How do you go away without burning your business to the ground?

When I started to consult and became self-employed, I made a promise to myself that I was going to take 2 months off a year every single year and I was going to work towards being in a position where I could only work 4 days a week. In the previous business that I sold, I got to that point and in actual fact, I took 3 months off last year and I was got to a point where I was working 4 days. So it’s possible.

In order to do it in such a way where your business doesn’t burn down, there are a few key considerations you need to make.

Firstly, if you are a one-man band or sole trader, you are the lifeblood of your business and there’s nobody else that’s going to keep things churning in your absence.

It’s not reasonable to think your business will keep growing in your absence but that doesn’t mean you can’t go on holidays. What this means is you need to understand how much money you need to have in your business account to continue to drip feed yourself a wage whilst you’re away, and also have enough money in the bank for you to be able to have time to build up your pipeline again and get the wheels turning in your business again when you come back.

Now, obviously, that’s not ideal. But that allows you to stop burning yourself out and sending yourself into an early grave.

If you are a business owner that has staff, this is about having the right systems and about reducing the key person risk. So once again, if you’ve got staff who are only doing the back end, the admin and then essentially the delivery and your primary responsibilities are sales and bringing new people in the door, then once again it is difficult to expect your business will continue to grow without you there.

So you need to make sure that you itemize and list all of your key responsibilities and work out “Are you going to retain them?”, “Are you going to delegate them?” or “You’re going to make it redundant?”. And this is all about trying to create systems and processes so then you have people who can carry the torch for you all our way.

Now, ultimately, you might not be able to have enough resources that are going to keep things at 100% capacity of what you would be doing if you were there being present but you need to understand that it’s going to be good enough to continue to keep things moving along so you actually have a business to come back to when you get home.

This is about planning and it’s about having the right plan in place, creating the right accountabilities and in saying that, having the right reporting channels so whilst you’re away, if this is the first time you do it, that you’re not going completely MIA.

The first time that I did it, I had the right reporting channels. I was coming online checking my emails, making sure that I was available to work on the business, not work in the business and essentially made sure that I could help troubleshoot issues as they came up. But over time, we’ve got to a point where I was competent enough that the team could carry the torch and I didn’t need to be available taking care of all of the key business functions while I was away.

So it’s just about having the right plan and the right infrastructure in place and giving it a go. The process is as follows;

  1. Get clear on your future plans to take time out of the business- we plan our calendar 12 months in advance to ensure we have time to prepare for being out of the business
  2. Start small and work your way up to longer times out of picture- you will be required to trial, review and iterate your plans to ensure that the business continues to thrive in your absence
  3. Get your team involved and get clear on how you will work together and what is expected- this is a two way street and this is for their benefit too when they want to go on leave
  4. Document your systems and processes- most contact can be reduced if you have the processes written out. This way your staff don’t need to bother you for unnecessary issues
  5. Create KPIs and metrics to track your success when you are away- do you want income to increase, stay the same or not fall more than a certain amount? What are the quantitative and qualitative metrics that ensure everyone knows what they should do?
  6. Have a review afterwards and discuss what went well, what needs to improve and ensure these actions are taken and documented
  7. Have a crack and see what happens! There is no point living in fear of failure. As one of my mentors once said, ‘learn to fail fast’. Get out there, have some fun and enjoy the journey
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