It’s August, and you may be feeling frustrated with your inability to take your well-deserved vacation. After all, you’re the owner of your own business, so shouldn’t you be able to take time off – without staying in constant contact?
Getting away for a vacation and cutting contact with your business can be good for both you and your company. You get to recharge your batteries, and your company becomes less dependent on you and thereby more valuable. The most valuable companies are those that have well trained managers and employees, and standard processes that make things hum. Your vacation is a great time to test how well your company can function without you.
Here are six steps for making your company more valuable and profitable while you’re on vacation:
Step 1: Push the envelope with your vacation
How much you push depends on the starting point:
If you haven’t taken a day off in five years, then start by taking a long weekend and staying available by phone or email.
Next ask staff and managers to avoid contacting you unless it’s an emergency.
Keep extending your vacations, and decreasing your availability for “emergencies.”
Unexpectedly extend your vacation by a day or two and see what happens.
The goal – being able to get away for several weeks without checking in.
Step 2: Categorize mistakes made during your absence
Upon your return, list what went wrong and categorize the items into three buckets:
Mistakes: Situations where there is a clear right and wrong answer.
Bottlenecks: Projects that couldn’t move forward because you weren’t there to provide input.
Stalled projects: Initiatives that you lead and which could not move forward due to your absence.
Step 3: Correct the mistakes
Mistakes are typically made due to insufficient training, inadequate processes, or missing documentation.
Group the mistakes to see where they occurred. Focus your efforts on areas where most of the mistakes happened.
Determine whether there are consistent processes to follow, and adequate instructions for following them.
Assess the skills and training of the people involved, and determine what can be done to improve their performance.
After you’ve completed your work, pretend that you’re away from work for a week or two in order to identify additional opportunities for improvement.
Step 4: Unblock your bottlenecks
On some projects, you are a key contributor but not the leader. Taking yourself out of the equation can be a valuable learning opportunity for others on the project.
Before going on vacation, determine how the project would have moved forward if you were there. Identify where your input will be required to make progress.
Empower others on the project team to make the necessary decisions. Set clear guidelines on what they are empowered to do, and what should be deferred until your return.
Be flexible upon your return – the project may move forward in ways not consistent with your expectations. The project team may surprise you with how well they did! Debrief with staff to brainstorm what went right, what went wrong, and how to improve in the future. It’s critical to create a safe learning environment.
Step 5: Re-assign project leadership where possible
As the business owner, it’s easy to get sucked into leading all or most projects. You may not even be the best person to lead some of them.
Identify which projects are strategic, and keep those for yourself. For the remaining projects, determine who else in the organization could lead them. If the right person doesn’t exist within the organization, it may be time to make a key hire.
Step 6: Give employees decision making authority
Managers and line employees will grow in their jobs only if they are given increasing responsibilities and authority. A vacation can be the perfect time to allow your team to stretch their wings. To do so, however, team members need to feel comfortable that they won’t be disciplined or berated for well intentioned decisions that went awry. Set clear on expectations before you leave, and deal with the results in a positive fashion upon your return.
So go ahead and take the vacation, and use it as an opportunity to improve your team and increase the value of your company.