Why time away from business is as important as time in it
Getting out of the trenches is key to success
Surveys show 76 percent of CEOs, owners and founders don't take time away from the business. The sad irony is that nothing will hurt their ability to grow a successful business more than working in the trenches every day.
My wife and I just spent a month in Tuscany, an amazing part of the world. Our three businesses are built to run when we're not there. For founders, CEOs and owners of every business of every size, time away from the office should not be an afterthought but a major, regular and very intentional part of your schedule.
Get Out of The Way, And Get Away
Ricardo Semler owns a billion dollar business and is actively involved, but never in the day-to-day decision-making. Lyric Turner built three great local businesses specifically because, and only after, she got out of the day-to-day and moved 2,000 miles away. I've built 10 businesses from the ground up. In the first five, I thought I was a business owner, but later I realized I was only an income producer, because I was too necessary to get away.
Owning vs. Being Owned
The ability to get away regularly is a big part of building a business, not just an income. An income producer thinks they own a business, but in reality it owns them. When they look in the mirror and ask the boss for time off, they just get back a blank stare.
In my sixth business I was determined to be intentional about building that business to run when I was not there. I adopted the mindset that I would not call myself a business owner until the time when my business didn't own me. I decided I would identify myself only as an income producer until it produced time right along with money.
The 50 percent Rule
Most of us only get money from our businesses, if that, because we assume a business can only produce money. In my sixth business, I learned every business can, and should, also produce time. I work with business leaders around the world and I now regularly challenge them to have at least 50 percent of their time a) unscheduled (that's the easy one), and b) unavailable to solve crises (that's the hard one). That's real leadership. Every business leader should strive for this as a minimum.
It could take three to seven years or more to get fully there from startup, but you should be seeing incremental progress every year. The first year of my sixth business I worked almost seven days a week. The second year was six days a week, but by the third year I was getting Fridays off here and there. By the sixth year, I had every Monday and Friday, the last week of the month, and a month a year to get up in the morning and say, "What should I do today?" That's 72 percent of the work year that I'm no longer managing, so I could focus on leading–very different things.
"Time In The Margins"? Really?
I hear business leaders talk about "getting time in the margins". The use of the word "margins" shows that we don't think time away from the day-to-day is a central feature of owning or running a business, but something you only get when nothing important is going on. We shouldn't get "time in the margins", we need it as a core principle of leading a business. It's necessary for being great leaders and for having the energy to push our companies forward.
The Business Owner's Game
Stop hoping you'll get time and put it in your business plan right along with making money. The key practice is learning to play The Business Owner's Game–which teaches you to do only the things you should do, and nothing else. It's the simplest, most powerful thing you can do to become a leader.
I take as much vacation as I feel I need to stay fresh and productive, which, for me, isn't a lot. When you are a business owner and your business is producing both time and money, you get to decide how you will use that time. The difference is choice. Do you get to choose what to do with your time? If not, you might want to call yourself an income producer until you get there.
You get what you intend, not what you hope for. Intend to become a true business owner and get control of your schedule so you can have the freedom to lead.
Tuscany was great, by the way.