NEW YORK (AP) — Karena Nigale used to take time away from her hair salon in New York’s financial district several times a year. Then the recession came, and some of her clients who worked in nearby banks were laid off.
Nigale had to let about half her staff go, and she had to take on more work. There was no way she could take a vacation.
Now, clients are getting jobs again. They’re coming back, business is up at KK Salon and Nigale is going to Europe next month.
“I finally have a feeling of, ‘I can go away,’ ” Nigale said.
Vacations were among the sacrifices many small business owners made during the recession. But now that the economy is picking up, some are finally taking long-overdue trips. Others, though, are still uneasy about being away, or believe they can’t afford a big trip.
Nigale, who didn’t take a vacation for a year and a half, said she can go away for two weeks because she’s been able to bring back two employees.
Darren Horwitz is going to San Diego in mid-May after forgoing vacations for two years. At first, he put off trips because he had a startup public relations business to tend to, a decision that is common among entrepreneurs in any economy.
Then the recession became the primary reason why he wasn’t traveling.
“With the economy in bad shape the last two years, we felt that if our clients are struggling, then we need to be on the phone working every day,” said Horwitz, owner of Dallas-based Imprint PR.
Horwitz found that clients needed more marketing help during the recession. He also stayed home because he needed to be prudent about spending when clients’ marketing budgets were shrinking.
Still, he’s a believer that vacations are important when you’re running a small business.
“They give you a breather. They let you rejuvenate,” he said.
But, like many owners, he’ll be checking in with the office and clients during his upcoming trip. There are few owners who don’t carry cell phones and/or laptops with them so they can keep up with e-mail and talk to clients and employees.
Suzan French recently returned from eight days in Spain. She also hadn’t taken a vacation in about two years. “I just realized at one point that I was reaching the burnout stage,” she said.
French, owner of FlackShack, a PR firm in Lehigh Valley, Pa., had just incorporated her business two years ago. She had high hopes for her company.
“Then, of course, the recession hit, and all of those plans went to the wayside,” French said.
So she worked for the next two years nonstop, and then sensed that her motivation was “slowing down” and her work was suffering.
French said she knew she had to take a vacation “for the sake of my business.”
Many business owners still aren’t comfortable with the idea of taking a vacation yet. With business picking up, there’s too much work to do, or they’re worried about missing new opportunities. Or, like Horwitz, they’re uneasy about spending a lot of money.
For Megan Licursi, a vacation is out of the question right now. So is taking a three-month maternity leave when her second child, due in August, is born.
“We are seeing an uptick in calls” from clients, said Licursi, owner of Megan Licursi Marketing Communications, a public relations firm with offices in Cincinnati and Tampa, Florida. “The competition is too vast for me to take that much time off, or any time off.”
Licursi said she’s concerned that time away would cost her relationships with clients and, consequently, income.
“I took a month off with my first child in 2006, but I don’t think I can justify even that in this market.”
Some owners who aren’t ready for a full vacation are finding ways to squeeze in some time off.
John Pilmer tacks a few days on to business trips he takes. He recently came back from a trip to Miami. He went to a conference and stayed over “to catch my breath.”
Pilmer, president of PilmerPR in Orem, Utah, said, “the current recession has just made me and others focus more on that kind of opportunity.”
But Pilmer, whose last big trip was to Yellowstone, is planning a big vacation next year.
“For staff morale, and my own sanity, I find vacation is a vital part of staying sharp in business,” Pilmer said.
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