Tag Archive for 'summer vacation'

How vacations reveal American Dream may be in jeopardy

For several years we’ve polled our small business audience weekly about issues and conditions that impact them.

Whenever a question is seasonal or a recurring issue, besides serving that poll, the responses often produce a bonus. For example, the potential to identify year-over-year trends, or illuminate a current market trend.

In last week’s poll response, we scored both of these bonuses. The subject was a seasonal one that’s almost unique to small business ownership – “Will you take a vacation?” – with three response options: 1) “I’ll take an entire week off;” 2) “Only mini-vacations, like a long weekend;” and 3) “Vacation? I can’t even take a day off.”

This year everyone moved. Historically the real vacation group fluctuated close to 50%. I was happy to see our new poll had almost six of ten (59%) respondents allowing they were taking a week off, whether to go incommunicado, or expecting to check in. The long weekend responders in the middle thinned out compared to past years, while the sarcastic, “What’s a vacation?” bunch increased.

The classic evolution of time off for a business owner looks like the inverse of our response options. In the beginning it’s, “What’s a vacation?” then you graduate to long weekends as the business matures, and finally to a full week off, or more, at maturity. Maturity means having your organizational and capitalization stuff together.

This week’s response also supports two forecasts I made in 2009.

As the Great Recession technically ended, I predicted small businesses would increasingly diverge into two categories: they would either become stronger, or inevitably erode their equity and credit and go out of business. That’s what I’m seeing in the responses to our vacation poll this week. The sector that formerly could only take off a few days is diminishing because they’ve either joined the organizationally and financially stronger ranks, or gone the other way toward extinction.

Historically speaking, it would be intuitive and accurate to think that the no vacation group would include startups, rather than just declining businesses. But I also predicted in 2009 that there would be fewer startups in this economic recovery cycle. As you may have seen reported by real research organizations, my startup prediction, unfortunately, has come to pass. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been a steady, 10-year decline in businesses less than one year old, and the category total is 10% fewer today than 20 years ago.

So our vacation responses indicate a barbell effect happening on Main Street. And it’s good news that so many small businesses have survived and become stronger. But since every business, large and small, begins as a startup, the overall decline of entrepreneurship in the U.S. does not bode well for the future robustness of the U.S. economy or the business ownership component of the American dream.

Write this on a rock …
If small businesses were a plant or animal species, it would currently be classified as threatened, on a path toward endangered.

Small Business Advocate Poll:Will you be able to take a vacation from your business?

The Question:
Will you be able to take time off from your business for vacation this summer?

17% - Yes, for at least a week

51% - Yes, but only a couple of days at a time

32% - No. Can’t afford the expense or the time away

My Commentary:
The good news is that two-thirds of our respondents will take some kind of a vacation. The bad news is that more than half will catch time off when they can and one-third think they can’t afford a vacation.

Some of this response is associated with the reality of being a small business owner, which often creates the feeling - if not the reality - that we just can’t leave the business for any extended period, even a few days. But it is very likely that this level of little or no vacation expectation is connected to the lack-luster economic recovery.

Hang in there, small business owners.


On my radio show, The Small Business Advocate, I’ve talked with Walter Kiechel III, former editorial director of Harvard Business Review, former managing editor at Fortune magazine and author of The Lords of Strategy, about the benefits of taking time off, not just for a business owner but also the business itself. Take a few minutes to click on the links below and listen or download.

Do small business owners need more vacations?

The organizational benefits of executive vacations

Should managers be required to take annual vacations?

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Vacation? What’s that?

A small business weaves a fine seam between itself and the life of its owner. In the beginning, it’s because of all the work it takes to get the business out of the ground. Later, as the business matures, the owner often becomes the brand customers identify with, which means consistent sales performance seems to depend upon the owner’s omnipresence.  At least that’s the way it seems.

Between the business consistently getting in the cash line ahead of a vacation budget and the owner being afraid to leave - like a new mother leaving her baby with a babysitter for the first time - it can be tough for a small business owner to take a real vacation?

We wanted to know how the whole vacation thing was looking for small business owners these days, so we asked this question: As summer approaches, will you be able to leave your business long enough to take a vacation where you’re away from work for a week? Here’s what we learned.

A little more than 40% of our respondents said they were definitely taking a real vacation this summer. Goodonya, guys!  This means several things:  You have a successful, mature organization; you have your priorities straight; your family gave you an ultimatum, or some combination.

About 1 in 5 of our sample was undecided. If half of these actually take a vacation, that would be over half of our sample getting away from it all this summer.

But 37% said there would be no vacation this year.You’ll get no judgment from me - been there, done that. No one doesn’t like a vacation - you gotta do what you gotta do.

One of the best ways for a small business owner to grow into taking a full vacation is by taking time off over long weekends.I’ve been doing this for years - give it a try.

I talked more about taking time off from the business on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Click here to listen and let us know what your vacation plans are for this summer.

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