Thirty years ago, Shel Horowitz worked 31 days straight without a break at his marketing consulting firm in Hadley, Mass., and swore he would never do it again. “It was a stupid thing to do, and it put my health and sanity at risk,” he says. These days Horowitz leans on a virtual assistant–Michelle works from Alaska–to monitor his e-mail and phone messages when he’s away. Michelle forwards the stuff that can’t wait and also handles Web site maintenance and research. “Michelle is a godsend for a microbusiness like ours,” says Horowitz.