Eileen Lichtenstein in Newsday

Small Business: 8 tips for planning time away

From newsday.com, June 20, 2011 By Jamie Herzlich
Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

For many solo entrepreneurs, getting away on vacation may seem downright impossible. The thought of leaving their business with no one at the helm can be quite intimidating. But it doesn't have to be, say experts. With the right planning and preparation, even the "solopreneur" can steal away and get some needed rest and relaxation.

"There's always time you can find to get away," says Gene Fairbrother, lead small- business consultant for the National Association for the Self-Employed in Dallas. "It's all about making a plan."

Here's how to get started:

1. Make a conscious decision
Everyone needs a break and once you learn to accept the fact that your business can survive without you for a few days, you can start prepping for a getaway. "Solopreneurs have a tendency to be a bit of control freaks," says Fairbrother, noting much of it's psychological. Recognize that you deserve a break and can take it without damaging your business.

2. Carve out windows
The hardest part of getting away is finding the right time to do it. Look at the peaks and valleys of your business and carve out times for a vacation when business is slower, says Fairbrother. Or look for windows of opportunity on slower holiday weekends around, say, Memorial Day or July 4. "It can be a group of long weekends," he notes. "It doesn't have to be seven or 10 days."

3. Commit
To force your hand at actually taking a trip, make some kind of commitment so you can't back out, suggests Alice Bredin, a Cambridge, Mass., small business adviser for American Express OPEN. Put a deposit down or make a plan with a friend, she notes. "It will compel you more to go."

4. Do an assessment
Make a list of all of your responsibilities and how they could be handled in your absence, says Bredin. Sometimes you can partner up with someone who can handle problems that arise when you are away, she notes.

5. Give advance notice
Let clients know in advance when you'll be away to avoid surprises, says Eileen Lichtenstein, chief executive of Balance & Power Inc. in Baldwin, a work-life peak-performance success coach, who does this with her own clients. If you're having someone cover for you let the clients know that as well, says Lichtenstein.

6. Leave a message
In your absence you may want to leave a voice-mail message or an auto-responder email alerting clients you will be inaccessible for a few days and to leave you a message if they have an urgent matter, says Lichtenstein.

7. Leave a cushion
Upon returning from vacation, allow yourself a buffer day to get caught up, recommends Andrea Feinberg, president of Coaching Insight Llc in Port Jefferson Station, who's found this quite helpful in her business. So if you're returning on Sunday from a trip, tell clients you're available on Tuesday, leaving Monday as the buffer. "That's the day you can check what happened in your absence," says Feinberg.

8. Harness technology
Technology has made it easier for entrepreneurs to continue to communicate with clients even in their absence, says Feinberg. For instance, if you have an e-newsletter you don't want disrupted, you can pre-schedule it to be distributed on a given date through a provider like Constant Contact. You can do the same with Twitter and Facebook, says Feinberg, who uses services like twaitter.com to schedule recurring tweets in advance.

Summer break plans for business owners now, versus the highest year.

This year: 46 percent
2006: 67 percent

Top reasons to stay at home

Busy work schedules: 37 percent
Affordability: 29 percent
Source: The annual American Express OPEN Small Business Vacation Monitor

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