Vacations can be stress-free; For small-business owners, the key to time off is smart planning
For most people, vacations are meant to be a time to recharge and regroup.

But for small business owners, taking a vacation can be more stressful than forgoing the annual getaway trip.

Arnaldo Sehwerert, director of the Mid-Hudson Small Business Development Center headquartered in Kingston, said vacations are impossible for many new entrepreneurs.

"Based on what I see and hear, it is very iffy to take a vacation during a business' first three to five years," Sehwerert said.

According to Sehwerert, these are the business' formative years.

"If you want to be successful in business, it requires you to be there," Sehwerert said.

That has been the mindset of new business owner Martha Cummings of Artistry Designs by Janel in the City of Poughkeepsie since she opened a year ago.

Until now, Cummings wouldn't consider leaving Artistry Designs by Janel. But that is about to change. The flower shop owner has arranged for a couple of trusted friends to run her establishment while she goes away for a week in January.

"If I didn't have them, I'd be much more hesitant about doing it," said Cummings, who admits to still being nervous about leaving her business in the care of other people.

Planning for vacation

Cummings isn't alone. According to a survey by American Express, only 62 percent of small business owners surveyed in the Northeast planned taking a vacation. Seventy-eight percent of business owners in the North Central states plan to get away, 68 percent in the Western states and 65 percent in the South have vacations planned during 2005.

Sehwerert said vacations become more attainable over time.

"You tend to see more business people taking vacations as the business matures," Sehwerert said.

Ted Rathjen and his wife, Chrissy, have faced the vacation dilemma since opening Wetherford Landscapes and Garden Center in Verbank three years ago. While Rathjen has owned the landscaping portion of his business for 14 years, it is the retail portion they opened three years ago that makes scheduling a vacation difficult.

"When you're in a retail environment you can't just decide, 'I'm not going to open on Saturday,' " Rathjen said.

And while vacationing can be tough, Rathjen concurs having people you can trust to run the business is important.

"Learn to delegate. Work on the business, not in it," Rathjen said.

If you're going to take a vacation, enjoy it — without spending the bulk of your time calling and checking up, he said.

"Pick a place that overwhelms the senses," Rathjen said. He and his family go sailing in the Caribbean Sea, with no phone, no e-mail, and no update about the business.

Just a ship-to-shore radio that doesn't reach New York, Rathjen said cheerfully, adding, "I feel sorry for people who can't do that."

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