In many ways, our experience in France was similar— it forced me to remove myself from the day-to-day minutiae so that I could think big about the next stage of my business. The critical lesson I learned from this experience is not to buy into the hype surrounding business ownership; just because you can work 18 hours a day, it doesn’t mean you should. More importantly, I learned that “Type A” entrepreneurs need to stop and smell the roses (or in my case, the lavender) from time to time!

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