What Do They Do When You Are Away?

They are not Puppets

What they do when you are away will determine if you can be away.

You have been in control of your day-to-day work for so long, it may feel impossible to leave your company in the hands of someone else, for more than a few days, or a week. There are two problems with this:

  1. The most obvious is, you cannot leave your business for more than a few days.
  2. The other problem is, you cannot grow your business once your own time is at capacity.

There is a third issue, that you may not be thinking about right now and it is that you cannot easily sell your business or have family step into your role as a successor.

If you want to be able to step away from your business for any length of time, you need to know what everyone is doing when you are away.

What You Need to Do

Whether you are away, or in the business, your team needs to be clear on what their roles and responsibilities are in the business, so they can take action on what needs to be done. They are not puppets so don’t treat them like one. Give them roles and responsibilities, set your expectations, let them know what their boundaries are around decisions, and set them free to create what you hired them to do.

What to let go of?

You will need to let go of the work that must happen daily to ensure daily actions happen when you are away. This work may include:

  • Being the Manager: In a small business, you, as the owner, may be the only manager. What is being managed?
    • Manage the operations, in your business, which may include service or product manufacturing, quality, delivery, machinery operation, health & safety, location maintenance, inventory, and the people.
    • Manage the product development, which will include overseeing new product development, tests and market positioning.
    • Manage the sales and marketing, which may include leads & prospect outreach, sales calls, receiving payment, creating regular marketing copy, social media, overseeing marketing asset delivery.
  • Communications: Responding to emails (not all emails, but definitely those from clients, contractors, employees, leads, suppliers, etc.) can take an hour a day or more. Missed calls requiring call-back time. Your business must be able to respond to important messages. These are the emails and calls that, if not responded to, the business will lose important connections, sales, and income.
  • Administration and Money: As owners of small businesses, overseeing hiring, HR, job descriptions, reviews, your bookkeeping, your revenue, accounts payable, etc., holds a large part of your controller’s brain.

If you are THE person in charge of all of this, and you have not trained anyone in your business to be able to manage many of these responsibilities, then it will always be difficult to be away.

What can wait?

Knowing what has to be managed while you are away for a day is different than the things that will need to be managed for a longer time.

For instance, I write 3 articles a month, one for my Newsletter, and two for LinkedIn. They do not get published on the same days and the social shares that goes out with all of them takes time to create and schedule. I had several reminders in my calendar throughout the month, to manage my writing and posting communications for this one responsibility. When I did not have someone looking after this, and I wanted to be away for 2 weeks, I needed to prepare all this copy and articles ahead of time. This is just one thing, of many, that I am, and likely you are, responsible for.

  • Executive decisions: These are the big-picture, big change decisions that are made by the CEO. For example, taking on a new loan, buying or selling assets, taking on investors or partners, growth strategy, etc. These are not the types of responsibilities you will leave to others in your business.

The Do’s & Don’ts

Start by making a list of what you manage and the cycle it covers. You want to know exactly what you control and when it needs to happen, so you can make decisions around when you will be the ‘most free’.

Look for responsibilities you can offload. Many small business owners I know do not want to hire someone else. The challenge of training and overseeing another person feels like more work and makes it even harder to be away from the business. What I say to that is, “Yes, it is more work up front, but once you have them doing what you need them to do, you will have less work.” The dilemma for most small business owners is not knowing how to offload the work and what level of control you can and should give them.

If your employees have to get approval and permission to complete each task they are responsible for, you have not offloaded anything. To be truly away, you need to be able to disconnect from even the responsibility of approving.

  • Have people well trained so they know what an acceptable outcome is for their work.
  • Allow them to approve their own work.
  • Train someone else to oversee the overall operations.
  • Have procedures in place to guide employees and set boundaries.
  • Go away during a time when there is no major decisions that cannot be made by your team.
  • Don’t leave during the busiest season in your business, for instance harvest time. If you know there is a time of year where ‘all-hands-on-deck’ are required, or your specific skill is needed, then don’t plan your escape during that time, if you can help it.
  • Lastly, ensure your team knows how to reach you if something does happen, outside the usual day-to-day activities and outside of their control. For instance, one of your employees is in an accident.

The key here is, don’t start building this type of team the week before you want to leave. All these systems of task ownership and responsible decision making must be trained and well known before you can be absent from your business. If you know your team will make acceptable decisions when you are gone and they can successfully manage, oversee, communicate, and administer all the appropriate actions that must be looked after to ensure your clients are well taken care of, then you will have the piece-of-mind you need to enjoy your time away.


This article is 100% original content – The articles you read in “Thoughts of Change” are 100% created by Barb Stuhlemmer, not by AI.

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