Years ago one of my business mentors Roy shared with me on a rafting trip how time away from his business was one of the key tactics that helped him scale it. Over the past 20 years as an entrepreneur scaling companies has taught me that a business owner can cast a pretty big shadow in his or her company. And if you're not careful, your shadow can stunt the growth of your other team and systems. That's why I push myself to take 10 weeks off every year.
This summer I've scheduled in five weeks of vacation and each time I go away, whether it be for one week or three weeks, it gives me a clear reminder of exactly where my business stands in its development independent of me.
I'm going to write this article a bit more personally than my normal business articles because I am hoping that you'll resonate with what I share and find it directly helpful to you and your business.
Here are five things that going on vacation reveals about your business and its current stage in maturity.
1. What things did you feel you "had" to do before you left for your trip? Did you feel like you had to do a project proposal? Or give marching orders to specific staff members? Or finish an accounts payable run? This last minute press of the things you felt only you could do tells you two things about your business. Obviously it reveals places where your business is reliant on you. It also shows you things that you feel scared to let go in your business.
For example, as I write this to hand over to my assistant for her to post during my assigned "window" as a columnist here, I just took the last day before my week away to finish up on several projects before my trip with my family. I notice that there were several items on my "must do" list that were really things that didn't need to be there at all, but rather I volunteered to take them on because I both felt I had to and that I was the best person for them.
My lesson: be much more vigilant about voluntarily taking on projects or "monkeys" that I don't need to. For me, I love the feeling of being the hero who can save the day. I realize that this drive pushes me to open my big, fat mouth and say, "I'll do it," without thinking if that action items fits my personal or company priorities.
How about you? What did the day before you went on vacation reveal about your company and you personally? How can you use this insight to grow in the future?
2. What things did you not get to and were forced to let go of the day before your trip? Did the world come to an end? What you let go of likely wasn't as important as you made it out to be. Is it even something you really need to pick back up when you get back? Or could you just choose to leave it on your stop doing list?
At the very least, carry this insight forward to influence what you say yes to in the future.
3. How did you feel while you were on vacation? Did you feel like you had to check email or be accessible to texts or phone calls? If you did, were the things you dealt with really that important and pressing?
I've got a business coaching program client RC who is away for 7 weeks straight this summer. He's scheduled in three check in phone calls and has his staff all set to handle everything else, including running his multi-million company in his absence.
For me, my team knows that in an emergency they can text me and ask me to check my email for a key email, otherwise I am not accessible during this time away.
But I've got other business coaching clients who check email and check in via phone with their staff while on their vacation.
There is no right or wrong way to do it, but my suggestion to you is that how you feel when you aren't plugged in to your business reveals a lot about your emotional dependency on your business.
4. What work got stalled while you were away that you had to "unjam" when you returned from your trip? Did you have to get a key project moving again? Or have an adult conversation with a team member who used your absence as an excuse to miss a key deadline?
This is a great series of clues about key owner reliance's you need to fix for the future.
Or maybe you're like many of our business coaching clients, and instead found that work got done and projects progressed just fine without you. For example, I was talking with Brian Anderson, owner of Hostek.com, a web hosting company and business coaching client for six years now. Brian has progressively been taking more and more time away from his business and what he has seen each time he returns is how much his team and internal systems have matured. He really isn't needed for any of the day-to-day stuff anymore. Going on vacation is an affirmation of the great work his team and he have done over these past several years to mature the business.
5. What did you promise yourself you'd do differently last time you went away? And did you do it? Did you promise yourself that you would train a team member to handle a particular responsibility? Or did you vow you'd never check email while away with your family? Did you honor your vow?
The bottom line is that time away from your business is one of the most accurate and objective measures of the maturity of your business and your emotional relationship to your company. With this in mind, enjoy your summer.
If you enjoyed the ideas I shared, then I encourage you to download a free copy of my newest book, Build a Business, Not a Job. Click here for full details and to get your complimentary copy.