If you’re one of those brave souls who quit your day job in order to work full-time on growing your business, you deserve some extra recognition.
Why? Because in addition to the security of a steady paycheck, you left behind something else, something perhaps even more precious:
Paid vacation days.
When you’re building your own business, years without a real vacation can slip past in a heartbeat. You feel like you’re always working against the clock, never checking off everything on your to-do list, barely finding time to eat let alone to take more than a day to disconnect from work and really relax.
Just the thought of what your inbox would look like after a vacation stops that daydream in its tracks. And thus the cycle continues, and you never get the rest that you both deserve and truly need to do your best work.
If I could book you a trip to an island or the ski slopes, I would. But here’s another (and actually more helpful) proposal for you:
Start tweaking your business so that it can run without you.
I’m not talking just daily operations that continue to function even if you’re not online. I’m talking about actually making money while you’re spelunking and sipping on Mai Tais.
(When I was traveling around Southeast Asia this year, my biz netted $66K. I tell you this to prove you that this is more than a pipedream – it’s really possible!)
Here are the 7 rules I follow in order to make sure my business can always run without me:
Rule #1: Go wild with the automation.
Yes, everything! Here are just a few things you can set up to run on a specific day and time, or around the clock: social media posts, sales emails, Facebook ads, evergreen opt-in content to continuously grow your list, online courses, payroll, customer feedback surveys, reports from Google Analytics or your CRM sent straight to your inbox, payments for the services you use to run your business….the list goes on! Spend the necessary time to set this stuff once and forget it so that you can spend time on the other more important activities that you can’t automate (yet).
Rule #2: Tom Sawyer your business.
Translation? Get other people to do loads more work than you could ever handle on your own. I attribute the rapid growth of my company to the fact that I brought on part-time help very early. Don’t wait until you’re “ready” – after all, “not ready” is code for “too scared.”
The key here is to find people who are a REALLY good fit with your business and your management style, and not to settle for sorta-kinda-OK people just because you like them or because they don’t charge much. COME ON LAURA, WAY EASIER SAID THAN DONE. True, but just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort.
You know you only have two hands and 24 hours a day. What’s the fastest way to grow your biz? Get 2 or 4 more hands, multiply your workable hours, and delegate like a boss (literally and figuratively)!
(At a complete loss about how to find those perfect team members, how to afford them, and what to delegate? I’ve got you covered in my guide to hiring for your small business.)
Rule #3: Do virtual trust falls with your team members and put the power in their hands.
You took the plunge and hired some help – now give them ownership and let them run with it! I’m not saying you should hand over your company credit card on day one, but once you train someone and give them complete responsibility of customer service or your blog or whatever they’re really awesome at, you’ll have the time to focus on what YOU love about your business.
Rule #4: Make your products or services crazy-scalable.
When I decided to get out of the freelance web design business and switch over to social media, I started off as a consultant. But it quickly became clear that I was limited in terms of the number of people I could serve. Even if I trained a new business owner every day to be a pro in social media marketing, that was still a finite number of businesses I could work with in a week.
So I turned to a new format for training small business owners: online courses. Putting my knowledge online and accessible 24 hours a day allowed me to scale very quickly. You never have to even think about my schedule and whether I can fit you in or not – Social Media Marketer doesn’t take a vacation. :)
Think about how you can offer your services in a way that doesn’t require a big chunk of your time. If you can’t break away from the dollars-for-hours business model, the only way to scale it is to hire others to provide your service. That way you can “multiply” the hours in your work week and serve more clients at once.
Rule #5: Track what works so you can put it on autopilot.
One of the major things I changed in my business in 2013 was how I keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Before each new campaign or launch kicks off, my team and I now make sure to identify what data points to watch during and after the campaign in order to see which tactics showed the best results. (Check out this blog post on the lessons I learned from running a free online challenge to see exactly what data we tracked and how I turned a one-time challenge into an ongoing marketing piece.)
This really ties in with automation: you can set up thousands of sales emails to go out, but if you don’t pay attention to which ones are actually driving conversions, then you’re missing out on a major opportunity to really increase your revenue.
Rule #6: Stop being the bottleneck.
What decisions ALWAYS have to go by you before your team can move forward in the process? If you’ve decided you MUST give the final OK on everything but the number of things you have to sign off on keeps getting bigger, then you are what’s stopping your biz from achieving rapid growth.
Change that part of the system right away, either by giving someone else the approval stamp or overhauling that process completely. After all, you can’t be approving tweets while you’re crossing the Andes on horseback.
Rule #7: Go evergreen.
When creating a piece of content (like a video or a cheat sheet) that lots of people would love and get a ton of value from, do your best to keep the content as evergreen as possible.
What does that mean? Don’t mention dates, for example. If you’re hosting a live webinar, plan out what you’re going to talk about so that you actively avoid mentioning something that won’t make sense if I’m watching it 6 or 12 months from now. If you plan accordingly, a piece of content you create this month can act as a lead lighthouse and help you steadily grow your list without you having to update it all the time.
If you’re down here at the end of my list and thinking that such big changes are just too much for you, step back for a second. Consider what very small adjustments you could make this month to make yourself a little less crucial to your business’s success. Jot down a short list (like “write a job posting” or “edit that video where I mention New Year’s Eve a lot”) and stick them on your calendar. This is my promise to you: you’ll be so happy you unwrapped yourself from everything when you’re lying on that sand gazing out into the Caribbean!
Do you have some of your own tricks for building a business that can run without you? Have you learned the Art of Delegation? Let me know what your special tips are in the comments below—I’m always looking for more ways to empower my team even more!