Business Monday

CEOs weigh in on balancing family, relaxation during vacations

Vacationers at Tulum, on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. South Florida CEOs say vacations are important for them. But their approaches to taking time off vary widely.
Vacationers at Tulum, on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. South Florida CEOs say vacations are important for them. But their approaches to taking time off vary widely. For The Washington Post

This week’s question to the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: How do you balance ongoing business needs with family and relaxation during your “vacation?”


Like most, I have a hard time detaching and find myself looking at my work emails on my phone periodically throughout each day. In the past 2 years, I have used the “out of office” feature on Outlook and tried to have my staff address the more critical issues during my absence. I have found that being out of the country or being on a cruise forces me to cut-off. Sadly, those do not come around frequently enough.

Steven N. Adkins, president and CEO, Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce


I wake up early each day, even on vacation, to follow up on email and calls from the prior day, and to address any items that require my attention. I am also fortunate to have a very talented and capable executive team and they handle most, if not all, of the ongoing business needs and just involve me when needed.

Ron Antevy, president and CEO, e-Builder


I have a great team that keeps the show running while I am on vacation. But I follow the same rules, when at home or on vacation, which I have with my children: Certain times mean no screens. Work can creep in and take over everything unless you build strong walls to keep it out.

Maria Arizmendi, behavior analyst and president, Progressive Behavioral Science


It is all about working ‘smart’ and not working 60 hours a week. Making the time is of the utmost importance. At the end of the day, it is the memories created with family and friends during holidays, vacations, and after-school events that last many life times.

Noah Breakstone, founder and managing partner, BTI Partners


Client needs are almost always time-sensitive. Accessibility and responsiveness are critical elements of an effective law practice. With global communications as they are today, it’s possible to stay connected even in the most remote corners of the world. When I’m on vacation, I take the first few hours of each business day to catch up on pending client matters. Thereafter, I am almost always available by cell phone to address important client matters. I find that vacations are more enjoyable if I don’t have to worry that I’ve missed an important client matter. Moreover, staying up-to-date makes the days after return from a vacation less hectic.

Bowman Brown, partner and chairman of the Executive Committee and the Financial Services Practice Group of Shutts & Bowen


Unfortunately, as a business owner, I am not able to ever truly disconnect. My staff knows that they can always get in contact with me in case of an emergency. To minimize the need for the office to contact me while I am on vacation or away from the office, I try to train my staff to not only handle the day-to-day issues but also how to communicate with a client if something comes up that they are not able to handle. If you are able to go away for vacation and the office acquires new business, closes old matters, and everyone that calls your office has the same experience, you are doing a good job. The lesson here is for your office to be successful, it should not revolve around you or the owner. It needs to have systems and run as a machine.

Patricia Elizee, managing partner, Elizee Law Firm


What vacation? Modern technology means that I am in touch with people at Royal Caribbean or UM or whatever at all times. And vacations have been redefined. Instead of times and places to switch off, I now take vacations where I can enjoy others while still attending to my responsibilities. I still do my email and calls, but on vacation I do them in my bathrobe or after diving or skiing. Early-morning or late-night check-ins often leave my days free for fun.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.


I am confident in my leadership team to help “hold down the fort” when I’m away. They know I am always available for critical situations. Surrounding yourself with a strong team you can trust is vital to leading an organization whether you’re at home or halfway around the world. When vacationing, I try to limit my email and calls to times of the day that don’t interfere with family plans. Finding the right balance can be a challenge, because at Miami Jewish Health our operations are 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Jeffrey Freimark, president and CEO, Miami Jewish Health


One of my goals is to keep family time special, so when I go on vacation, I disconnect by not answering my phone or looking at emails and texts. I trust the staff will handle the day-to-day business and call me if there’s a crisis. Now, this is easier said than done, but that’s my goal!

James Haj, president and CEO, The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County


My reality as CEO is that it is a 24/7 job; I never stop thinking about how to make NSU a better place for our students, faculty and staff, and alumni. My wife and I understand that, but when we take time away for vacation, I commit to limiting my time on email to one hour a day, so that we can truly relax together, go sailing, and sometimes just do nothing. Relaxing and unplugging is just as important throughout the year, and we enjoy a date night once a week, going to a nice dinner and a movie, just the two of us. Since we’re empty nesters, we make sure to get the entire family together at least twice a year.

George Hanbury, president and CEO, Nova Southeastern University


The key to balancing business needs with family and relaxation during “vacation” time is to set aside one appropriate length of time during each day to check emails and voice messages and respond if they are truly, truly important and simply cannot wait. This should be a time that the family agrees to and holds you accountable to without exception.

Bob Hohenstein, president and CEO, Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition


This is always one of the most challenging aspects of the blurred line between loving what you do and work. It’s the most challenging while in the process of building a company from the ground up. For myself, during a vacation, I dedicate 1-2 hours per day to work in order to stay informed of anything and everything that is going on within my organizational structure. After that, the computer is shut and it’s family time! I’m very fortunate to be able to do something that truly fulfills my passion for this (hospitality) business.

Juan Carlos Marchan, COO, Centurion Restaurant Group


Like a lot of business owners, it’s hard for me to completely disconnect from work. When I do get to spend personal time with my family, I try to limit business-related calls and emails to once a day – either very early in the morning or early evening.

David Martin, president and co-founder, Terra


I get to spend my days on and around the water, so I’m lucky that I get to do something I love for a living. Still, downtime with the family is always welcome. We’ve got a fantastic team at the marina, but clients still expect that I’m involved in our day to day operations. Thankfully technology allows me to stay connected when I’m away. I set boundaries when I travel with my wife and kids. I work for a defined period of time each day, usually for a few hours, then I break away and disconnect to enjoy vacation.

Aabad Melwani, president, Rickenbacker Marina and managing principal, Marina PARC


I do check on what’s happening at the office while on “vacation,” but I also make sure I spend uninterrupted quality time with my family. It’s important to maintain a good balance between work and family responsibilities.

Avis Proctor, vice president of academic affairs and president, North Campus at Broward College


With today’s ubiquitous connectivity, there really is no “vacation” in the traditional sense — we’re all working 24/7. Accordingly, I believe it’s important to find a vocation — something you don’t mind taking home with you and, in fact, love to do. Another tactic is to combine business and pleasure. For example, I leave for business trips a day early or stay a day late so I can find a beautiful golf course to play on.

Matthew Rieger, president and CEO, Housing Trust Group


I’ve found that as more and more people seek that balance between their work and personal lives, there is a greater respect for the latter. Of course, it’s still important to plan ahead and let your key contacts know you’ll be out, but most recognize the importance and roll with it.

Ivannia Van Arman, executive director, Lincoln Road Business Improvement District


The Miami Herald CEO Roundtable is a weekly feature that appears in Business Monday of the Miami Herald. Recent questions have included:

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