Running a creative marketing agency with 100 team members and clients all over the East Coast can be very taxing, mentally and physically. Over the summer, typically in late July, I take my wife and three kids to the Delaware shore for a week with my brothers and sisters and their families and my mom.
It’s a time to reconnect because we mostly live in different cities now and it’s a tradition we’ve kept since the ’90s. In an often intense and busy creative services business like ours, nothing really ever stops. There are always new campaigns starting , proposals to review and new team members to interview. So you definitely pay for it when you go away — but not so much that it’s not worth it.
We rent a fairly large home in Cape Shores near Lewes, Del., between the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and the Cape Henlopen State Park. Over the years, I’ve developed a routine. I like to get up before anyone in the house, around 6, and go for a run. Then from 7 to 9 a.m. I’ll have breakfast and check e-mail and make a few phone calls. By 10 a.m., I am a kid again, hanging out with the family and going to the beach and all the other local attractions.
I try not to work much at all after 10, but my outlook is also that I don’t want to be a bottleneck for my company JPL if my participation can help move things along. It might just be a quick call to a client or prospect or a review of a proposal. And if something negative or even potentially negative is going on, I’d rather know right away than be surprised by it when I get back. My team knows this and they keep me informed.
During the week, I love to go to Cape Henlopen, the state park, where you can run, bike and rollerblade and take in the natural scenery. At the beach, I’ll go bodysurfing with the kids and the bigger the waves, the better.
We also visit the water parks, the Rehoboth boardwalk and ride go-carts. About the only thing I won’t do is go to the outlets. I hate the outlets.
In all the years we’ve been going to the beach, I’ve only left vacation and gone back to the office once. It was 2009 and we were going through a tough period financially and I felt I needed to return for some important meetings and decisions.
It’s definitely gotten easier to be productive away from the office. Not long ago I had to go to the local library to get online to get some work done. Now there’s WiFi in the house and I’ve even reviewed proposals under a towel on the beach on my iPhone.
No matter what, there will always be something that happens during vacation that I can’t control but I do like staying in the loop. In the scheme of things, it’s a half hour here and there, and then I jump in the ocean and forget about it.
Luke Kempski is president of JPL , a full-service integrated marketing communications agency based in Harrisburg, Pa.