Fotograf: Akuo/Press

An entrepreneur's guilty pleasure: Vacation

For entrepreneurs, vacation is not only a time for relaxation, but also for feeling guilt. There are, however, ways out of the the guilt trap.

It is 11:30 a.m. and I am sipping ice-cold Vinschgauer Weissburgunder white wine bought at a fantastic wine tasting at castle Stachlburg in South Tirol, Italy. I complement the drink with a watermelon-peach breakfast, while sun-tanning next to the pool in 32 degrees Celsius, indulging in the view of beautiful Merano.

I am an entrepreneur, and I am on holiday.

I discover a slight feeling of guilt when I see my Akuo colleagues sending stressed messages via our communication app. They are concerned about a faulty bottle shipment, a delayed customer payment and an argument who will lead the office meditation session today. I put my phone away, after all I am on holiday, and – over my second glass of Vinschgauer Weissburgunder – I contemplate over that feeling of guilt within me.

I am able to identify two types of guilt: one is internally motivated, the other externally.

The former is me thinking of my colleagues running around carrying boxes, sweating in the somewhat colder Stockholm climate or sitting in the office, with blinds drawn, getting screen-tanned by starring at blank excel sheets to be filled while I enjoy my time sipping overripe grape juice. This feeling of guilt, I can deal with. Because normally, I am one of them, working twelve hours a day with a computer or trying to explain to customers how Akuo makes you focused for your work and being healthy at the same time. And my colleagues know that I am hard-working (except for this very moment).

The second type of guilt, however, already started kicking in when I commenced planning my holiday, telling friends and family about my vacation. Typical responses I experienced were: 'Your business must be going well if you can afford going on holiday' or ' so you must be satisfied with the current status of Akuo if you decide to leave for two weeks'.

Unfortunately I have to negate both reactions (I wish it was different, believe me). But these comments stuck to me and made me think: Do I actually deserve a holiday? Am I letting my colleagues down by going away? Am I choosing to let great opportunities slip away because I am gone?

These thoughts bothered me and actually took away a great deal of excitement prior to my trip. It seems to be a typical understanding of non-entrepreneurs that founders of start-ups should work 24/7, 365 days a year until they reach success, then cash in the big bucks and enjoy the fruits of their hard, constant work afterwards. And to a degree they are probably right.

But I think what they don't realize is this: there is not a single day, weekend, or public holiday, where I completely shut off and do no work. I am constantly thinking of ways to improve Akuo, our marketing material or research new customers. And sometimes I feel it is getting too much. Similar to a writer's block, my motivation to achieve my daily tasks decreases substantially and it takes huge amounts of effort to push through nevertheless. Let alone accomplishing creative tasks that need freedom of mind.

While my daily meditation sessions allow me to go to sleep and deal with ad hoc pressure, it is not enough to deal with the constant level of stress in the long-run. There is a reason why responsible companies force their employees to take their annual leave. But as an entrepreneur nobody tells me what to do, especially not to take holidays. But vacations, trips into nature or other periods of 'shutting down' are essential to fill up one's energy bars and keep that omnipresent burn-out far out of reach. Holidays revitalize, replenish motivation levels and allow for creativity to flow once again.

This realization allows me to deal with the feeling of guilt number two. Knowing that I work hard, means I also need to give my mind and body a rest – a well-deserved rest – to continue working at full efficiency.

Thanks to this realization, I have decided to place another bottle of wine into the fridge, put on my sun glasses, and get back to tanning – sun tanning that is, not computer screen tanning

Read more guest posts from Akuo by clicking here.


Akuo is a company founded by four foreign students at the Stockholm School of Economics. They are members of the SSE Business Lab, sharing offices with other up and coming startups such as Qasa, Vilth and Tankeapoteket. Among the alumni of Business LAB are Klarna and Ung Omsorg. Akuo has developed a tea-based focus drink inspired by eastern traditions and was recently featured in Veckans Affärers list of Sweden's 71 Superstartups

Once a week at the team behind Akuo will provide insights and experiences from their lives as entrepreneurs in Stockholm, and shed some light on the peculiarities of Sweden and the Swedish way of doing business.

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