Finding Time for Vacation as a Small Business Owner

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My father is a small business owner. He’s been a small business owner for eight years now. His small business is a lawn care and landscape company in my hometown just outside the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

What started as a three-lawn, single-mower operation back in 2005, has transformed into a full-time job with over 60 yards a week. Mostly from referrals, my dad was getting new yards and expanding on a weekly basis. For a while, I couldn’t talk to him on the phone without the conversation going something like this:

“Picked up another yard today.”

“That’s great!” I’d say. “More business.”

“Yeah. Better than the alternative. Gonna have to start working Saturdays.”

Like most small business owners, my dad’s company is a 24-hour-a-day job. It’s constant planning and working to make sure he gets to every customer, every week. It’s his life.

This is the story of the small business owner. Weekends barely exist, let alone vacation time. In fact, a recent study reported that 41 percent of small business owners take vacation time less than twice a year, and 18 percent never take vacation at all.

Another survey, from Sam’s Club in 2008, reported that 50 percent of small business owners only take major holidays off. To put that in perspective, that’s less than half the number of vacation days the average professional takes every year. (The average number of vacation days outside of holidays in the United States is 13).

But does it have to be like this? We know that for some small business owners, taking vacation time is simply not an option. However, it’s important for not only your own health and success, but also the health and success of your business, to take some time away from the daily grind of dealing with customers or creating a marketing strategy. You have to get away and recharge.

Fortunately, advancements in technology have made it easier than ever to get away from the office while also staying close and “connected,” from your mobile device. Years ago, vacation time meant you were away from the office, and therefore, away from every aspect of the business. You had no idea what was going on until you returned.

Not anymore. With cloud technology, you can access anything you need as long as you have an Internet connection and a device — laptop, smartphone or tablet.

“Small and medium-sized businesses have clearly confirmed the growing importance of mobile services accessed via phone, smartphone and tablet devices when it comes to operating their business,” senior director of product management at Cbeyond Bill Thomson told Business News Daily.

Cbeyond, a cloud and communication services provider, conducted research highlighting the importance of mobile services in running a small business. They found that 42 percent of small business owners would have trouble operating their business without mobile technology. That’s almost half of all small businesses in the country that would lose business and profit without the luxury of working on-the-go.

Additionally, the survey reported that a third of all small business owners claimed their business would not just suffer, but would not survive without mobile services.

Look outside. The sun is shining (at least in Austin, Texas), the weather is warm, and a body of water is calling your name. Trade in another two days at the office for a long weekend at home, in the mountains or on a beach with friends or family. You deserve it.

And remember, with mobile and cloud technology, you’re never more than a few clicks or swipes away from your business. Just in case of an emergency.

Good CRM Requires a Standard Data Input Methodology

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Before the vacation rental management company Optimal Owner Care started using Zoho, they tried to grow their database by purchasing a bulk set of leads and dialing them through a piece of rudimentary client management software that wasn’t sustainable nor expandable, said Matthew Velez and his colleague from Optimal Owner Care.

Since switching to Zoho, business has changed dramatically. The company has grown from ten employees to sixty. To get a handle on what was happening with the sales team they had to normalize the data protocols and the 70,000 leads they’ve processed, explained Velez.

If everyone is doing their own thing when entering data into the CRM, that’s a real problem. You can’t generate reports. It’s very important that everyone follows the same protocols.

Optimal Owner Care’s most valuable reports are their sales reports. They can see how efficient sales people are being and use that information to optimize the workflow. They also utilize a dashboard so that each sales person can see the exact dollar amount they’re making based on every single action they take and that motivates them to do more, Velez said.

Without Zoho there’s no way they could have pulled this off with their growing staff.

For other organizations dealing with a mountain of growing data, they highly advise to stay organized. Create data entry protocols from the start and stick to them. If you keep constantly changing procedures you’ll create gaps and lose data. It’s the only way to create a sustainable and growable sales force.