Most entrepreneurs I know – myself included – eat, sleep, and breathe our businesses, at least at the beginning. It’s easy to see how it happens. We start with nothing but a great idea and determination, and we nurture our companies. We’re proud of what we’ve built, and we want to see it continue to grow.
But there are times when we need a break, and it can be very difficult to walk away and trust that our business can survive without our hands-on, day-to-day attention.
Meet Donnie Miller, CEO of Technical Adventures. He started his full-service IT company about ten years ago, and he did it just the way most of us have. He did everything – sales, customer service, numbers, lead technician, fire extinguisher, and chief bottle washer – all by himself. And he needed a break. He hadn’t taken a vacation in years, and his company had plateaued. What did he do?
He walked away and took a six-month sabbatical. Now he didn’t just walk out the door one day with no notice and vanish. He took specific steps to set his company up to run in his absence. His steps:
- Hire the right people and put them in the right positions. Donnie had hired great, trustworthy people, folks he could rely on to run his business well, but it wasn’t until he actually took a day off – physically left the office – that his employees really started to shine. If your staff relies on you to be the final arbiter of every issue that arises, you’ll never see them reach their potential.
- Start small. Donnie started by leaving for a few days at a time, checking in by phone. He realized quickly that he was used to feeling needed and the phone calls were really more for his benefit than that of his managers. When Donnie figured out that his staff would call when they needed him, he was ready for longer breaks from the office.
- Assess results. After Donnie’s first six-month sabbatical, his business had dropped by thirty percent, mostly because he’d been the entire sales force before his departure. He put people in place to handle sales, evaluated the successes and failures of the systems he’d put in place, and made the necessary changes.
- Look at the big picture. One of the chief benefits of Donnie’s absence was the fact that he knew his company could manage everyday matters without his assistance. That freed him up for all sorts of new projects. He could focus on all the new ideas and growth-oriented projects he’d never had time for back when he handled everything personally. He was finally able to steer his company the way he’d always wanted.
It takes guts (and no small amount of humility) to step back from your business and let it run without you. We get so wrapped up in thinking our value is in our hands-on micromanagement that we forget it’s our vision that’s our chief asset. By following Donnie’s example and removing our ego from the equation, we often find the solution is far simpler than we realize. Stepping back can give you and your company opportunity to grow.