Q: How do you keep your consulting business going while on vacation?
A: First a little background… My wife and I love traveling with our five kids. As soon as school gets out we are itching to go. One week just doesn’t cut it for us. We typically go out for two to five weeks at a time.
As a self-employed consultant, I used to think that vacation time was too expensive to really enjoy. Not only did I have to pay for the vacation but I was missing income while away. So it was like paying double!
The vacation goal?
Real time off. Like no work, no phone, no computer, no files, no etc. You know… vacation!
The vacation problem?
Typically a loss of income, checking emails on the beach and a pile of work waiting for you when you get home.
The vacation fix?
Systems, Staff (if you don’t have staff it’s ok) and Education.
With the technology we have available today (much of it free), there is no need to do most of the tasks we do each day. Let the software buy you some time.
- Auto calendaring – We all waste time booking meetings. It’s simple and often free to let contacts see some available time on your calendar and book themselves. They will thank you for saving them time… while you’re on the beach. 🙂
- Email filters – most of it is predictably junk or just FIY. Simple filters that are free with most email systems can cut 90% of the email out for you or your staff.
- VOIP – a simple and often free way to set up an extra phone line that can handle your work calls instead of them hitting your cell phone.
- Project management system – Getting your projects off of spreadsheets, sticky notes and email files will help you and your team press “pause” on work without getting behind.
- Structured check-ins – If you are like me and want to be gone way longer than most people think is possible, you may need a few hyper-structured work hours once a week. This is where your client calls, addressing a few emails, getting updates from your staff, etc. can happen. Then turn it off for another week!
If you have staff members that are as AMAZING as my team members, then you’re in good hands! The right people can help you in so many ways, but when you are on vacation there are a few basic tasks your staff can handle that can set you free.
- Basic communication – No matter how good your systems are, it is still nice to have a real person looking at your inbox or checking the voicemail. The vast majority of emails and calls don’t need your immediate attention. If your staff can’t deal with it 100%, they can at least schedule that contact for a call during one of your weekly check-ins.
- Basic tasks – If you have an entry-level staff member they can often execute clearly defined tasks in your project management system. Keeping things moving forward between your weekly chats will keep clients and you happy.
- Magic – My team members are highly educated, genetically gifted communicators and executors (magicians). When you find the right team members, be sure to give them the systems and communication they deserve. You will make them happy and free yourself up to do what you do best.
Most people are fine with a world where their needs and expectations are getting met. Your clients and staff are no exception. Giving them clear ways to express their needs and an understanding of when and how you will take care of them goes a long way.
- Client Education – If your clients know you have their best interests at heart and you continue to deliver what they need, you will have happy clients. If you do that from Tahiti or the North Pole, they won’t care. It turns out that having you sitting in your office is not one of their goals. If you think that is where you have to be… maybe that is your perception of their goal, but it’s not real unless they said it!
- Staff Education – My staff will tell you that I am a little… staying away from “crazy”… let’s call it “gifted”. 🙂 Hey! I’m an entrepreneur! Many of us are scattered, ADHD, thinking faster than we can talk, and in 3 directions at once. No matter how I may think about projects and tasks, it is my job as a leader to educate my staff on how and when I expect them to do things. Things like answering emails in a timely manner. What is an emergency and what is not. What to put on my calendar and what to pass on. How long to work on a project that gets stuck before pulling me into it for a fish or cut bait decision, how much to spend without my permission… You get the idea. Write this stuff down. Train them. They really do want to help you, so help them! 🙂
By putting the right systems in place and training your staff well, it’s not hard to see how you can fit in a week or two of totally unplugged vacation time without having to suffer the usual consequences of lost revenue and piled up work. What other specific questions can I answer for you about your consulting business? Ask away in the comments section!