Tuesday, July 12, 2016

It's time to run away

It's the time of year in the Northern Hemisphere where people are distracted and looking for reasons to not work.  Clients take time off, factories shut down for maintenance, the kids are off from school and everyone just wants to be having fun.  Sounds like a great time for you to run away, yourself.

Wait - you mean, take a few days off from work?  YES!  You've been working hard all year to build your business.  You've put in the long hours, been at the beck and call of your clients and put your all into building something sustainable.  It's time to walk away for a week or so.  The question is, how can you do that without losing clients and ensuring work continues to get completed, even while you're away?

Start by getting it into your head that the world will not end if you take a week or so off.  If you plan well, you'll be able to leverage your network and your team to make sure it's "business as usual" while you're gone.  A few years ago, I was working on-call 24/7 for a company; because I was the corporate "troubleshooter," it really wasn't possible for me to take time off officially.  I still managed to take a week off for some beach time in Clearwater, Florida and a week in Michigan visiting family and our clients never knew I was technically "away."

Planning is important, as with everything.  If you can, start toward the beginning of the year, but it's possible to do it even if you only have two weeks before you leave.  Here's a checklist of what you'll need to take care of:

  • This is pretty obvious, but one that can cause increased stress - get as much of your clients' work done as possible before you leave.  If that's not possible, then -
  • Leverage your network of folks who do the same or similar as you.  Writers always have other writers in their network; graphic designers, coders, web developers and other service providers similarly have colleagues they can call on in a pinch.  Make sure it's someone you trust just to take care of emergency work or clean-up if the customer has some last-minute changes while you're gone.  Make sure to go through the project in depth with the person you're relying on to get it done.
  • Be upfront with your clients about the fact that you're going to be out of town, but things will still be taken care of.  Only the most finicky clients will be upset you're gong to be away; most will be satisfied if they know you've taken care of coverage in case they need something.
  • Hire a virtual assistant.  What's a virtual assistant?  A VA is someone who works independently for several businesses, doing everything from answering the phones to creating PowerPoints, setting appointments and answering questions for clients.  Every business should have at least one VA available to call on.  I've been using a VA since 2008 and I can't imagine how I would've done everything without her.  When you're away on vacation or on a client visit, forward your work phone to your VA and she'll answer the phones the way you want them answered.  Watch for an article coming up on the value of hiring a virtual assistant and questions you need to ask the person who will be your right arm for most of your company's early life.
  • Take a few days off before your longer vacation to see how the system works.  If you see things you're not comfortable with, make the changes while it's just a day or two.
  • Plan for emergencies.  Contact your clients, let them know you'll be gone but there is a way to get hold of you while you're out, if it's a real emergency.  Then, give your VA and your backup written instructions on how you want emergencies handled and when they need to call you.
After you've done your planning and taken a test drive of your strategy, it's time to run away from home.  While you're gone, take a minimalist approach to business:
  • Unplug for 97% of your time away and make plans to keep yourself away from your phone/tablet/computer for anything other than reading or taking pictures and posting silly pictures of yourself to Facebook and Instagram.
  • Only check your emails and phone messages once a day.  That may seem difficult, but give your VA and your backup a way to get in touch with you ONLY in case of emergency, so you know it's something you HAVE to take care of while on vacation.  Otherwise, everything else can wait until you check your emails and messages at the beginning of the next day.  Better yet, save it all for when you get back from vacation; in 99% of the cases, the world will not fall apart if you take a week off.
  • Remain in the moment.  Don't spend your time at Grand Canyon worrying about the client work you have to get done when you get home.  If you're at the beach, take along some silly, non-work-related reading materials to get your mind out of work mode.  Where ever you are, concentrate on quiet, family, fun, relationships, nature and - especially - just being.
Enjoy your time off, as you run away from home.  And encourage your team to take their time off, too - you'll be surprised how much energy they'll have when they return!  That said, postings will be a bit sporadic during the summer months here in Texas, but know I'm taking my own advice and spending the summer running away as often as I can.

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