Friday, January 30, 2015

Take time off

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     Taking a vacation was always difficult for me. Over the years in several businesses, I set them up so that they could run without me. But something else was afoot.

     I grew up on a dairy farm. It was 24/7/365. No holidays, no vacation. All those cows had to be milked twice every day.

     This early life instilled in me a formidable work ethic. Today, at 78, if I'm not doing something, I feel I'm wasting time. It's the same with most people who operate businesses.

     In running my own businesses, I never hesitated taking an afternoon off or disappearing for a long weekend. I didn't call in, but I worried. My employees could always reach me by phone if they ran into a problem they could not handle. They rarely called. 

     Example: Mike started a small business running a computer repair shop. Gradually, he expanded and offered additional services. He would go to the offices of his clients, install new computers and software, network the setup and train employees. Soon, Mike had three employees and a service van on the road. Then he broke his leg. He was laid up for the better part of a month, running his business from his bed. Constantly on the phone, he directed his employees at every turn. Tired and exasperated, he shouted at an employee one day to handle the problem. It was an eye-opener for Mike. Not only did the employee handle the problem, but he did not call Mike again until the next day. Mike learned a valuable lesson--depend on your employees. They can handle most problems themselves if you will stay out of the way. 

     Many of you have employees, or you will as you grow. Train them how to handle problems and how to handle customers. Then step back and let them make their own decisions. To get the best out of employees, you must put them on their own. Help them grow. 

     This doesn't mean that employees run the business. That's your job.

     Even if you manage a unit of a larger company, the same applies. Train your people, including someone to do your job. When you get that promotion, someone is ready to take over your position. Company management will be confident that your leaving won't disrupt operations.

     Don't wait until you break your leg to take some time off. You need time away from your daily grind to clear your head, let your thoughts roam, and think through some fresh ideas. See how your business operates without your being there all the time. 

     Taking time off lets you see how well things are handled in your absence. This can give you clues to additional training your employees might need. 


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