Jangomail founder Ajay Goel isn't just the CEO of his software development company, he's also the head of technical support. So the odds of him needing to handle an urgent phone call on a day off are pretty high. But that hasn't stopped him from seeing the world. "I actually take vacations pretty frequently," says Goel, who founded the Dayton, Ohio, company that JangoMail is part of in 1998 after finishing college.
JangoMail is a web-based service that lets companies blast e-newsletters or targeted mass marketing communications to hundreds of customers at a time. Its 1,200 clients include marquis names like General Motors, Kellogg's and MasterCard. The service, which helped Goel's company build revenue of about $5 million last year, works 24/7.
But that hasn't scared Goel into staying close to home. This year, he has already spent a month gadding about in remote parts of Africa and Australia. Yet Goel, 30, was far from unreachable. Not only has he invested in tri-band mobile phone service so he can roam abroad far and wide, he also makes sure to rent a satellite phone for those times when he's out of range. "If the vacation is longer than three or four days, I am guaranteed a call," he says.
What happens after that call depends on where Goel is. If he can get to an internet-connected computer, he can often resolve a problem by logging into his company's servers using a secure remote access service, which was initially set up because Goel and his colleagues are scattered across three states. "Any of us can do our jobs from anywhere in the world we can be online," he says.
So can Goel ever really take a vacation? He certainly puts himself out of range on occasion, but he cherishes that time to think about the future: "Most of my time in the office gets bogged down with administrative tasks," Goel says. "When I'm on vacation, I think more about the future and where I'd like to take the company."
Heather Clancy, a freelance journalist and consultant, has been covering the high-tech industry for close to 20 years.
Your status as an entrepreneur practically guarantees you'll be interrupted on vacation. But those interruptions can be on your own terms. The following tips were gleaned from several entrepreneurs and Gerry Purdy, vice president and chief analyst for mobile and wireless technology with Frost & Sullivan.
1. Set up an escalation strategy. Define what constitutes an emergency, and outline a clear plan for how you can be contacted. When a cell phone won't cut it, rent a satellite phone, which should work in about 91 percent of the locations you can reach.
2. Leave it behind. No need to schlep around a notebook and a PDA--just bring the phone. If you're worried about the onslaught of e-mail you'll find in your inbox on your return, bring one device to answer urgent e-mails only.
3. Develop a routine. Limit when you work. If your fellow travelers like to sleep in, check e-mail in the morning.
4. Delegate. This could be a great time to let a promising employee spread his or her wings. But if someone is answering e-mail on your behalf, be sure that employee says so in any responses sent to your customers.