It’s an ongoing dilemma for millions of business owners: How to take vacations or other time off and still keep business on track. Not only do Americans take far fewer vacations than workers in other countries (hundreds of millions of vacation days go unused in the U.S. annually), but studies show that business owners take the least amount of time off of anyone.
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Many business owners feel somehow guilty at trying to get away, perhaps because they are so emotionally tied to their companies. While the best vacation is one that truly allows you to relax and forget your troubles back at the office, in reality that’s just not going to happen for most business owners and entrepreneurs. So more and more are doing the next best thing by using technology to remotely manage their businesses while away.
Several tech-based “silver bullets” make this possible, including smart phones, tablet computers, cloud-based business management applications and wide availability of high-speed Internet connections. With some planning and a bit of tech-savvy, these things are making it easier than ever for biz owners to banish their guilt and feel more comfortable about getting away.
Tom McGlynn, owner of a California-based personal fitness company RunCoach, used to struggle with keeping his business on track while traveling. Then he discovered how technology could come to the rescue. Now, rather than being office-bound for the summer, he travels around the U.S. to coach marathon runners.
After the web became the center of McGlynn’s business, he found that he could do almost anything online – and from the road – including accessing fitness training software, designing workouts for clients and keeping his business books.
Here are four tactics and technologies that can help any business owner achieve guiltless getaways:
1. Get a smart phone: Busy business owners who’ve embraced smart phones often say it’s a move that has entirely changed how they do business. “I used to carry a laptop when I traveled to keep track of things,” says a tennis club owner who goes to junior tournaments around the U.S. “But now all I need is my iPhone.” He receives and answers texts and emails quickly, keeps track of his schedule, checks tournament draws, gets directions and much more.
For some business owners, the smart phone is also their lifeline to social media while they are away. They can update a Facebook page, send tweets, post content on LinkedIn and monitor results all from their phone.
In just a few short years, smart phones have gone from a technological curiosity to one of the most essential pieces of technology in the small business owner’s arsenal. If you don’t yet have a smart phone, or aren’t using yours to full advantage, it’s time to step up to the smart phone plate.
2. Run your finances online: More than almost any other task, the ability to manage the financial side of your business from anywhere is a key to guiltless getaways. But the days of being tied to desktop software are long gone (or should be). These days, web or “cloud” based applications are the way to go.
You can manage travel expenses, pay bills, do your business banking and keep your books easily online. And that’s just the beginning. QuickBooks Online, for example, is a handy way to keep track of your finances anywhere, anytime – especially while traveling. You can use it to create and send professional looking invoices, check your cash flow and share your books in real time, all without sending files of any kind back and forth.
3. Share and collaborate digitally: It’s never been easier to share files and collaborate with colleagues, vendors and customers online. With services such as Google Docs, Dropbox, Zoho and Basecamp, you can take comfort in knowing you’ll be plugged into what’s happening and can respond to any emergency or opportunity even if you’re away on vacation.
4. Outsource anything you can. Outsourcing is ideal for business owners who want to get more time away. Hire a virtual assistant to help with administrative tasks and scheduling. You might also consider working with other business owners to cover for each other when traveling.
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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.