Vacations, holidays are luxuries few in small biz can afford

Millions have embraced entrepreneurialism to earn a living as well as fulfill personal ambitions. But the dour economy has made that already-rough career path even bumpier.

Nearly half of small-business owners say economic conditions for their firms will worsen in the next six months — and 49% said temporary cash-flow issues over the past 90 days already have caused them to hold off on paying bills. The findings, released today, are in a survey this month of 750 small-business owners by credit card issuer Discover Financial Services.

The percentage reporting cash-flow issues is at the highest level since August 2006, when Discover launched the Discover Small Business Watch monthly survey of entrepreneurs who have fewer than five employees.

Small-business owners aren't just pessimistic about their own circumstances — they're pretty much down on the economy as a whole. Six in 10 deem the U.S. economy "poor" — up from 50% in April. And 57% say it's getting worse. That's up from 51% last month.

As owners hunt for new business leads and cope with client demands, their downtime is diminishing, Discover Small Business Watch spokesman Jon Drummond says. As a result, less sun this summer and more work. And holiday prospects for the rest of 2009 don't look so hot, either.


•Fewer vacations — and more work. Many workers had a Memorial Day break, but most small-business owners were glued to their laptops and cash registers: 57% say they work "always" or "most of the time" on official holidays. Just 31% of total adults answered the same way.

David Rostan, who founded the community website last year, will work while he's on a vacation that began on Friday. Now that he runs his own firm, he's also more conservative about taking time off, allotting just one week for his trip to Ireland.

"In all my previous jobs, I've maxed out allowable vacation times," he says.

•Extended workweeks. Slightly more than 60% of small-business owners say they toil six or seven days per week, while only 22% of the general population say they work that much.

Adam Menzel, who co-founded stock market-related Ticker Technologies and Market News Video, says he's constantly working. Friday was slated to be a rare vacation day, relaxing in Martha's Vineyard, yet he conceded: "I'm checking my BlackBerry, and I'm returning phone calls." The updates he gets 24/7 through his BlackBerry allow him to be a bit more relaxed when not at work. "I'm definitely a lot calmer having it."