Small Business

Spring Break for Grown-ups


Jill Hamburg Coplan Ah, spring. Unlike summer, with its angst-producing holiday decisions (Tent or cabin? Plane or car? To bring or not to bring the cell phone, laptop, work reading?), spring pleasures are blissfully simple, say a number of entrepreneurs gearing up to enjoy this family-friendly season.

With a family business, "it can be difficult to truly get away," says Steven Rothberg, 35, who owns and runs the Internet job board CollegeRecruiter.com with his wife. Not that he even really wants to be entirely divorced from his job. During summer trips with their 2-year-old daughter and boys, ages 6 and 4, he's most relaxed if he works for two hours a day. "That way, I know the trip won't harm the business," he explains. Spring fun, by comparison, is far easier: stress-free biking with the kids in their Minneapolis neighborhood and soccer with the boys.

CRUISE CONTROL. Spring is Karl Douglas' excuse for a mini-vacation with the family. A Wall Street refugee who started WarpSolutions, an Internet technology company in New York, in 1999, Douglas, his wife, and their four young children took a Disney cruise out of Florida. No laptop for dad, just "settling down and relaxing," Douglas says. Four days, zero guilt.

In hotter climes like Texas, which can be oppressive in summer, spring is the ideal time "to take some time off to swim with the kids, bike ride, or hike," says Deb Nyberg, proprietor of a businesswomen's networking site, bizwomen.com, that she runs from her home. "Much more productive work can be done when you have taken the time to have a little fun, too," she adds.

Spring is the season for compromise, a chance for entrepreneurs to practice what Daniel Pink, in his new book Free Agent Nation: How America's New Independent Workers are Transforming the Way We Live (Warner Books: April 2001), calls "a shift from either/or solutions to both/and solutions." It's typically American, he says -- like mix-and-match healing philosophies ("a little echinacea and some antibiotics"). Likewise, entrepreneurs are "choosing both work and family, experimenting to find the mix that's right for them."

GUILT-EDGED. Disconnecting completely from business during summer vacations on a Wisconsin lake is tough for David Gold, founder and CEO of ProSavvy, an online business-to-business professional-services marketplace based in Denver. While he resists the temptation to work, he also admits "I always feel guilty." There's no trace of guilt for Gold this spring in Colorado, where he manages to work, go hiking and fishing, and take in baseball games with his young sons. But this season's really big event was theatrical. "I declined a nice speaking opportunity so I wouldn't miss my older son's school play," he explains.

No matter how much leisure-time activity entrepreneurs manage to shoehorn into their schedules, certain personality types remain stubbornly high-strung, says Ray Friedman, a social psychologist and professor at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management. "They tend not to deal with problems, to allow conflicts to linger, which creates relationship problems and stress," explains Owen. Professionals who are overly domineering also end up stressed-out, he has found. The calmest business leaders resolve conflicts by listening, communicating, and compromising.

And then, if it's April, they log off, throw on their cycling helmets and hit the trail. Jill Hamburg Coplan has covered work, family, business, and finance for the past decade as a writer and editor for newspapers, magazines, and wire services. She left Working Woman magazine, where she was senior editor, when her first child was born and now works solo from a home office in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can e-mail her at Jill Hamburg Coplan


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