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Sixty-Seven Percent of Small Business Owners Are Planning a Summer Break, But Many Will Continue Working While Vacationing, According to the OPEN from American Express(SM) 2006 Semi-Annual Monitor

Small Business Expert Offers Tips for a More Relaxing Escape

NEW YORK, May 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Two-thirds of small business owners (67%) are planning to take at least one full week of vacation this summer, according to the OPEN from American Express(SM) 2006 Semi-Annual Monitor. But out of sight does not mean out of mind for the more than half (54%) of respondents who plan to check in with their businesses at least once a day while on holiday. Conversely, 25% of business owners say they will not check in at all while on vacation.

What causes vacation anxiety among business owners? A growing number (46%, up from 42% in 2005) say they fear that an important client or customer will receive inadequate service while others are at the helm. Respondents also say they worry about missing an important new business opportunity while away (31%), judgment calls their staff might make (26%) and who will manage the business in their absence (21%).

"Business owners tend to take on all or most of the responsibility for running their firms," says Susan Sobbott, president, OPEN from American Express. "Given their concerns about the state of their companies while they are away, many find it impossible to truly disengage from their business during a vacation."

Vacation Plans and Concerns Vary by Region, Gender and Size of Business

On average, 31% of small business owners say they will mix business with pleasure to save time and money -- down from 34% in 2005 -- according to the OPEN(SM) 2006 Semi-Annual Monitor. When compared to men, a much higher percentage of women respondents say they plan to combine work with vacation -- 38%, versus 27%. Smaller firms are more likely to combine business and pleasure than those that generate more than $200,000 (35% versus 30%, respectively).

Business owners in the West are much more likely to take a weeklong break than their counterparts in the North Central states (73% versus 56%). More women (72%) than men (64%) will do the same.

Owners of firms that generate greater than $200,000 in annual revenue are more likely to treat themselves to at least one week of vacation this summer (70%), versus those whose businesses generate less than $200,000 in annual revenue (64%).

For a Smoother Escape, Plan Ahead

Alice Bredin, small business advisor to OPEN, offers tips to help them find peace of mind while they are away.

* Give Key Clients or Customers a "Heads Up": 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 their ability to help clients should a problem arise. Also consider letting clients know how they can reach you when a genuine emergency arises. It is important that they feel tended to while you are away. * 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 help ensure that clients will be speaking with someone who understands their concerns should a problem arise. * 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.

"When even a traditional vacation is out of the question, it is still important for business owners to reward themselves this summer," adds Bredin, who suggests several alternatives for even the busiest business owners:

* 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. Learning something new takes concentration, leaving your mind little energy to wander back to the office. Focus on activities that require participation, like cooking or learning to play a musical instrument. * 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 a tour, visit a nearby historic landmark or check out a ballgame at the new stadium. Then splurge at a restaurant you have been anxious to try. * 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 or shop if it requires you to drive for a couple of hours to get there. Survey Methodology

The OPEN from American Express Semi-Annual Monitor, released each spring and fall, is based on a nationally representative sample of 618 small business owners/managers of companies with fewer than 100 employees. The survey was conducted via telephone by International Communications Research (ICR) from April 4-21, 2006. The poll has a margin of error of +3.9%.

About OPEN from American Express(SM)

OPEN(SM) is the American Express team dedicated exclusively to the success of small business owners and their companies. OPEN supports business owners with unparalleled service. With tailored products and services, the team delivers purchasing power, flexibility, control and rewards to help customers run their business. Specifically, business owner customers can leverage an enhanced set of products, tools, services and savings, 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 OPEN.com, or call 1-800-NOW-OPEN to apply for a card or loan. Terms and conditions apply.

American Express Company (http://www.americanexpress.com/) is a leading global payments, network and travel company founded in 1850.

American Express

CONTACT: Sheree Wichard, +1-718-788-9585, [email protected], or Channing
Barringer, +1-212-640-0512, [email protected], both for American
Express

Web site: http://www.americanexpress.com/

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