Here’s the dream for most business owners…
They want to mature a business to the point where they can take 3 months off at once and not open a single email from that remote beach in Tahiti. Now imagine doing that and coming back to a business that has grown in sales, margin and people?
Impossible? Well, not really. I’m going to show you how.
But first, why are you doing this?
You want your business to thrive without you
While you, Founder and CEO, are working in the business daily you are not always able to see which elements of the business can’t survive (nay! thrive!) without you, as you just keep smoothing over those cracks with your time and remarkable skills. The trick is to step away and let the team swim in the deep end. But not all at once.
Start with one week first
Start with setting a time-based goal. Let’s say in 3 years you want to take off 3 months and not worry about the organisation you have left behind, you’ll need to train that muscle first. So start with one week. Here’s your to-do list:
Play pretend leave.
Plan a week’s “holiday” in about a month or 2 from today.
See if your 2IC can see you through the choppy seas.
Pick your 2IC [second in command] and let him/her become the central bottleneck and filter for all information in the business in your absence.
Daily information you want to know.
Decide on which key pieces of information you want to know daily, and when and how you want to receive this. Examples are; sales, pipeline, profits, marketing metrics, people metrics, retention stats, cash flows, volumes of delivery, process changes and general red flags.
Create a RAG rating for the daily information
You should also then categorise all this info into a RAG rating [Red, Amber and Green].
Green: Items you want to know about that are in the band of acceptability.
Amber: those that have some level of issue and escalation, but are being managed internally. You are not needed. Revert back to ice-cold G&T.
Red: Concerns, problems or issues that the team and your 2IC can’t manage. G&T is set aside to deal with issue urgently.
Wrap that information up, tweet style.
If you had to condense all this info into a single “140-character tweet” – how could you do that and get that via Whatsapp/email once a day, at close of business? That’s what you need to do before you depart.
Don’t leave yet! Test it first.
Test this model for a few weeks before you leave. Explain to the whole company that you are on holiday [dammit!] and will not be available unless there is a genuine emergency [marked as RED.]
Pour G&T…and watch.
Take the week off, allowing the team to manage and maintain the business with no expectation of growth or anything fancy. The team must track all issues that cropped up that they could not deal with.
Compiling the fracture list
From your time away, you’ll build a list. It includes the issues that cropped up while you were away that couldn’t be handled without you as well as the parts you always cover anyway (that were not delegated to the team in your absence). These are the fractures in your business that need repairs.
Fixing the Fractures (metal rods, plates & screws not needed)
Over the coming weeks, create processes and train your team on how to handle and think about solutions to the problems that arose while you were away.
Do you want growth in your absence?
Then take leave again…and again…and again.
Every time you go away you are stress testing the business. Now plan the next trip. If you can, make it a few days longer and again follow the steps above. If you keep adding days to the “holidays” and repeat the process every 2-3 months, you should be forcing the business to mature internally to a point where it can at the very least maintain itself. Now to be clear, when I say go on holiday every couple of months, you may not practically be able to do that but then afford yourself the time to work away from the usual spaces. Gift yourself the time to be strategic in nature, so that you can build more structure and process in order to take the next big leap – growth in your absence.
Freedom begins when you give authority, training and trust
After a few repetitions in this cycle, you should see obvious brittleness in some of your people, your operating processes and the dependency of the business on you.
Let’s be honest, you are still most likely overseeing invoicing, sales and high level client engagements – all tasks that you must solve for by giving authority, training and trust to people in the business to solve. Remember if you are doing a task the same way more than once it should be automated, delegated or outsourced.
Share this article with your COO, 2IC or your whole team. You’d be surprised as to how excited your people will get at taking on more autonomy, decision-making and strategic responsibility. In this context, sharing really is caring.
[Extra special shout out to heavyweight B2B content writers at Shelf-Made for the edit!]