Have you ever noticed that the most successful entrepreneurs among us usually have a tan? They always seem to have just gotten back from an amazing trip to somewhere tropical. Meanwhile, you cannot imagine leaving your business for even a weekend getaway. Is it the success of their business that allows them to go on frequent vacations, or is the act of going on vacation somehow helping to drive their success? Yes. Both.
Aside from the sandy beaches, slushy drinks and detangled headspace, there is a real benefit to spending some time outside of your business. It forces you to find ways for the business to run without you in it. How does this make you more effective as an entrepreneur? Simple. For your business to grow, it needs you to be focused on the future, and not so much the tactile day-to-day activity. As Michael E. Gerber so aptly details in his book E Myth, the role of the entrepreneur needs to be focused on working on the business, rather than working in the business.
Put another way, the job you sign up for as an entrepreneur is to identify business opportunities, develop a plan for how to best capitalize on them while curtailing risk, and then develop systems and a culture that enable other people to do the work of the business. All the while generating predictable and consistent results. This isn’t to suggest that as an entrepreneur, you won’t get your hands dirty. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. However, working towards systems that allow other people to take over the work you do in your business should be at the root of everything you do.
An upcoming vacation is a great way to place a spotlight on the areas of your business that are solely reliant on you. These are the functions that, for one reason or another, you chose to do rather than delegate. To fully appreciate what this looks like, start by creating a list of all the tasks you do personally in a day, week, and month. Prepare this as a spreadsheet so you can add notes and names next to each task as you assign coverage. You may find it effective to break your list in groups:
Time-sensitive: activities, such as payroll, that cannot be put-off for a couple weeks while you’re away. These will need to be assigned to someone that can take care of them as needed, when needed.
Could wait: tasks that although important, can wait for you to get back if absolutely necessary. That said, it’s best if someone else can deal with them, so as not to be welcomed by an overwhelming to-do list upon your return.
Strategic planning & growth: these are activities that focus on solving high-level problems, continuous improvement and designing programs to grow your business. By their very nature, they are not time-sensitive in relation to the day-to-day function of your organization, but are critical for growing and advancing the business. If you’re an entrepreneur, these are the tasks that belong in your day.
Once you have a comprehensive list, assign an understudy to each task, and make a training plan. Take a long-term approach to this, beyond just the upcoming vacation time. Having an understudy for everything you do ensures your team knows who is accountable for what any time you’re away – planned or unplanned.
When you get back from your time away, pay very close attention to the tasks that are waiting for you (or worse, interrupted your vacation) – the items that either had no one else assigned to complete them, or that your team did not feel comfortable dealing with themselves. It’s important to determine which of these tasks you feel are indeed worthy of your attention, and which you would rather someone else have dealt with.
If done right, you will find that a good number of tasks that you previously did personally do not need to return back you. This serves not only to free-up some of your time, but to also keep your team progressing. If you have hired the right people, they will appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, and will be hungry to hold some additional responsibility long term.
So, what are you waiting for? Go book a vacation. Better yet, delegate to someone else to book it for you.
Gavin Harrison is co-founder at Compello Consulting, Business Strategist and the creator of ATLAS™ – The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Transformative Strategic Planning.