Many people leave employment and move into running their own business because they wanted a better work-life balance. But all too often, the pressures of being the boss, the overwhelm of being a sole trader or the sheer workload of doing the work, generating the work and controlling the cash flow, means life becomes ALL about work and you end up spending even less time living the life you want.
This can lead to overwhelm, burn-out and quite often, the collapse of the business.
It is important to remember that taking time away is a valuable exercise with proven benefits for your business. You’re not shirking work – you’re recharging your batteries, you’re getting inspiration, you’re reconnecting with your motivation.
In this article, we’re going to share three steps to successfully taking time away. And that’s not taking a day here and there, or a week away where you spend half your time dealing with customer queries from the car park of the waterpark!
Proper time away means no interruptions, no negative consequences – just quality time spent with your loved ones or on your own, making you a better business person upon your return.
Thinking about time away
As always, the first step in any change to your business or your life is to get your mindset right.
Many of us stress about whether we can take a long weekend or a few days here and there. But to properly take time away you should think about how you can take four consecutive weeks away from your business.
That’s right. A full month where you are not working. No contact, no social media updates, no ‘just checking in’ phone calls or emails.
Sounds crazy, right?
But thinking about what you would need to do to make this possible is the gateway to being able to confidently take that two week holiday, or even a week or a long weekend. When you start to challenge your beliefs on what is possible, you’ll begin to realise the potential, take informed actions, see the results you want and this will all factor back into your beliefs on what you can do with your business.
You may have read the above and thought, “that doesn’t apply to me. I’m a sole-trader / I’m a freelancer / I run a shop which needs me to be there every day or the work won’t happen / the money won’t come in.”
But we’d challenge you to open your mind to this.
So you’re a freelancer – do you have regular retainer clients? With enough notice can you work ahead on regular projects to do more work in the month ahead and push some work back to the month after? Do you offer a reduced retainer for that month if 75% of the work is brought forward or pushed back and the rest is taken back in-house by your client for a few weeks? Is there another freelancer who can cover the work on your behalf for that month?
You work in a shop on your own – is there anyone else you can bring in to cover you for the month or if not, can you close the shop for a month and factor that into your annual sales cycle? How much more money would you need to generate in the other 11 months to allow you to close your business for a month without hurting your annual results?
Once you start considering the ‘impossible’ and seeing it as something that can be overcome, you’ll see that there is no such thing as ‘I just can’t.’
2. Taking a break is a process – about processes.
Planning for 4 weeks away isn’t just about challenging your internal beliefs. You will have to put in place some processes to ensure your business continues to run in your absence or is safely dormant and can be picked back up upon your return.
So think about WHY you currently feel like you’re the only person who can run your business. Is there a specific part of your work that you can’t trust your team to do correctly? Is there a specific member of your team you lack confidence in? Is there an expectation or perception from your customers that the work is of lower quality if you’re not there running things? Are you nervous that your clients, your staff or your competitors will think that you’re being lazy by taking time away?
Examining your feelings about your place in your business will often reveal insecurities about your team or your insecurities about the expectations of clients or other stakeholders.
So ask yourself – can you train up that member of the team that you’re not confident in over the next year? No? Can you hire someone who does have the right level of experience? Or can you hire a consultant to oversee this area of the business on an interim basis? How much extra work would your business need to build to make that hire possible? How many more sales would you need each month to afford that wage or that consultancy fee? What marketing will you need to do to achieve those sales?
If the perception from your clients is that you need to be present to maintain standards – Can you highlight the excellent work of your team member to clients who perceive your team as less experienced? Over the coming year, can you ensure that the client slowly deals more and more with your team rather than you? Can your team take that client out for lunch without you to build a personal relationship?
The question always remains…but what if something goes wrong? And inevitably something will always go wrong, at least those first few times you take time away. The important thing is to learn from those issues and address them for the next time.
Make sure the people you’re leaving behind have the skill and the authority to deal with problems.
This might mean creating a series of checklists or “how to” guides for your team.
Also, there should be a defined follow up process for issues that arise during your break. A set date for when you will return, rules around the circumstances when you can be contacted (which should eventually be “under no circumstances”) and how many days after your return will issues be responded to.
Finally, consider the incredible opportunities that technology now gives us. If your team’s workload is an issue there are tools and resources online that cut down on many administrative tasks and automate simple processes at the touch of a button. If you’re interested, we’d be happy to discuss the tools we use to lighten the load at Cloud360.
3. Plan the money
Now that you’ve opened your mind to the possibility of four weeks away from your business and started planning around the people requirements and processes, how do you actually afford it?
As well as personal budgeting (actually paying for that all expenses resort or cruise), how do you plan for potentially lower revenues for the month you’re away or the potential impact over several months?
Can you drive more sales at other times of the year? Take your time away in the quietest part of the year to minimise impact.
We recently hosted a webinar on 7 Ways to Grow Your Business which gives you seven tools to generate more sales for your company. You can watch a recording of this hour-long session for FREE by joining our mailing list today.
In terms of having the money to pay for your holiday, should you take that as a bonus or as dividends? Your accountant will be able to advise you on the most tax-efficient way of planning for this.
If you run the financial side of your business and aren’t confident that payroll or credit control or tax will be dealt with properly, look at outsourcing this function. At Cloud360 we act as an outsourced finance team for multiple businesses. We can take over this entire function of your business and create incredible efficiencies that make business sense all year round but are particularly reassuring when you’re taking time away.
In summary, planning a hypothetical four weeks away from your business is the key to taking a week or a fortnight away without guilt, fear or remorse! You may still need to “keep an eye on things” the first time you take significant time away but if you learn from those issues, and improve your people and processes for next time, that hypothetical four week holiday could soon become a reality!