I.e., can you ever take a vacation?
“If I leave, my business will fall apart!” Does this sound like you? Want to change that? Then ask yourself: What must happen so that you feel comfortable taking a three-week vacation—without your cell phone? “Three week vacation?” asks the owner of a busy store incredulously. “When I look at my floor managers, I fear taking a three-day weekend!”
What’s the #1 requirement for a stress-free vacation? You must have good people in place. The better your people, the longer you can safely be away. Some of us have “long weekend assistants”—that is, we can rely on them if we take off a Friday or Monday—and some of us have “world cruise assistants.” It’s a great feeling to return after a sojourn to Italy and find everything running smoothly.
Do you say, “The business is me”? If so, then you can never leave. What do you handle in your business that no one else can? This is what limits the length of your absences. Start by listing the tasks and responsibilities that someone would have to handle in your absence. How frequently must these tasks be done?
More prep = longer trips. How many high-level tasks can your people handle? The more lead-time you have, the more you can do to prepare them. Here are four levels:
Level 1. Delegate tasks to those already capable of handling them. Takes a few days to do this, and allows you to be gone a few days.
Level 2. Simplify tasks so that others can more easily do them. This process can take a few weeks.
Level 3. Train your people to take on more. This may take a month or two.
Level 4. Hire and groom the person who can run your business in your absence. May take six months to hire and train this person, but then you can be gone for an extended time.
Perhaps you should start with a short trip. See how your people do when you are gone for a week, and work up to longer trips. Your people gain confidence, and you gain confidence in them.
No cell phone on the beach. While you are gone, how often should you check in? Again, the more you trust your people to handle whatever comes up, the less you worry about this. DO NOT keep your cell phone with you 24/7. Instead, set specific times when you will check in with them. Be reachable in an emergency, but make sure they understand what constitutes an emergency.
How did it go? When you finally go and then return, de-brief your people: How did they do? What went well? Where did problems arise? What should you do differently next time? Time after time owners report to me, “There were a few glitches, but things went amazingly well.”
“How to Have a Life” lessons for the busy business owner.
1. Schedule your vacations far in advance. Put them on your calendar, buy the airline tickets, tell people you are going, and start making the work preparations.
2. Hire, train, and retain the best people—those who can free you up. Don’t let mediocre people keep you chained to the office. Do this even if you have only one part-timer.
3. This is about more than vacations. Running your business this way is the route to growth, profitability, and ease.
The booby trap. You return, everything has gone well; your people have stepped up to the challenge and handled things better than you anticipated. But within a week or so, they fall back into the habit of relying on you more than they have to.
Ah, yes! That’s the topic for another post.
Have a question about how your business can run well in your absence? Post it on my blog.