Time off is a huge challenge for owner-operators

In fact, before working with Growth Path, most of our clients consider time away from the business a pipe dream. A week in Veradero? Yeah right. Even when the money’s there, most business owners are too scared to leave the business for more than a day or two.

But there comes a time in every business when the owner needs a few weeks away. It may be for a vacation or, as in our case, the scheduled surgery of our principal, Kevin.

If handled well, a scheduled hiatus needn’t impact your business or upset your clients. Planning is key. When preparing for Kevin’s temporary absence this month, we took four critical steps to keep things moving and our clients happy:

1. Notice
Advance notice is everything. Most clients won’t have a problem with your absence provided they know long enough in advance. We let clients know that Kevin would be unavailable two months in advance. Transparency is important. We took on a new client six weeks before Kevin’s surgery date. We offered to start the engagement on Kevin’s return but, because we were so transparent about it, the client was comfortable starting the engagement earlier.

2. Options
When Kevin announced his surgery date, he prepared us that it was unlikely every client would be comfortable continuing with their engagement while he was away. No worries. We simply offered each client the choice of continuing as usual or suspending their engagement in Kevin’s absence. Even though we knew it could impact our monthly revenue, it was the right thing to do. Luckily all our clients were comfortable continuing while Kevin recovered, and they appreciated our giving them a choice.

3. Organize
The two week prior to Kevin’s departure, we kept Kevin on his toes!
• We made sure that all cheques and requisitions were signed before he left

• We made sure Kevin focused on client work he can’t easily delegate e.g. strategy work, in advance so that staff, contractors and strategic partners could focus on execution and project management in his absence

• We set up very clear parameters about when and why Kevin should be contacted during his recovery period, if at all.

An aside: Kevin admitted that having us juggle lots of client-facing deadlines is an ingenious to way to keep us out of Starbucks while he’s away…hmmm…not sure I like this one but it’s proven to be very effective…

4. Rapport
All the great tactics in the world won’t help your business if you take a leave of absence and your clients and staff don’t have a good rapport. It’s important to give your clients an opportunity to get to know your project managers so they can trust them as much as you do. Relationships aren’t built overnight so make sure your clients have at least two months to get to know their project manager before you depart. Even without taking a leave of absence, this will help owner-operators step back from the client work and focus on running the business.

Leaving your business for a period of time carries a financial risk. There’s no getting away from it no matter how well you plan. The bottom line is that, if you can’t absorb a possible financial hit, it’s not the time to leave your business. But assuming you can take a bit of risk in term of your monthly revenue, then plan it well, and your business will be there to welcome you back on your return.

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