Communication Tip #1 – Honoring Vacations

woman on vacation

In 1990, as the founding partner of a then-struggling communications company, getting up in the morning was tough going.

In April of that year, with what seemed like no warning, several economic forces came together and sparked a two-year-long recession. Both provincial and federal debts were at an all-time high, and taxes on everything from imports to wages began to climb. The Bank of Canada consistently increased interest rates.

The morning news seemed to always include the bankruptcy of yet another iconic Canadian company. The one I remember most clearly was Creeds, located at 45 Bloor Street West in Toronto’s Manulife Centre. It was a 35,000-square-f00t, two-storey, luxury paradise of fashion (Chanel, Christian Dior, Sonia Rykiel), food and jewelry. The Creed family had been part of Toronto’s clothing industry since 1916. In November of 1990, the company filed for bankruptcy.

On that day I sat drinking my morning coffee and thinking, “How are we still in business? What am I missing? If Creeds is declaring bankruptcy then we must be doomed. I must be deluded about something.”

It will come as no surprise that I didn’t close any sales that day – perhaps for several days. Eventually, I did find a solution to these moments of paralysis. And after 32 years, I’m considering using it again … with one exception.

What is this solution and what’s the exception? How does this relate to your vacation?

My solution? I stopped listening to and reading the news. This was not an easy decision given my background as a journalist, my love for newspapers and magazines – and the fact that our company worked with the media. Yet I had to build the business and I couldn’t do it if I was carrying a daily dose of fear and doubt.

I’ve recently had twinges of that same fear and doubt. This time, I know it’s unfounded but it’s still uncomfortable and highly unproductive. So I’m cutting back on my consumption of newspapers, radio and newsletters. The one I’ll definitely keep – and look forward to – will help keep me informed and grounded.

Written and prepared by Peter Armstrong (a journalist I really admire), Mind Your Business arrives in my inbox Monday morning. It offers well-researched facts and excellent insight into current economics, business and finance.

In a recent issue (June 6), Peter shared how challenging it was to truly take a vacation, even though he’d set up the necessary messaging on email, phone, etc. And he provided a link to this excellent article in Wired by Lauren Good on the weaknesses of vacation messaging.

Just like my planned break with too much news, we all need vacation time, perhaps this summer more than ever before. The energy, optimism and creativity that will move us through this current recession are available to us … but not if we keep “checking in”. Below are some guidelines on how to effectively use your voicemail message to communicate that you are truly away from work. There’s also a link to a mini-ebook on creating a tech-free vacation with tips from Anita Kirkbride and Linda Daley:

1. Skip all the dates.

You know what I mean – “I’m on vacation from … through to…” It causes confusion. Instead, simply state when you will be back at work, i.e. “I’ll be back at my desk on Monday, July 25…”

2. Be honest.

You are going on vacation. You want to honor the importance of this time off so that you restore your energy, embrace your optimism, and recover your creativity. So, unless your work absolutely demands it, don’t say you are monitoring and returning messages. Include, at the beginning of your message, “I’m on vacation and not monitoring voicemail or email. I’ll be back at my desk on Monday, July 25 … .”  This direct message will inspire all of us to really be on vacation! When possible, include an alternate contact so your clients/customers/prospects don’t feel abandoned (see below).

3. Speak slowly – and repeat.

Many vacation messages include the option to contact someone else, which is great customer service. But it’s totally defeated if you give the information so quickly that neither name nor phone number can be understood. As a rule, we are not prepared to “take a message” when we make outbound calls. Take this into consideration, stating names and phone numbers slowly and clearly, at the same speed it would take you to write them down. Then say them again so your caller can check what they’ve written down.

4. Sound happy.

After all, while your clients/customers/prospects are listening to this message … you are on vacation. You are inspiring all of us to do the same!

Download this mini ebook, Business Messaging Tips for a Tech-free Vacation, for more ways to “turn off” for vacation.


Closing a sale is the natural outcome of inspiring great conversations and listening intently to our potential customers.

This natural approach still involves a process – a plan that moves potential customers through a journey of discovery with you. So ... what's your process? And am I the right sales coach for you? Let's find out.

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