Although many small business owners take "working" vacations, the American Small Business Travelers Alliance has five simple rules small businesses can follow to achieve an effective work-vacation balance. The American Small Business Travelers Alliance (ASBTA) is a national alliance that provides valuable services and functions focused specifically on the travel needs and interests of small business owners.
"Working vacations are a grudging reality, if not an absolute necessity, for most small business owners," said Chuck Sharp, ASBTA President. "But the need to keep up with business while on vacation doesn't have to mean sacrificing fun and relaxation. By following a few simple rules, small business owners can enjoy their vacation time and keep an eye on business."
Rule #1 – Plan Ahead
Just as you carefully plan the best time of your business year to take time off, take the time to plan and research your destination ahead of time, paying particular attention to communication options and availability. If you plan to take your laptop on vacation, print out a listing of hotspots at your destination using Google or Yahoo! maps. If flying, investigate the hotspot options at your home and destination airports since most now offer hotspots, often for free. And while most hotels offer dial-up or Ethernet Internet connections, research the Wi-Fi access options at your destination hotel. The increased flexibility of a wireless connection throughout the hotel just might allow you to grab a choice spot by the pool so you can quickly transition into relaxation mode when you're finished with work.
Rule #2 – Utilize the Latest Technology
Whether it's the longer battery life or built in Wi-Fi on your laptop, using VoIP for conference calls, or utilizing a GPS-enabled smart phone, having the latest technology while on a working vacation can greatly improve your productivity and get you back to enjoying your leisure activities as quickly as possible.
Also keep in mind that technology providers are particularly aware of the business traveler's need to communicate while on vacation, so look for special promotions, particularly around typical vacation times like summer and early winter.
Rule #3 – Delegate
Before you take off on vacation, identify a trusted employee who can field requests and calls while you're gone. Alert clients that this individual will be their point-of-contact in your absence, and identify him or her in your "out of office" voice mail greetings and automated e-mail responses. Most importantly, take time with this employee to identify his or her responsibilities and outline how and when he or she should contact you in both standard and emergency situations. Finally, make sure all other employees know to report to this individual in your absence. Once you've left for vacation, don't inadvertently take back the responsibility you've delegated – work within the parameters you've defined.
Rule #4 – Set Boundaries and Goals
Fully relaxing while on a working vacation requires a certain amount of discipline, so setting boundaries and goals for both business and leisure activities is essential. Define how much time will be needed for work activities while on vacation and define a daily limit. Ask your designated employee to limit contact, emergencies excepted, to certain times of the day or only to particular modes of communication. Just as you set boundaries for business, set goals for enjoyment, such as deciding that at least two days of the vacation will be only for leisure activities.
Rule #5 – Let Go
Even if you don't spend a lot of time actually working during your vacation, you can still limit your ability to enjoy and relax simply by thinking and worrying about what's happening at your business while you're gone. But if you've followed the first four rules and planned well, you'll have every reason to simply let go of any worries or concerns you might be tempted to take with you on vacation. With a little discipline, it's possible to banish work-related concerns from your mind and enjoy the experience at hand; otherwise, it's not a working vacation – just working.
"Small business owners are accustomed to dedicating themselves mind, body and spirit to their enterprises, but sometimes it's necessary to gain the fresh and clear perspective that can only be obtained through rest and relaxation," said Sharp. "We believe these five simple rules will help make it possible for small businesses to take a better kind of working vacation – one that leaves behind the figurative excess baggage that usually comes with the territory."