A Plan for Your Vacation

Tom Crouser January 27, 2012 5

We owners tend to grant vacation time to employees and then sorta feel like they’re disloyal if they take it because, quite frankly, it means we have to do the work that they would normally do. Not only that but their vacation always happens to be at the worst time possible – when our customers need rush jobs.

VacationSmallerYeah, I know we say we will approve their vacation time and all, but the last thing you want is a surly press operator or CSR. So we approve whatever they ask and feel more like martyrs than owers. Believe me; I know that feeling well and it stuck with me until I did something different. What? Well, I began closing for vacation twice a year as well as began viewing all benefits as mainly ways to attract new workers rather than being something I am giving to existing ones.

What’s Offered

First, let’s consider what others are doing. A full third of printers surveyed (34%) offer one week’s vacation after one year and two weeks after two. What’s wrong with that? Nothing except it’s not exactly competitive. In the olden days, we use to hire folks off the street and train them. That’s changed as today we are mainly talking to people who have jobs. Right, regardless of the high unemployment rate, finding the RIGHT worker typically requires us to hire someone away from someone else.

I recommend two weeks’ vacation benefit after each full year of employment, including the first (as 24% of the printers I surveyed do). This is because the employed worker typically has two weeks’ vacation now so it’s hard to entice them with less. Additionally, the real cost is minimal as the extra week applies only in the first year. After that, the benefit is the same. And, no, we do not have to give existing workers additional time off.
Now some extend vacation beyond two weeks. Don’t do it. It’s waste. Why? Few workers ever decide on employment based on a promise of vacation after five years but they sure do based on what they will get in year one. Oh, yes. No, we owners are not limited in vacation. If you want to take three months off and can afford it, do it. If you don’t want to show up for a long weekend, then don’t.

But among your workforce, time off for vacations is signficiant. In a four person shop, the difference between two weeks’ vacation and three is dramatic. Because most everyone requires only one worker be on vacation at a time, then that means you are working short-handed for eight weeks every year (two weeks x 4 workers). Extend that to three weeks and that adds another month so you will be working short-handed for roughly one-fourth of the year! It’s even more dramatic.

So, a better way to handle vacations is to simply close for a vacation period two weeks’ per year. Usually it is a week around the Christmas holidays and a week around Independence Day (perhaps Civic Day the first of August in Canada). This is because these are typically the two slowest weeks in the entire year because your customers are on vacation too. However, it can be any two weeks. If you’re in ski lodge country, then close during mud season or during slow season if you’re at the beach.

An added benefit is that there are no accruals to track (you don’t have to remember anyone’s date of hire). If you work here, you get off and are paid for the time we are closed for vacation. If you are not working here, well, you don’t. So don’t hire someone right before vacation; wait until after.

BTW, be sure to grant yourself the holiday that is wrapped up in the vacation period as well as the vacation. For instance, if Christmas is on Tuesday, I’d suggest you close that week and also the Friday of the week prior so you have six days off (five vacation and one holiday). Also, if there is a choice, close before the holiday, not after. For instance if July 4th is on Monday, I’d suggest you close the week before rather than the week after. Seems to me customers understand taking off to stretch out the holiday, but once it’s over they feel you should be open to serve them. Maybe that’s just me but it’s what I’d recommend.

Yeah, butta the press operator has plans to go to their family reunion in September. Okay. They may take time off without pay as long as it is okay doke with you. But, no, they do not get to come in during the vacation period and substitute. There are usually a couple of these special circumstances the first year or so; but after that it calms down to a regular routine. Just be sure to pay people vacation pay ONLY during the time of the official vacation close and allow them time off without pay for any additional time.

Yeah, butta I’m gonna lose all this business. No you are not. You pick the two weeks of the year that are SLOW, meaning customers order a lot less. And this is especially true when done right by letting the customers know beforehand (personal visits to top accounts). In fact, it often helps for it gives you a reason to get toe-to-toe with customers.

The biggest beauty of this system is that WE get to take a real vacation, typically for the first time in many years. When was the last time you went on a real vacation without constantly calling back to the shop and trying to micromanage from afar. Treat yourself.


  1. Yvonne Collins February 22, 2012 at 9:25 pm -

    That sounds like a great idea! I always wondered how that would work.

  2. Tammie Speer May 15, 2013 at 7:56 pm -

    We’ve been closing between Christmas and New Years for about 7 years now and really like it. We are a small shop. There are 3 full-time and one part-time here. My husband and I are 2 of those full-timers and it can be pretty bad for the 2 employees when we are both gone.

    I’ve thought about closing for a week around the 4th of July also for awhile now. It’s a slow time anyway. I think I’ll watch this year around the 4th and see how busy we are and maybe start doing it next year. We’ll be closed the 4th & 5th anyway since the 4th is on a Thursday this year.

    We do a lot of communicating to our customers prior to our Christmas closing and that really helps. We mail post cards, fax flyers with a discount for ordering early, send emails and I even call a few top customers.

    I know what Tom means about being on vacation and checking emails all day while sitting on the beach.

  3. Bruce Thomas May 16, 2013 at 3:24 pm -

    We have closed for a week a couple of times – over the last 10 years. It is refreshing, and stressful at the same time. However, it is never the end of the world. It also increase business before the closure – customer become a little frantic and “must get stuff done!”

  4. Jim Omalley June 28, 2013 at 2:37 pm -

    I disagree with the set 2 weeks, I think it would upset the employees and do more harm than good. #1, many people take family vacation, #2, family reunions, Hunting season, Disney Land may be book that week. Vacation is the employee’s time they should decide what works for their family. We also have very busy times if the year, we mark the calendar no time off during that period. solves that problem. Have a great day…JIM

  5. Tom Crouser July 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm -

    Some people do believe it would do the worker more harm than good but what we often overlook is the ability for the owner to allow time off for any worker who has scheduling conflicts. And if there are specific times when the shop should close, then declare a holiday. I have recommended it frequently for the first day of hunting season and Mardi Gras and other localized events. What I find is this type of vacation allows everyone to have time off without worrying about getting those jobs out, specifically the owners who typically end up not taking a real vacation … sometimes for decades.

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