About a year ago, I had a really exciting idea. I told my partner, Steve, we should take a six week vacation for our upcoming 20th anniversary, which is also very close to what will be my 50th birthday. At that time, he didn’t think there was any way we could make it happen—as both of us are small business owners. He suggested maybe a two or three week trip instead. I jokingly said he could go for two or three weeks, but I was going to go for six. After a few months of me twisting his arm, and a little initial planning, he hesitantly agreed.
So in the fall, I shared our plan with my team, and they immediately supported the idea. (I was surprised—they seemed to like the thought of me being out of the office for six weeks…) At that time, I was the main sales and revenue generator, and we were just beginning a national launch of our WorkTraits communication software tool. I wasn’t quite sure how my business and my team were going to be able to handle my absence for that amount of time, but I’m a believer in establishing a goal and finding a path to make it happen.
Fast forward to the present, and now our trip is about three months away—no longer a dream, but a reality. My team has pulled together and stepped up to new levels of responsibilities and performance. One of my previous partners has agreed to assist us on some projects and run the organization while I’m away. We have revised some of our service offerings, and have found new projects and services that we can offer without my involvement. We found some additional resources to assist with our sales efforts, which are already making an impact. In addition, by the end of June, we will have already exceeded our booked consulting services revenue for 2012, and our WorkTraits software business continues to grow exponentially every month.
As I reflected on this, it made me wonder if we would still be having an amazing year if I hadn’t planned a six week vacation. Honestly, I’m not sure we would. I looked at my own behavior as a leader over these last six months and realized that since I announced this goal of mine, I’ve been totally focused on how to make it happen. I know this sounds weird coming from a goal-oriented guy, but I feel like my intensity to make sure my business is set up to work without me has never been so strong.
We have always had annual financial goals and budgets, but I never had owned them at the level that our team owns these goals this year. Part of the challenge in the past was that I didn’t share all the numbers and goals with the key people on my team. Getting them engaged in the financial success this year has made a dramatic change in their focus as well. I also found myself spending at least an hour a week, passionately focused, reevaluating our numbers or potential opportunities, and understanding what steps we needed to take to stay on track.
Another surprising aspect arose out of this—my team has been doing whatever they can to help support me with my goal. They have taken on new responsibilities and management duties. Their knowledge and skill sets are driving forward at the speed of a train. I’ve seen more growth in some members over the last six months than in the entire previous year.
I’m looking forward to my time off after ten years of building and growing my business in my local community. I know this trip will bring new ideas, approaches, and services to lead us on the next stage of our business’ journey. Part of me is still amazed—a goal I wondered if I could achieve is coming together, and the side effects have had a positively amazing impact on my team and business that will continue to enhance our organization long after my trip is a distant memory.
As business owners and leaders, we all need to take breaks and extended time away to refresh and recharge. But the important lesson is to own the goals you set for your business at a new level, and engage your team in the process. Challenge yourself weekly to push forward and evaluate your performance. I bet you can reach some amazing new levels—whether a six week vacation is your driving motivation or not.
This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services.