What I learned from a month away from my business/work
Monday, June 19th, 2023 in: Advice
How to Clockwork My Business
Rule #1: I am Not an Accountant
I am sitting here in Boston Tea Party (my favourite place in Cheltenham to grab a coffee, some breakfast and get on with some solo un-distracted work), with my Soya Decaf Flat White (Yes, I am a coffee snob) pondering whether to go for the porridge and blueberry compote or my usual go-to the ‘Vegan Boss’. I’ve just had a month off from work and it is the Tuesday morning after the end of May Bank holiday and to be honest, I am not chomping at the bit to get back into the thick of things. I was in the shower this morning and asked myself, “What do I want to do today” and “What do I feel like doing?”. This led me to recognise the urge to work in a different environment away from my home and office and to reflect on my experience of having a month out of my business and away from work. I have been in Florida for 3 weeks but will spare you the details of all the rides we enjoyed (well maybe I can share the odd one!?), my aim is to first and foremost, extract value from my own experience because I 100% believe that this was a good decision for me and my business to take that time off, so the value needs to be identified. But to also relate it to the other entrepreneurs and business owners out there that find themselves on the hamster wheel or feel that taking a month off is impossible. I will not devote too much time on how to take a month off as this is a deep topic that is well documented if you know where to look, I will focus largely on my personal reflections and potential learning points.
Ok, so I will share a bit about me and my business to provide some context. I started CTA in 2013 officially as this is the year I left my job, however, I had a small side hustle of clients before that point. I took the leap in 2013 to leave the safety net of employment and give self-employment a go. Fast forward to 2023, I have a team of over a dozen, including part-time members and also some based offshore. I have spent the last 7 years focusing on how to build a business that is not reliant on me. The biggest distinction I made early on was that I am not an accountant, I am a business owner. If you are working for yourself or even have a small team, this is the single biggest thing you can do in terms of your mindset to start the journey of becoming a business owner and not a ‘self-employed’ person. I am not referring to the legal term here, I am talking about whether you have a business that works for you, your family and your life or not. On a side note, if you love the work you do and never want to stop doing it, that’s fine. Beyonce can’t hire someone to do her gigs and doesn’t want to! I suspect that a good majority of people with their own ‘business’ don’t like doing a good proportion of their weekly tasks, and many are working even more hours than they did when employed. Yes, we need to work hard to get things off the ground but working longer and harder forever is not a sustainable strategy. This is the backdrop to my journey in being able to tak a month off.
Clockwork Your Business
Mike Michalowicz, the author of Profit First also has a book called Clockwork. The idea is that it IS POSSIBLE to create a business that runs like clockwork. He has many theories, stories and tools to help you with this process. To be honest, the book didn’t necessarily change my strategy that much, it just gamified it by giving me the challenge of taking a month off. A month off! What a stupid idea, who needs a month off? That’s kind of what I was thinking, yet it also made so much sense. Why did we start our business in the first place? Most people think that it’s money related and of course that is a big part of it, yet it’s not the whole story. Most business owners do not earn what we would consider a great income (yes some do), so there must be another reason why we grind at it for so many years. Freedom in my opinion is key. This is why post covid, the world has changed, and we can all have a taste of this freedom. A business owner wants freedom of choice, time and relationships. The money is a foundation to enable this. So, in the back of my mind, taking a month off was the acid test. I always felt that I could get by working around a day a week as the business was set up intentionally this way, rather than becoming a bottleneck. Yet, I had never put this theory to the test.
In the run-up to taking a month off, I had to be even more intentional with what I did in my business and what I did not do. This process started around a year prior to my plane trip to Florida. One of the key things was to train Sam to do our internal bookkeeping. I always preach to clients that they should not be doing their own bookkeeping as it is a £10 an hour task and you should be leveraging your time far more strategically, yet here I was doing it all myself! My excuse was that I am an accountant so of course I’ll do my own bookkeeping! I didn’t take my mindset of ‘I am not an accountant, I am a business owner’ as far as I could. This had to change. I also trained Sam to pay the bills, including the salaries and also manage my inbox. Sam has transitioned into my executive assistant, PA or whatever people call this role nowadays and it has been a game-changer. This term gets overused, but it has literally changed the game! Her role has allowed me to play at another level both personally and professionally.
The Big Reset
I always knew that I wanted to build a business that allowed me to do this, but I never gave myself permission to test it. Sometimes we are waiting for perfect timing, for the stars to align themselves but life doesn’t work this way. When a young football player gets a chance in the first team (think Marcus Rashford at 18 years old), they can’t fret over the timing, they take it. You don’t know if you are good enough until you try. You don’t know how your business will perform taking a month off until you do it. Of course, it depends on what type of business you have. If you are a sole-preneur then you may not have a ‘business’, you more than likely have a very good job that you love doing and that’s fine. However, with outsourcing, part-time team members etc, it may still be possible.
The point I want to make here is that the time off enabled me to feel like a ‘True Business Owner’ for the very first time and not an employee with a very good job. My heart finally matched what my head thought was possible. This is a paradigm shift. I feel like I can never go back to my old thinking. Some of the biggest influences in the last 18 months have made me realise that to grow 10x, you often need to work less and not more. You need to let go of certain things. 2x takes more, more, more. 10x takes a different way of thinking, working smarter, not harder, multiplying your leverage across all business and personal areas in search of exponential growth.
No one gives a sh*t
Let’s be honest, who really gives a $!** that you have managed to create so much free time for yourself that you choose when and how you work? Your customers? Your team? Social media? We all think we are more important than we are, customers care about results and value and social media is all about keeping face, posturing etc. It’s often far from reality based on what we see going on behind the scenes with many entrepreneurs.
The only person that needs to give you permission to push the boundaries of your business and time off is not your wife or your children, it is yourself. If you can get over yourself, you are 80% there.
The Plan To Take a Month off Every May
Florida was amazing, even though it was my seventh time! We haven’t been for 7 years and some of the new rides were on another level. The Guardian’s ride was my absolute favorite but the Flight of the Avatar was fantastic as were the Velocicoaster and Hagrid’s Bike Ride both at Islands of Adventure. I would love to go here every year but let’s be honest it would be a little extravagant! I am prepared to take a month off in May (my birthday is at the start) every year. Tim Ferris called this idea a mini-retirement when he wrote the 4-Hour Work Week around 2011 I believe.
I made some major breakthroughs in my thinking from this time off and I have never had as much clarity as I have now with where I am heading in my business. Why would I not recreate this annually!? If I can
How Do I Take a Month Off?
Honestly, only you can answer that. However, if you want to see how I can help you in this process, feel free to reach out – firstname.lastname@example.org