How to Take a Vacation From Your Small Business

Here’s a sign the economy’s on a good track: More small business owners plan to take a full week off this summer than in any year since the recession began.

That’s according to a survey by American Express OPEN that suggests entrepreneurs are feeling more confident about the economy. AmEx’s Small Business Monitor survey shows that 60 percent of respondents are planning a one-week vacation this summer, the highest since 2006. Alice Bredin, small business adviser to AmEx, says small business owners are feeling more optimistic, getting easier access to capital, and seeing a lift in sales. “So they’re doing what they know they should be doing, which is taking a break.”

Here’s some advice for getting your summer vacation right:

Take what you can: Too many entrepreneurs put off vacation until they can spend three weeks in Machu Picchu or go on a Greek cruise, but “it never happens,” Bredin says. Arrange a week in the mountains where you can work remotely in the mornings and take every afternoon off, she suggests. Even if all you can manage is a four-day weekend with a daily check-in at work, that’s still better than nothing.

Get yourself prepared: Pay the bills, get up to date with your suppliers, put off big projects, let big customers know who they can contact in your absence, and brief key employees. “Preparation is hard to do, but well worth it for the peace of mind you’ll have on vacation,” Bredin says.

Plan for reentry: Make a list of things you want to tackle when you get back in the door. “It makes coming back a little less painful, and it’ll refresh your mind so you remember what you need to work on next,” she says.

Check in—or don’t: Joyce Maroney, director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos, recommends unplugging from work and giving out your contact information only for emergencies. But some business owners are more comfortable staying in touch. “While I trust my team to manage in my absence, regular checking on e-mail gives me peace of mind that all is well and means I don’t come back to hours of catch-up,” says Christine Barney, chief executive of rbb Public Relations. During a recent 11-day Italian vacation, she checked her work e-mail daily—30 minutes a day reading and responding only to urgent matters “meant much greater enjoyment of my vacation time,” she says.

Treat it as a test run: All entrepreneurs should have key employees they are grooming for succession, Maroney says. “Make sure they can handle 90 percent or 95 percent of what comes along, and then put them in charge. It’s a good exercise, seeing if they can handle a planned absence, for some point when they might have to step in on an unplanned basis.”

Look forward: Between the packing and the worrying, entrepreneurs sometimes dread vacations. But anticipating time off can be almost as rewarding as taking it. “There is something about creating these events that we look forward to, and in some cases people get as much pleasure out of the anticipation of a vacation than they do the actual vacation,” Maroney says.

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