Recently, I was inspired by the story of a man who owned a very successful business that had grown exponentially over the past few years. He had been working seven days a week, ten to twelve hours a day. He complained to his business coach about exhaustion. His coach pointed out that his business wouldn’t continue to grow as long as he worked that hard and didn’t take time to recharge in preparation for transition.
The advice: Take six weeks off. At first he was incredulous. He simply couldn’t get his head around the idea that his business would survive, never mind grow faster if he took time off. But he took a leap of faith and went to Europe for 6 weeks. His business got better. Encouraged by that success he took three months off. And his business got better.
Recharge in Preparation for Transition and Innovation
He explained, “I got my most creative ideas and thought about better ways for reinventing my business when I was away. Those ideas revolutionized my business. They enabled me to grow in a way I couldn’t have imagined when I had my nose to the grindstone.”
He went on, “In addition, while I was away, my key people were empowered to make decisions that formerly would have been sent to me. They sat on my desk. I was the bottleneck!
In my absence, these people rose to the occasion and took responsibility to do what had to be done. And they implemented ideas that they been sitting on. The overall effect was a significant increase in revenue while at the same time we reduced costs. It was so successful, I decided to take three months off every year and do volunteer work overseas!” That sounded so good to me that I decided to test the theory and take six months off.
A Sabbatical Would Fulfill Many Aspirations
It would enable me to do some things that I had always wanted to do. A road trip around North America from Waterloo, Ontario, to Texas and Arizona in the south, to British Columbia in the west, to Newfoundland in the East. We would visit places we’d read about but never been.
It would reinforce my self-image as a doer as well as a dreamer. I have very few regrets in my life. Getting this done before I became less physically able was a real motivator. Many people have said that they dreamed of doing the same thing and I fear that a large percentage of them will never get around to it.
It would be an opportunity to spend some quality time with my wife, Dawna. I had a goal to enhance our relationship and make sure that we would continue to be best friends as we grew older together.
It would be a test to see if I could get away from the businesses I owned and let my management team be in charge and do what they do best. This was important for my succession plan! Would I be able to more objectively look at the business as something separate from myself? Would my team rise to the occasion? Could I reinvent myself relative to my business? It would be a great opportunity to do some research for a book and a new program on how successful entrepreneurs transition from building their business to some form of retirement or a new career. I could learn from others and learn while doing. It seemed perfect.
It would recharge my batteries and give me an opportunity to look at the business from a different perspective and consider new ways to grow.
We’re about two thirds of the way through our sabbatical as I write these words. Many of the goals are being successfully met as I recharge in preparation for transition. We’re not done yet and I am confident that we’ll continue to make great strides before I return.
A sabbatical away from the business may not work for every business owner. Yet, I would recommend a good hard look at the possibilities and opportunities a sabbatical would offer you. Think about it in terms of a ‘pre-transition test’:
- A test of how well you’ve built your management team; a test of your ability to let go; a test of your ability to try new things; a test of your significant relationships; a test of your inner strength. If you’re interested in discussing how to get started, please feel free to contact me to open a dialogue. I’d be happy to share any ideas that could be of help. Contact us.
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