Michael Capizzi woke up in a Newport Beach hotel one morning to a working parent's nightmare: He had taken his 6-year-old son along on a business trip and the boy had come down with chicken pox.
"I freaked out," admitted Capizzi, an executive from Boston. "All of these people were waiting for me at the office."
Capizzi called his wife. Then he called his office. The consensus: Take Mikie, who wasn't feeling the least bit sick, along.
"We isolated him in a certain area of the office and it all worked out fine," said Capizzi, stressing that not even the chicken pox dimmed his enthusiasm for taking each of his kids--he has four--on business trips several times a year. His tip: Stay at a hotel with a pool and make sure to set aside some time for fun after your work is done.
Hollywood director Stuart Gordon is just as enthusiastic about mixing business and family. He has arranged to take his wife, Carolyn, and three daughters on location all over the world, from Australia to Hungary to Italy--where they lived in the castle in which the film was being shot.
"The good part is that I've been to a lot of the places we're learning about in school," said 15-year-old Suzanna Gordon, who still corresponds with friends she made overseas. "And I love helping out on the set."
Whether it's for a few days or, in the Gordon's case, weeks or months at a stretch, growing numbers of working parents are on occasion toting a backpack or diaper bag along with a briefcase on business trips. A national survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Data Center revealed that 16% of business trips last year--more than 17 million--included a child.
Dr. Bennett Leventhal, a child psychiatrist and chief of psychiatry at the University of Chicago, doesn't understand why even more parents don't try it. "People think kids will be bored, but they're not. This helps them learn to be comfortable and adept in different situations and different places," said Leventhal, who takes each of his three children on at least one business trip a year.
Not only do the kids clearly benefit from the experience, some parents suggest the presence of children can enhance business relations. "It sets a tone," explained Michael Capizzi. "They see I'm a guy who really cares about my family."
That's provided parents have chosen an appropriate business situation--tense negotiating sessions probably wouldn't be a good time--and make sure business colleagues are told in advance and voice no objections. The kids should be prepared, too. Are they willing--and old enough--to stay alone in a hotel room for a few hours? Do they understand that the parent/child fun will not come until the work is done?
"These days, people are much more accepting of children being around," said Terry Henson, a member of Holiday Inn's international board of directors. Her tip: Do your homework ahead of time to make sure you've got sitters or activities available for when you must work. Henson, managing director of two Orlando, Fla., Holiday Inns, offers free licensed day care at her hotels.
Certainly, there's no better way to give the kids a sense of what we do.
Even a long flight delay didn't dampen 12-year-old Matt Kolsky's enthusiasm. He recently returned from a trip with his management-consultant dad and can't wait to go again.
"I never saw my dad do work stuff before," explained Matt, who lives in a Chicago suburb. "I didn't figure a business meeting could be that interesting. But when you catch on to what they're saying, it's really neat."
Taking the Kids runs the first and third week of every month.