When I finally started a consulting company, I experienced a sense of totality. As a formal serial executive for various startups, I had finally realized that I didn’t want to be behind the scenes anymore. I was ready to be my own boss — numero uno. Entrepreneurship seemed to be everything that working for a company wasn’t. Plus, I have three rambunctious boys at home. It was time to have that relaxed morning routine with them that I had always dreamed about.
However, all of those dreams came to a screeching halt when my consultancy grew to an agency with more projects than I could handle. My husband came home to be my developer and I hired qualified help as quickly as I could. But it wasn’t enough.
Soon I found myself 10 pounds heavier, in chronic pain and suffering from an ulcer…at 33 years old. When I broke down while watching Les Miserables in my basement, the solution was crystal clear. I was working 14-hour days, sleeping poorly, visiting the doctor regularly, and growing my client base at a rate, even I, couldn’t pace.
I finally asked myself: What is the point of having complete control over your time if I don’t ever, ever, take a vacation?
So, I informed my husband and business partner that we would take a vacation — the entire month of July. In April it seemed like a great idea. As June grew closer, I became much more apprehensive. How would my business function? Who would lead my merry band of workers? How would projects get completed?
Whether you are leaving for a week or the entire holiday season, the following steps can help you breathe a little easier while you’re basking in the Bahama breeze, sipping on a Mai Tai:
Build up your team.
This might not work if you are a power-hungry boss that belittles her employees. But if you hired them because they are smart and capable, trust them to be smart and capable. You will need to assign your projects to team members well before your departure so that they can be introduced, sit in on calls or meetings, and learn how you speak to and interact with that particular client, project or vendor.
Designate a project manager.
Red Branch Media operates under the assumption that everyone does what they do best…and that’s it. But with the leader gone, that model simply won’t work. So, we looked for someone with project management experience to lead the team. Sure, I could have trained someone to do the job. However, it would have been difficult for them to go back to their former tasks when I returned.
Change your billing structure.
If you rely on sales to make payroll or projects with big checks to cover costs, you may want to shift that model before your vacation. Make sure your payroll is taken care of by looking into small business or back office tools to automate the process. If your clients will agree to it, spread out your payments so that you still have revenue while you are gone.
Get your finances in order.
We were heading to Europe. And while we would have phones in order to be in touch with our kids, we expected the unexpected. So we decided to do our best to eliminate any financial headaches while we’re gone. To do this we payed ahead on all of our bills and payed down any credit card balances in case that sleepy little hotel in the hillside didn’t take Visa.
Double up on work.
In order to take a month off, you have to work extra hard in the prior months. In fact, by my estimate, we were working nearly three times as hard. But there is a rationale to this; you cannot enjoy time off if you know you left something undone. Especially when your baby (I mean, business) is hanging in the balance.
Work hard and reward your team.
We have deadlines to meet. If we didn’t meet those deadlines by the time our flight lifted off the ground, we were going to be hard pressed to pay for our vacation. So we asked everyone to pitch in a little more and a little harder. We also implemented a bonus structure to that end. By the time we were gone, I knew my team would feel like running our office was a piece of cake!
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
I know none of it feels like small stuff. But it is. While our businesses and clients loom large in our own lives, the weight of the world is not actually on our shoulders.
Learning to let your business survive (or maybe even thrive) without you can be a valuable tool for you, your team and your clients.
Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space.
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