Small Business Taking Small Breaks This Summer

May 30, 2003 ( - Entrepreneurs are hitting the road this summer in greater numbers than last year, but business concerns will still weigh on the mind.

Overall, 66% of business owners are planning summer vacations of at least a week this year, an increase of 15% over last year. Tops among the regions are the three-quarters of business owners in the South citing summertime travel plans, followed by business owners in the West (67%), Northeast (66%) and North Central (53%), according to the American Express’ Small Business Network OPEN.

However, the vacation is far from “getting away from it all,” with 31% saying they try to link vacations with business trips to save time and money. Further, among business owners with summer vacation plans, 73% anticipate grappling with business worries while they travel.

Tops among the list of worries were:

  • an important client or customer will not receive appropriate service (24%)
  • concerns over who will manage the business while they are away (18%)
  • missed opportunities to land new business (18%)
  • staff judgment calls (15%)
  • equipment or operational breakdowns (12%)
  • security of their facilities, offices or stores (8%).

“Business owners are often reluctant to take vacations because they fear the company will suffer if they are not minding it. The irony is that vacations can be a long-term investment in the success of the business by helping owners recharge and return to work invigorated,” said Alice Bredin, Small Business Advisor for OPEN. “Since business owners don’t always have the luxury of time, it is important for them to do some careful planning to ensure they can create the time they need to get away.”

Varying Degrees of Separation

Not surprisingly, annual revenues and business tenure appear to drive the greatest differences in vacation plans and business concerns while traveling. For example, only 56% of businesses with under $200,000 in annual revenues plan to vacation this summer, compared to 74% of their larger counterparts.

Among the differing concerns, owners of smaller businesses with summertime vacation plans are nearly twice more likely than larger companies to be worried that an important customer will not receive the service they are used to (34% vs. 20%) and that they will miss an important new business opportunity (26% vs. 13%).

The larger counterparts, on the other hand, report being more worried about the operational side of their businesses, including who will manage their companies while they are away (23% vs. 13% for smaller companies) and staff judgment calls (20% vs. 7% for smaller companies).

Comparing differences in tenure, companies in business for five or fewer years are less likely to have vacation plans this summer (59% vs. 69% for companies in business for six or more years). Further, the younger companies were more likely to be worried that an important client would not receive the appropriate type of service (37% vs. 21%); that they would miss a new business opportunity (25% vs. 16%); who will manage their business while they’re away (23% vs. 17%) and staff judgment calls (24% vs. 12%).

Minority business owners (66%) and women business owners (64%) are just as likely as the average business owner (66%) to report vacation plans of at least a week this summer. Among those with vacation plans this summer, minority business owners are most likely to be worried about, missing new business opportunities (33% vs. 19% for women business owners and 18% overall); an important client not receiving appropriate level of service (30% vs. 28% for women business owners and 24% overall) and staff judgment calls (25% vs. 10% for women business owners and 15% overall).

The OPEN Small Business Network Semi-Annual Monitor is conducted each March and October, based on a representative sample of 781 small business owners/managers of companies with fewer than 100 employees.