Two Out of Three Small Business Owners Planning Summer Break, According to the OPEN From American Express(SM) 2005 Semi-Annual Monitor

One-Third Say They Try to Link Business with Pleasure to Save Time and Money; Vacation Does Not Mean Getting Away ‘Worry-Free’ for Many

NEW YORK, May 19 /PRNewswire/ — Most small business owners are planning to take time off this summer, and fewer will act on the urge to check in with their business while they are away, according to the OPEN from American Express 2005 Semi-Annual Monitor. In all, 67% of business owners expect to take a break of at least a week this summer, about the same as reported in 2003 and 2004. However, the number of respondents who intend to check in with their business at least once a day dropped to 51%, down from 57% in 2004.

Business owners in the North Central states are the most likely to plan at least one week off this summer (74%), followed by the West (68%) and the South (65%). The number falls to 62% among business owners in the Northeast.

Among business owners planning a break in the next few months, 33% will try to link vacations with business trips to save time and money. Vacationing business owners in the West are much more likely (44%) to try to mix business with pleasure, while the Northeast reports the fewest respondents (25%) planning to combine the two. Thirty-two percent of business owners in the South plan to combine business and vacation trips, followed by 31% of respondents in the North Central states.

Business Anxieties — Including Security — Linger, though Fewer Plan to
Stay Informed While Away

Even while planning a relaxing vacation, respondents say that business concerns continue to weigh on their minds. Of those with vacation plans, 42% are concerned that an important client or customer will not receive an appropriate level of service. Security of their business facilities is a growing concern — 18% say they worry about security issues while away on vacation, up from 12% in 2004, and 8% from 2003. Other causes of vacation anxiety include missing an important new business opportunity while away (31%); staff judgment calls (28%); and equipment or operational breakdown (24%). Twenty-three percent of respondents worry about who will manage the business in their absence.

To help cure vacation anxieties, business owners try to stay in touch with their firms while they are traveling. A total of fifty-one percent of vacationers plan to check in at least once a day: Thirty-three percent plan to check in by phone or e-mail just once a day, while 18% say they will check in several times a day — down from 24% in 2004. Another 14% of respondents will opt for a more hands-off approach to running a business while on vacation by checking into the office only once every couple of days, slightly down from last year.

“The message is clear but not especially surprising, given the level of dedication required to run a business: Taking a vacation does not necessarily mean getting away worry-free for many business owners,” said Alice Bredin, small business advisor for OPEN from American Express. “However, careful planning and preparation can make it easier for hard-working entrepreneurs to more fully enjoy their vacations and help them return to work invigorated.”

Interestingly, the number of respondents planning not to check in has increased to 27%, up from 22% last year.

Vacation Plans and Concerns Vary Greatly by Size of Business

According to the OPEN(SM) 2005 Semi-Annual Monitor, business owners who generate more than $200,000 in annual revenue are much more likely to treat themselves to at least one week of vacation this summer. According to the survey, 74% of respondents in the $200,000+ category will take a week off, versus 60% of respondents who generate less than $200,000 in annual revenue.

Compared to their larger counterparts, however, more small companies say they worry about missed business opportunities while traveling (37%, versus 26% of larger companies). Concerns about facility security are also stronger among owners of smaller companies — 23%, versus 16% of their larger counterparts.

Despite the differences in vacation plans and concerns, business owners from companies of all sizes voice similar concerns about their firms while away. Among companies of all revenue levels, the proper servicing of important clients is the top concern (51% of smaller businesses and 39% of larger businesses).

Make Vacationing Easier, or Plan Vacation Alternatives

While it can be difficult to avoid thinking about work while on vacation, Alice Bredin, the OPEN small business advisor, offers tips to help business owners find peace of mind while away:

* Schedule Breaks During Business Downtimes: Consider planning some time away this summer when your business may be slowest — or the least hectic. If your business is seasonal, try vacationing during the off-season.

* Do Worst-Case Planning: Create a list of possible scenarios on current projects, and brief internal staff or colleagues. What are the chief concerns for each client? Advance planning can ensure that clients will be speaking with someone who understands their concerns should a problem arise.

* Brief Key Clients or Customers: Do not let your lengthy absence come as a surprise to clients. When possible, give them a minimum of two to three weeks’ notice. Identify your stand-ins, and communicate your confidence in the ability of staff or a stand-in to help your clients should a problem arise. Also consider letting clients know where they can reach you when a genuine emergency arises. It is important that your clients feel comfortable with the arrangements you have made.

“If a traditional vacation is out of the question, it is still important for business owners to reward themselves this summer,” adds Bredin, who suggests these alternatives for business owners who find it too difficult to get away:

* Learn Something New: If you cannot take off for an extended period, consider enrolling in a continuing education course as a low-cost and effective way to break from a work routine. Giving your mind something new to learn will occupy it fully, leaving it little energy to wander back to the office. Focus on activities that require participation, like cooking, repair work or sailing.

* Become a Tourist in Your Hometown: Look into the exhibits that are currently showing at a local museum. Invite a friend or loved one for an afternoon tour, and then visit an historic landmark or treat yourself to a massage.

* Take A Day Trip: For a quick recharge, get out of town for just a day. A brief escape with a change of scenery can do wonders, says Bredin. Plus, you will think twice about sneaking back to the office if it requires you to drive for a couple of hours to get there.

For more tips on running a small business, entrepreneurs can visit http://open.americanexpress.com/ , and click on the “Articles & Discussions” link.

Survey Methodology

The OPEN from American Express Semi-Annual Monitor, released each spring and fall, is based on a nationally representative sample of 627 small business owners/managers of companies with fewer than 100 employees. The survey was conducted via telephone by International Communications Research (ICR) from February 9-February 22, 2005. The poll has a margin of error of +3.9%.

About OPEN from American Express

OPEN is the dedicated team at American Express that provides small business owners access to an enhanced set of products, tools, services and savings designed to help meet their evolving needs, including charge and credit cards, convenient access to working capital, robust online account management capabilities and savings on business services from an expanded lineup of partners. To obtain more information about OPEN, visit http://open.americanexpress.com/ , or call 1-800-NOW-OPEN to apply for a card or loan. Terms and conditions apply.

American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a world leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, business services, insurance and international banking.

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