In Value Enhancement

By Scott Bushkie

Spring break is close ahead, and as I prepare to take some time off with my family I’m remembering several years ago when a vacation like this was harder to come by. But as my team and company have continued to evolve and mature, I’m able to spend more time away from the office.

Taking a break benefits both you and your team. You want to build a business that can operate without you. Sometimes that means you need to step away so your people have room to stretch and take on new roles.

If you have to be on the phone all the time, constantly checking in and working on vacation, you may actually be hurting the value of your business. A business that is overly-dependent on the owner is not as attractive to a potential buyer.

I’m in discussions with a potential client whose company is doing $30 million-plus in sales. The business owner is a huge hunter who frequently steps away from the business. He just emailed me to say that despite his most recent month-long trip, they just had their best sales month ever.

Some people might assume his absence is hurting the business by limiting even greater growth, but I know this story will play well with buyers. His management team has proven they can perform on their own, and that means this business is very likely to continue its success after a transition. Buyer risk is minimized and the value increases accordingly.

Buyers want to see strong leadership teams, well-developed business processes, and proof the company will continue to run while you’re gone. If you’re not able to take an extended vacation now, start laying the groundwork.

Start slowly. Stepping away from the business can be a learning process for both you and your team. In the past, I’ve gotten up early to check my email once a day while on vacation. This year, my goal is to unplug completely every other day. I’ll admit, it’s going to take some discipline.

Get help with your inbox. My assistant is empowered to help manage my email. She can delete unnecessary newsletters, respond to requests, and file tasks that can be dealt with later. I know she’ll alert me if a true emergency is brewing, so I can avoid getting bogged down in day-to-day messages.

Have a plan for emergencies. My team knows I’m trying to unplug and I’ve asked them not to call me unless they have a real, significant need. If a phone call comes in from the office, I’ll know something is urgent. Another leader I know asks her team to text her with emergencies. If she glances at her phone and doesn’t have a text from the office, she knows all is well.

Debrief when you get back. Book time on your calendar to meet with key team members and debrief right away when you get back. This helps you get up to speed quickly and ensures team members they’ll have your attention when you return.

Be supportive. Acknowledge good work and be supportive of any decisions your leaders made while you were away. If you would have done something differently, discuss your thinking, but do you best not to reverse or undermine their actions.

Encourage others to unplug. Vacations are good for employee health and creativity. Reinforce the importance of time away and encourage your team to delegate and cross-train so everyone is able to unplug. Your business will be better for it overall, and employees will be more understanding of your need for time off.

If you have the right people and the right processes in place, you should be able to take a week (or more) of vacation without a major disruption to your business. If a vacation is not on your horizon this spring, start working on your team now and make it a goal for summer. Show your people you have confidence in them, and they probably prove you right!

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