How to Keep Growing Your Business Even If You Have to Take Time Off
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In this episode, Barbara shares with Matt and the listeners, her own personal journey of the process she followed to ‘fire herself from her own business’ when a very important life event – having a baby – meant she had to step right back from the day-to-day running of her business.
This episode focuses on the step-by-step process that Barbara followed to ensure that her business went from strength to strength, whilst she focussed on being a mother to her baby girl.
Some of the areas covered include:
- Think expansion, rather than contraction
- The importance of strategic planning – taking yourself out of business processes is a process within itself
- Don’t expect your new processes to work from day one – allow time to smooth out any ‘bumps’ and refine your processes before you ‘exit’ the business
- How to empower your team to make important decisions in your absence
- The importance of having the right people, in the right seats
- Believing in your people and their abilities ultimately leads to a more engaged team and successful business
Let us know what your key takeout has been from this episode and join the continuing conversation over in the Virtual Success Facebook Group.
In this episode:
03:02 – Think expansion rather than contraction
06:05 – You have to plan strategically
06:54 – Taking yourself out of processes
10:22 – Allow time to smooth out the new process, once handed over
13:22 – Refining your processes
15:40 – Empowering your team
17:28 – Believe in your people
18:26 – Support your team’s decisions
22:09 – Give yourself time to fine-tune the processes
25:15 – My key people are now more engaged in my business
27:04 – Wrapping things up
Barbara: Hey everyone, and welcome back to another episode of the Virtual Success Show, where I’m joined by my co-host, Matt Malouf. Hey Matt, how’s it going?
Matt: Hey Barb, I’m well, and yourself?
Barbara: I’m really good thank you, really good. I’m … As we’re about to talk about today, I’m in the throes of motherhood. So it’s been a lovely journey, but obviously a challenging one in terms of running your business, and setting things up so you can do a podcast recording like this, et cetera. So, a unique experience.
Matt: Absolutely, absolutely.
Barbara: Which brings me onto today’s show. So obviously we’re going to talk about how to fire yourself from any business, I guess. And what we’re going to focus on guys, for the listeners, we’re going to focus on actually my experience of having a baby. Because you know, as a woman when you’re pregnant, you’ve got this kind of deadline looming, that doesn’t move, and it’s not going to change. In fact, it might even move closer. So you become … You’re under a lot of pressure all of a sudden to fire yourself from your business if you’re running your own business. But as Matt and I were talking about earlier before the show, this would apply to any sort of life event, or if you just want to, you want to work more on your business or have a business that runs itself with a team. So it really doesn’t matter if you’re not pregnant, or if you’re a guy, or if you’ve got a wife having a baby, I guess. This can apply to anything. I mean Matt, you’ve done this in a couple of businesses too, haven’t you?
Matt: Yeah I have, yes. And just to add to what Barb was saying, if you really want to enhance and grow your business faster, what we’re going to talk about today is essential to fast growing businesses.
Barbara: Yeah, so although we’re talking about it, I’m really going to focus on my experience of doing this, because the trigger for me was pregnancy, but the trigger for you could be something … It doesn’t matter what your trigger is, what your reason is, but the steps that I’m going to talk to you about here would apply to anybody. But I guess there will be a few women with their ears pricked up all of a sudden wondering how they can get their business to actually grow bigger rather than grow smaller while they have a baby. That’s the key thing here.
So, I guess to kick off, you know what I would say is, Matt, you were asking sort of what’s the key points I want to cover here. Well I think, the first one definitely, I’m going to focus on the women thing, I guess. But I see a lot of women, when they decide they want to have a baby, or they find out they’re pregnant, they start to contract rather than expand in terms of business.
Think expansion rather than contraction
Now this can be in their corporate career, or in running their own business, or whatever they’re doing. But what I would say is the first thing you have to achieve here, is to think in an expansionary mode rather than a contraction mode. Because fear makes you contract, and as a business owner you start to think, well if I start to kind of close it down a bit, so that it’s safe to take time off, nobody’s going to need me. Well, then you’re just going to contract your income and your business can stall. Whereas if you think expansionary, and you think well how can I grow, continue to grow my business, and hit my goals without me being there? That’s a mindset shift that you absolutely have to get into, and you’ve got to get into it pretty quickly. So you’re the king of mindsets, Matt, so I’m sure you got a point to make here.
Matt: I do. Well, I’ve actually got a question. So, when you found out that you were pregnant Barbara, was it easy for you to have that expansion mindset, or did fear come up for you?
Barbara: No, but I would naturally have … My personality type is more the expansionary, so all I was thinking was – I did have fear, but my fear was this. My fear was, oh my God, if I don’t grow this thing bigger, and make more money, and have it pumping more, I’m going to have so much stress and chaos when this baby arrives. So I knew that for me, the fear was that I wouldn’t grow it bigger, and I wouldn’t delegate enough and that I wouldn’t have enough. You know, I wouldn’t do the things that I was trying to do. And there was never a question for me that going smaller was the right way to go, or the safer way to go.
Matt: And I love that mindset. The fear of if I don’t grow it bigger, it’s actually going to be more stressful.
Barbara: Yeah, because if you have a business … Even if you try and close it down a bit, I think that would be more stressful, because it’s still a business. You can’t just walk away unless you close it completely, and then you got to start all over again when you’re exhausted with motherhood. So definitely for me, you have to think in an expansionary mode straight away. How can I get bigger?
Matt: And to add to that, is that when you grow your business, there’s more free cash flow to invest back into good people. Whereas if you contract it, you normally have to get rid of the good people in order to afford the business to continue. And so I think it’s a really important point that Barbara makes, and I think all the listeners should really to hone in on this, is that expanding your business, whilst in the short term may seem a little bit more stressful, in the long term, is actually easier.
Matt: That’s what holds a lot of people back.
Barbara: And look, you know, if you do go contractionary, the issue is you may think, oh I’ll just do that for a few months. The reality is with anything, having to … Going small and trying to start up again, God, man that is very tiring. I mean I really wouldn’t recommend anybody go that route regardless of what you’re trying to do. Even if you want to take six months off and travel the world, plan it and go bigger before you go smaller, don’t go smaller.
Barbara: So that’s key point number one.
Matt: And what was next Barb?
You have to plan strategically
Barbara: So number two. The next thing for me was, you know now, it was a little bit different for me, because I had already, I was planning pregnancy. So I wasn’t just … I just didn’t wake up one morning and find out accidentally I was pregnant. So I had a bit more time. But my second point is you’ve got to strategically plan for this. So if you’re planning to have a baby, or whatever you’re planning to do, or if you just find out that you’re pregnant right, you have to immediately go into strategy mode. You cannot bury your head. You’ve got to plan this thing, it’s going to take you … I mean look, I would say six months, it’s going to take you six months to do this. You could do it in three if you were very onto it. But you know, if I take the pregnancy experience, I probably could have done it in three months. But I was quite tired, and the sickness and stuff in pregnancy, there’s all these other challenges that you face.
Taking yourself out of processes
So I went heavily into strategy mode. I looked at my business from all the different angles of like what are the different areas that need to be covered, and I focused heavily on the stuff that I was doing first. And I thought to myself, how do I take myself slowly out of every single process, and then the final one for me was sales. Because I was doing sales, as you know. So I planned the exit from the smallest process first, and then right up to where I was exiting from the sales process, about three months before the baby was due. Because what happens if the baby comes early? You know you need to plan this, you can’t plan for this to work the day before the due date. Because if that happens, and your baby comes six weeks early, you’re in worlds of pain. So you need to pretend that it’s six weeks beforehand, or two months, or whatever.
Matt: It’s interesting too. In the Stop Doing List system that I teach, you got to shave off those easy tasks. And what that does, is it builds your teams’ confidence, but it builds your confidence in delegating also. So you … Often I think what happens in delegation and letting go, is that number one we do it too fast, but number two is we don’t have the right mindset associated with that. So what happens is we start delegating, and often times we actually abdicate rather than delegate, and what that leads to is the tasks, or projects, or areas of the business boomeranging back to you, and it keeps coming back. And then we hear those words in our head, we might say them out loud, but often in our head, it’s easier if I do it. I’ll never find somebody that can do it as good as I can, et cetera et cetera. And so I like, you got very clear on all the aspects of the business that you’re involved with Barbara, and then you started with the smallest, working up to the big, that big rock, and it’s part of what you’re excellent at. And your genius is that selling process. And so, but you gave yourself enough time. And I remember having discussions with you about this as you were going through, and you were saying, “My goal is to have every aspect of the business delegated, and somebody else doing it with three months prior to the baby’s due date.” I think from memory, you’re about a week off that?
Barbara: Well I was just thinking as you were saying that. I probably … That blew out to about a month. I was probably a month late, but that’s okay, because it was still two months before. Now I wasn’t sitting up doing nothing in the two months then, I still had loads of work to do, right up until … I had about a week, it was about a week before she was born, I kind of managed to wind down, but it was more tidying up other stuff. So the strategic planning thing, I think when you were talking there Matt, I was thinking it would be very easy during this second step to just think, oh my God this is so overwhelming, I’m just going to run back to the fear thing again. I’m just going to contract rather than expand. And each of your processes, you start with the easiest one, and you have to say to yourself, or even hang this on your computer, how can I remove myself from this process? And start with the little one, and just move strategically through each one.
Allow time to smooth out the new process, once handed over
And that brings me to point number three. We talk about this is irrelevant, pregnancy is irrelevant really in this one, it suits everyone. Go back through all your processes, and I had to redo, even though I’m great at processes, I had to redefine them. And I had to redefine them without me. I had to confide in my team, there were a couple of people on my team that I told them quite early that I was pregnant. And it wasn’t to put pressure on them because you can’t do that. I said to them, “I’m pregnant, I’m going to go through this process, and I just need you to help me to get this right. But we’re going to work on it together.” So the third point basically though is that there is a period where the handover of the process fully, and the extraction of you, there will probably be mistakes.
There will be misunderstandings. I had one of my most experienced people on my team mess something up because it was a slight misunderstanding in the process. When I looked at it, I thought, well obviously, I see where she was going with that. There’s a period of time where you have to let them do it, and then watch for the mistakes, and communicate each week, each day in your little huddles, your daily or weekly huddle meeting, to evolve the process. Because it’s probably not a clean one. It needs to be very clean, and very clear.
Matt: And I think to add to your point here Barb, I think you gave yourself enough time-
Barbara: To do that.
Matt: To do this. So because you got onto it straight away, and you had the plan, you’ve done the strategic plan. You’ve given yourself enough time to allow others to start taking over the tasks, in which case you were around.
Matt: You were around to refine, to pick up the mistakes, and train them.
Barbara: Let them make mistakes, and don’t go wild at them, and be like, “I’m pregnant, you’re putting me under pressure.” Don’t lose it. I did lose it a few times, but it wasn’t really at that particular … You cannot lose it in this particular thing. And actually, something just came into my head there. I remember listening to a podcast with Evan Pagan once. It was about marketing. So it wasn’t about this topic. He said something like, “Stop expecting marketing to work, because the majority of time it won’t. But when you hit on the thing that works, then you’ll explode. Everything will explode for you.” It’s the same with this. Stop expecting it to work on day one, expect it to fail. Expect your processes to have holes in them, and watch out for them. Expect them to be inefficient, and then work together with your team to refine them, and get feedback from your team on the holes they see in the process. Or the difficulties they have with their process. So my third point is kind of this evolution of process thing. Allow time for mistakes, and refining the process.
Barbara: So I guess the fourth point I would make, and this took a while. So I’m talking by the time I did those first three things, you’re talking three, four, five months there.
Refining your processes
Barbara: Of stuff, so you need at least three, four, five months for this. So then after that, the fourth point I would make would be … So you’ve got to refine your processes. You need to empower your team to take it over, right? There needs to be a handover time where you say, “Okay, now you’re going to do this, and I’m going to support your decision making.” When there’re decisions involved, where it’s not … Like some processes have decision making involved, and you have to start saying, “I’m going to start supporting your ability to make a decision here.” Because they may make different decisions to you. Which could be a problem for you. For example, I’ll give you the example. With Virtual Angel Hub, one of the areas that I was most worried about, was that sometimes when we have a problem, let’s say a customer is not happy, or something happens with the VA, or there’s a major problem that happens, I used to step in.
So with the major problems, thankfully we didn’t have many of them, but I would step in in those situations and I would jump on a call with the client. I was thinking, I can’t really do that anymore. How am I going to empower my team, and my team are all in the Philippines. How am I going to trust them and empower them to feel like they can get on a call with a client, and be the face of the business and solve the problem with the client. And you know the very interesting thing that happened? You’ll love this. We had way more success when I started taking myself out of that role, because they were less emotional about it than I was. So I used to get quite emotional with the clients, I would probably give up too much, and they were very personable, and the clients loved them. They felt supported. But it was less emotional because it wasn’t their business. So that was a very big learning for me.
Matt: And I think, just on this point here in supporting their decisions and alike, it was something you actually said before the show, which we haven’t mentioned yet. Which was your intention in all of this was to ensure that you could enjoy motherhood.
Barbara: Absolutely. I didn’t want them to have to call me. I mean they could, I said to them, “If something major blows up, absolutely you can call me. Of course.” But I wanted to let go. I wanted the business to keep growing, but I wanted to let go and enjoy motherhood.
Empowering your team
Matt: And unless you support decision making, and teach them how to make decisions. Allow them to observe your decisions, understand why you went this way instead of that way. But also, too, empowering them to step into their role, it will always fall on your shoulders, and you’ll never leverage. You’ll never let go. You’ll never have somebody else be able to replace aspects of the business that you do.
Barbara: Yeah. I think … So then the sort of fifth one for me, the final one. There is a point … I mean obviously having a baby as I said, is kind of an immovable, it’s something that’s going to happen. But I remember getting all the team together, and we had many discussions like this through the six month period that I spent doing this. I got them all together, and I was like, “Guys, you know I’m so proud of you guys, and I really feel supported, and I hope you guys all feel like at this point you kind of know what you’re doing.”
What I said to them then was, I said, “Look, stuff is going to go wrong. Stuff’s going to happen. Hopefully nothing major happens, but if we do have a major scenario, and I’m in hospital for example, and you can’t call me, you guys need to know that you’re capable of dealing with it. And what you have to do is come together and support each other, have a little huddle together and discuss what you think you should do, and I will support whatever happens and whatever decisions you guys make. Regardless of whether it was a disaster, or you’ve got this, and I will support whatever you decide to do.”
And I gave them the confidence to say, I’m not going to come back and go, “Why did you do it that way? I told you not to do that!” Like I wasn’t going to come back and go mad, I was going to come back and go, “Okay I see why you made that decision, and you did what you had to do at the time.”
Believe in your people
Matt: And so if we just read between the lines here listeners, a couple of things. Number one is belief. Having the belief in your people, but expressing that you believe in them. And the only way you can do that is by ensuring you have the right people on your team. Barb would you agree with me that if you didn’t have the right people in the right seats, that conversation at that time would have been a lot more challenging?
Barbara: Definitely, and there was one person on the team, I’ll be honest, that was sort of hit and miss. And this is a different conversation, but I probably left that person in place for too long, et cetera. But it worked out fine while I was away, but that person is now no longer on the team, put it that way. And nothing went wrong, it just became very apparent to me that I couldn’t really trust that that person would keep the ship moving. They were hit and miss with the work, and their KPI’s were always off, so I always had this in the back of my head that I was a bit fearful, and I probably should have let that person go at the beginning of this process.
Support your team’s decisions
Matt: And then your second point was, support their decisions. And you’ve said that a number of times, and it’s so important, because if they’re fearful of making a decision because they’re fearing you’re going to yell at them, or reprimand them, or it may not be what you did. They’ll never make a decision, and hence they can’t take over.
Matt: But I think also too, one thing in this letting go, and you mentioned it in your point three. And I know this firsthand, is your business has amazing systems and processes, and so that enables your people to make decisions, and believe in themselves, because for the majority of circumstances, there’s a system process or a reference point for them to go to, to find the answers.
Barbara: Yeah, I think you know, what I realised in doing this actually, is yes I had a lot of processes already, and they were very good. They were watertight all that, but I was still kind of in there on a lot of them. And I thought wow, I’m sort of still fingering the pie of everything in this business. And having a baby for me really highlighted that. But if you’re in the business everyday, it’s too easy to be part of everything. So sometimes, go on a trip for four months, and head off around the world or something, and set your business up to run while you’re away, and see how much your finger is in everything. And I basically took my fingers out of everything through this process. And on the decision-making, I want to just make a key point here. It’s key to allow them to start making the decisions way before they need to.
So don’t do this the day before the baby comes right, here Matt hey now off you go and make decisions. So I allowed them to start making decisions from like I don’t know, like probably five months before, so that I could say … I’d say, “What did you do there?” And they’d say, “I did this, and because of this.” And I would say, “Well you know in my experience,” because I know the client’s mindset, right. Very deeply. In my business the client mindset is key. And I was doing the sales calls so I kind of typically knew the type of people that were coming in, and I knew what was going on. And I’d say, “Well this person is probably thinking this.” And they’d go, Oh. So it took me months to kind of teach them how to think like the client. But by doing that everyday, and they’d go “I see what you mean.” And I’d say, “See she was probably thinking, as you said X, what’s going through her head is Y.” And that was pivotal to them being able to make confident decisions later.
Because they felt that they, they just felt that they understood the mindset of the client. Now this is very specific to my particular business, but now today … I mean I’m back on deck now, and I don’t do any of this. I didn’t go back. Now all I work on is this podcast, a little bit of marketing. I don’t even do sales. I still kept my sales guy, because he was doing such a good job. Now on the sales point though, those of you out there who have sales as part of the business, handing over sales is tricky if you do it yourselves. You need a sales script. I’ll say it very slowly, it took me about two months to write the sales script. Painstaking, I hated doing it, but it worked a dream because he got an opportunity to speak. All the points were covered, he knew what to say, all that sort of thing was clear. So it worked really well for us.
Matt: Fantastic, and a way to even potentially fast track that is to get some recording on your calls, and actually get them transcribed. And you’ll actually see the common things you’re saying, and then you’ll be able to piece your script together.
Give yourself time to fine-tune the processes
But I think to Barb’s point, you’ve got to take the time to actually work on the most important pieces, and get clear on where could this process, or where could this function of the business fall down. Where is it that I’m propping it up? Where are the things that I’m constantly having to … What are the fires I’ve got to constantly put out, or the conversations I’m constantly having, and then get clear on how you can script that, systemize that, train that. I think it’s critically important.
Barbara: Yeah. You know, I was thinking as you were talking there Matt, you know this was a six month process for me. Now I’m good at systems and processes, and I’m very good at delegation, and this still took me six months, even though I had a business already that was quite well oiled. It took me six months to create this. Now then the baby came, and I’m thinking to myself, if you’re a business owner listening this, and you’re thinking I would love a more lifestyle type business, or I would love to be able to work more on my business and write books, and do all that stuff, right. Whatever it is that you’re trying to do, sit down and say to yourself, okay over the next six months, even 12 months, I’m going to focus my entire attention on my operations.
My business … The operations of your business is huge, right! When you nail the operations in the back end, you can go marketing all day, all day, all day, and you know that the back end of your business can cope with whatever is coming through the door. So that means you can scale it. It doesn’t matter about the baby thing, this was my experience with having a baby. But the results of me having a baby is I have scalable business, and we’re now about to scale this massively because it’s ready. I don’t think I would have been, I think if the baby, if Ruby hadn’t come along, even me who’s good at this stuff, I still think it would have taken longer. Because I would have dithered with things, you know?
Matt: So a little thing I’ve done with some clients in the past, which can be helpful to all of you, is to write your termination letter to yourself on your current role in the business, and set a date on when you’re going to terminate yourself. And that’s the beauty about what Barbara had here, was it was a definitive date in which all of this had to be done. Otherwise, you can be in your business one, two, three, five years, still be doing the same things, telling yourself I’ll get to it, I’ll get to it, I’ll get to it. Because everything we’re talking about is important and not urgent until either something goes wrong, or until you have a definitive deadline. And so create that definitive deadline for yourself, and believe me, it’s amazing. I’m happy for you to write, email me your letter, and I will post it to you, terminating you from your position in your business. And I have done that before. Because otherwise, you don’t do it.
Barbara: That’s a great idea.
Matt: And effectively, that’s what was forced upon you, which is exciting. I’m actually very very jealous.
My key people are now more engaged in my business
Barbara: Yeah, you know I was thinking actually as well, you know funny thing, sort of a side thing happened from this whole process that I didn’t even think about. My key people are way more engaged and excited about this business than they ever were before, because they took ownership of it. Like I didn’t anticipate that being an outcome, but that has been a huge outcome for me. And they’re now having … There’s stuff going on. Sometimes I’m like, “What are you guys doing?” And they’re like, “Oh we just had this meeting, and we’ve created this whole thing that we want to do.” And I’m thinking wow, I used to have to drive all that, but I don’t have to do that anymore, and that was a side benefit that happened.
Matt: And a part of this goes to part of what Tony Robbins teaches about his six human needs, and you’re fulfilling their need for growth and contribution beyond themselves. So the fact that they’re connected, they’re aligned to you and the company, and they’ve been given the opportunity to grow and contribute beyond themselves will lead to a more fulfilling role that they have for themselves in the business.
Barbara: Yeah, it totally, and that surprised me a lot. It lit me up actually, because I was like wow, I’ve seen them shine. They’ve just emerged from tasks … They were never task takers, but I suppose there was a lot of that, but I’ve developed their strategic thinking, by accident. Which is amazing for me. But yeah, it’s worth it. I can’t stress enough how worth it it is to put that work in, even if it takes you 12 months, but don’t let it go on longer than that, because otherwise you’re just dragging it on. It’s a six month project, is my honest view.
Matt: I agree, 100%.
Barbara: Yeah, so you have to go and have a baby Matt.
Wrapping things up
Matt: I’ve got three little babies at home. But look, I think what Barbara’s shared today, is just so important, and I think that if you take nothing else from this show, I just want to reiterate Barbara’s first point, which was to expand your mindset, and you’ve got to actually not be thinking about contracting your business, but expanding it. Knowing that that will actually be less stressful in the long run than contracting. And then follow the process, the other four steps. The strategic planning, redefining processes, getting clear on what was it, I’m just trying to-
Barbara: I think four was, allow for handing over the decision making.
Matt: Empowering them to make decisions, and then letting go. And you know, it’s having the faith and belief in your people, and remembering that you choose the people that you put on your team. And so if you choose well, and you invest time and money into them, and also believing in them, it will make a huge difference, and you can achieve exactly what Barbara’s achieved.
Barbara: Yeah, 100%. It’s something I’m going to talk more about, especially in the women’s sort of space in the next year, so I really feel passionately … I know a lot of women, and this is a generalisation, but they tend to contract rather than expand in this particular situation of pregnancy. It’s a natural fear I guess, because you want to protect yourself, but actually you’re setting yourself up – you’re putting risk onto yourself a lot by doing that.
Matt: Yeah, I agree, I agree.
Barbara: Great, so this was such a close show to my heart, I really wanted to do this one, so thanks Matt for facilitating the discussion on this.
Matt: No worries, and thank you for sharing. If you found this useful, we’d love to hear your comments. Please share the show with others, and also write to us on the Virtual Success Show Facebook group, and let us know your thoughts. And maybe even share some of your own experiences around what you’ve done with your business, if you’ve fallen pregnant, or if you’ve leveraged yourself out of the business in a very short period of time. And I’d love to say thanks to Barbara for being so open and sharing your own experience with us.
Barbara: Yeah, it wasn’t all highs, there were a couple of lows. But you expect that too I guess, that’s part of that. Accept the lows.
Barbara: Thanks Matt, thanks everyone.
Matt: Thanks everyone.
Matt: Bye bye.
Barbara Turley is the Founder & CEO of The Virtual Hub, a company that specializes in recruiting, training and managing superstar ‘Virtual Assistants’ in the social media, digital marketing and systems automation space.
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