I’m going to Sri Lanka in just a few days.
On 28th February my girlfriend and I will be stepping on a plane to Dubai. From there we’ll catch another plane to Colombo, and my Asian adventure will begin!
As the time to leave grows nearer, I find myself getting more excited – for more that one reason. Vacationing in a completely alien part of the world will be an adventure in itself, but beyond that, my trip to Sri Lanka represents a experiment that could change the way I do business forever.
New Year’s Resolutions
It all started with the New Year’s resolution conversation that we all have with one another around 1st January.
Now I’m not a resolutions kind of guy – I think the notion of setting (often arbitrary) goals on January 1st is faintly ridiculous. Why not set goals on any day of the year? Nonetheless, that ubiquitous question – “What are your New Year’s Resolutions?” – gave me a good excuse to think about what I wanted from 2015.
One of my resolutions was to spend our fourteen nights in Sri Lanka completely away from my business.
For someone who hasn’t been away from his business in some capacity for more than a couple of days, that was a bold statement. After all – my business relies on me heavily. I am deeply intertwined with its day-to-day functioning; without my daily presence, my brand would be negatively affected and my income would drop.
But the gauntlet had been laid down. At the time I was just thinking how I could get away from my business for a couple of weeks – how I could defer and delegate to achieve a two week window where my presence would not be required. After all, taking a “proper” holiday for the first time in four years was a seriously attractive proposition.
But in reality, I had released a monster that would not be sated until complete autonomy was achieved.
Finding Inspiration in Books
Rather ironically, my goal took a backseat for a few weeks because I was so involved in the day-to-day running of my business. But a couple of weeks ago, I snapped out of it and realized that I was nowhere near my goal of enabling my business to take care of itself during my two week absence.
My first reaction to remembering about my goal was, “There’s no way that’s happening.” How the hell was I going to go from being deeply involved in my business to stepping away from it just a few weeks? I told my girlfriend that my goal was a big fat failure. I had been so involved in my business that I’d forgotten to put the necessary measures in place, and now there simply wasn’t time. I figured I’d have to spend at least 30 minutes a day dealing with emails and vital tasks to keep things going while I was on holiday. It sucked, but it was necessary.
Fortunately, my self-imposed pre-emptive failure was halted and reversed by a book recommended by my brother. I started reading The E-Myth Revisited one afternoon, and finished reading it a few hours later. I was hooked.
Now I’m not going to delve deeply into the principles that The E-Myth Revisited extols, but I will tell you the main concepts and realizations I took away from it:
- “True” businesses operate autonomously of their owners. You can’t truly call your business a business (at least, not in the way I want to define it) until it can operate independently of your day-to-day influence.
- I wasn’t working on my business, I was working in it. In other words, I was so involved in keeping the business going that I was spending barely any deliberate time on growth.
- A business should rely heavily on its systems, not its staff. There should be no such thing as individual mistakes – only failures within the systems you set up.
I wasn’t really reading anything I hadn’t heard before (in fact, I first read The E-Myth Revisited a few years ago), but it was a refresher I was in dire need of.
After I finished The E-Myth Revisited I followed up with The Checklist Manifesto, and my mental transformation was complete. Not only was I going to take two full weeks off from work in Sri Lanka, I was going to use it as the platform upon which I would build a fully autonomous business.
Which was simple enough to say, but the how the hell was I going to do it?
Building a Fully Autonomous Business (In 2 Weeks)
I started putting my plans into place near the end of last week, which gave me about two weeks to turn my business from being deeply reliant upon me to fully autonomous.
Let’s get this out of the way first though: I included a bit of ‘cheating’ in my plans:
- I am submitting some client work ahead of time so that I don’t have to deal with it while I’m away.
- There are a small handful of writing clients for whom I have no other choice but to tell them that I am away for a couple of weeks and will not be available for work.
- I am scheduling a couple of posts in advance for Leaving Work Behind.
Obviously the above moves are not sustainable for creating an autonomous business, but I have two weeks to get this done – I never said it was going to be a pretty solution.
Now let’s focus on what I need to do to build an autonomous business before I leave:
- Find someone I can trust to manage my email account
- Find someone I can trust to handle sensitive elements of business administration (handling product refunds, access to bank accounts, etc.)
- Find an editor that I can trust to submit ongoing client work in my absence without my oversight
- Find people I can trust (and with the necessary experience) to handle queries via the Leaving Work Behind Blogging Mentorship Program
- Find someone I can trust to handle blog comments management, social media management, sharing blog posts written for clients, sales query responses, business metrics tracking, blog management (theme/plugin updates and backups) and email broadcasting.
As you can no doubt spot, there are two common threads running through each of the above items: I need competent people, and I need people I can trust. We’re talking about “Here’s my business, I haven’t stepped away from it for more than a couple of days in the last 3½ years, it’s all yours for the next two weeks” kind of trust.
How I Know I Will Succeed
Have I got all the answers at this stage? No. But I have a plan. I have it all written down and I know what I need to achieve. Just as importantly, I have a solid, unmovable deadline and huge motivation to achieve my goal.
Despite the scale of my goal and the number of things that could (and might) go wrong, it’s amazing how those three elements – a plan, a deadline and motivation – have gifted me with an unshakable confidence.
Perhaps confidence is the wrong word though – it’s probably more determination than anything. I have to make this work, I know what I need to do (at least in theory), and I know that I have to get it done by a certain time.
In other words, it’s a straight win or lose situation, and losing isn’t an option.
The allure of a full two weeks off from my business (and the longterm psychological benefits that could lead to) and the potential in terms of what this could mean for my business down the line is just too strong for me to screw this up.
So What Next?
I plan to tell you how everything went on my return from Sri Lanka, but for the time being, I’ve got a lot of work to do!
In terms of how things will affect you, I will not be around on the blog for a couple of weeks, nor will I be contactable via email. I do have measures in place to ensure that this situation is as smooth as possible for you – I’m not a fan of ‘out of office’ automated emails; I think you deserve better than that.
But more importantly than a two week vacation, what do my plans mean for the future of my business?
- How can I continue to write posts for the blog if I’m creating an autonomous business?
- How can I offer personalized email support via the Leaving Work Behind Blogging Mentorship Program if I’m uninvolved with the day-to-day running of my business?
- How can I rely so heavily on my personal brand to continue developing my writing business if I won’t actually be editing the pieces?
- How can I continue to promote such a personal brand if it isn’t personal?
I think I have the overruling (and overwhelmingly positive) answer to all of those questions, and all will be revealed in time. But for the time being, please rest assured that any business decision I make is weighed up against a single, immovable constant: you come first. If you’ve been a Leaving Work Behind reader for a while I’d like to think you’ll believe that; if not, then I hope you’ll come to believe it in time, because your appreciation of that fact is incredibly important to me.
With all that said, I’d love to know what you think about my plans. Please fire away with your questions and comments below!
Stunning photography courtesy of Becky Hesilrige.