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  • Donna Lim

Does your business need a vacation from you?

Note from Donna…Many of you know, I’m “Clockworking” the business this year. The experience has been harder than I had hoped, but far more rewarding than I dreamed. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that I’m in the way of my team becoming autonomous. In the Run Like Clockwork accelerator program, you learn that your business needs time away from you. Ouch…yes – the ego must be checked at the door.



The goal of Mike Michalowicz’s book, Clockwork, is for the business owner to be able to take a 4-week “unplugged” vacation. Unplugged in this case meaning zero contact with the business. However, that’s not my personal motive for this program. As a matter of fact, as I interact with other business owners in the Accelerator program it’s rarely their motive either. Most business owners like working, owning a business, and interacting with clients. So, the question is - what are we doing in the program?

My biggest motivation is succession planning. Whether I’m preparing to transition into a shareholder, passing the business down to a family member, or selling the company. All of these plans need the same thing from me: I need to be non-essential to the business. The business must be able to run without me. Again, EGO check. For most of us, our business is like our baby. We created it, nurtured it, fed and watered it, and we want to retain control. Allowing our teams to become autonomous means not everything will go our way.

Throughout the program, I’ve been teaching my team to make decisions through the lens of our corporate values. We have been busy making daily observations, documenting and mapping out procedures, and creating decision guard rails. It requires me to have the discipline to not immediately answer questions. I must ask more questions than I answer, and help the team move through the decision-making process rather than making decisions myself.

Clockwork teaches us that it’s not feasible to go from rarely taking “unplugged” vacations to a 4-week vacation. Neither you nor your team is ready for that. Instead, Clockwork advises us to take a series of vacations that scale up in duration. The objective of this is to observe what goes wrong in these shorter vacations. I have done a few 1 week “unplugged” vacations, and I’m about to scale up into a 2-week vacation away from the business. What does that look like? For me, it means I will not be communicating with my team or my clients. I want to see how much my team knows, and how well they communicate with clients. During this time, I’ll be doing some design work. I’m currently working on developing the marketing and sales process of the business. It’s something no one else in the company does besides me. Unfortunately, it’s all in my head and what process that is written out is paltry.

I’m not the type of person that enjoys a lot of time off, but I Do know the team needs me to move out of their way to see how far they’ve come in their development.

I’m doing prep work now for the 2-week time away.

  1. I’m planning cash flow: Bills will still need to be paid and payroll still needs to be processed.

  2. I’m not in production anymore, but as I’m still doing some training I need to be certain that my team member is ready to be without me.

  3. I planned my 2-week time off in a slower portion of the month, and the slower part of the year. The team is not ready to do Year-end on their own.

  4. Block the calendar.

  5. Set up meetings with my operations manager to plan and debrief beforehand.

To be honest, I have more faith in my team than myself. It will not be easy to avoid asserting myself into a situation that may arise, and I need to be self-disciplined. However, I’m focused on the long term-benefits of having a business run like Clockwork. When my husband retires in a few years, I will be ready to travel with him. What are you doing to develop and prepare your team and business to run smoothly without you?

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