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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

All entrepreneurs need a few rules for summer

Rhonda Abrams Gannett News Service

Summer’s here, and you know what that means. Everybody’s having fun except those of us who run our own businesses. The kids are out of school, the relatives arrive next week and our employees are on vacation. Meanwhile, we are still here minding the store.

As entrepreneurs, no one gives us two or three weeks of vacation time, saying “use it or lose it.” Instead, we often imagine clients will leave us, employees will cheat us, work won’t get done and orders won’t get shipped. And who would sign the checks?

I’ve got news for you. If your business is that vulnerable, you’ve got bigger problems than taking a few days off.

However, summer does present special challenges to business owners, especially those who have home-based businesses. So, as a service from one entrepreneur to another, here’s “Rhonda’s Handy-Dandy Summer Survival Guide.”

•Plan for the kids: Don’t imagine that you can mind your kids and your business at the same time — even if you work at home. Children take time and energy. You’ll have to supervise them, keep them from yelling while you’re on the phone with an important client and chauffeur them from activity to activity. Instead, arrange regularly scheduled structured time for them to be somewhere else — camp, classes, childcare. But don’t forget that summer is also a good time to spend more time with your kids, so set aside times to be with them, too.

•Set up rules for summer visitors: Here comes your penny-pinching brother-in-law, expecting to take over your house and make you his personal tour guide. If you’re not careful, summer visitors will monopolize your time, and their vacation becomes the time you could have spent on your vacation. So set limits well before anyone comes through your front door.

If you do agree to have visitors, set clear expectations about what time you work and what time you can spend with them.

•Learn how to network at a barbecue: During summer, business socializing often switches from the boardroom to the barbecue, which can lead to some pretty sticky situations. Try balancing a paper plate full of fried chicken wings with one hand while reaching for a business card from your beach bag with the other. Not an easy task.

If a client or referral source invites you to a barbecue, it’s a business event, so put on your (casual) business behavior. Mind your manners and watch your alcohol intake while you have some fun. Others may down a six-pack of beer, but this isn’t the time to do your monthly drinking.

Bring your business cards but leave them in your pocket or bag until you’re asked. Use this social time to get to know business contacts on a person-to-person basis. What baseball team do they root for? What sports are their kids involved in?

•Take a vacation: Repeat after me, “I have the right to take a vacation. My business will survive if I take a vacation.” Many business owners typically feel their entire business will fall apart if they leave for even a few days. Others plan to take a vacation some day — when things slow down.