Not long after I opened my first business 15 years ago my own dentist became one of my clients. This man was extremely successful both in his practice and in his outside business dealings. He saw how hard I was working to build the massage clinic and one day told me that a secret to making more money was to schedule more time off. I could hardly believe my ears! If I'm nothing else, however, I am a listener and learner from others who show up to teach me, so I asked him more about his belief in “take more time off and make more money.” His points were these:
- As a person who deals with other people all day long you have to find a way to refresh yourself pretty frequently.
- If you start to think of your work with others as a daily grind you will not, by definition, be offering your best work to the people who come to you.
- Most highly successful businessmen regularly take golf or other sports-related trips together to not only get away from work, but build relationships and kick business ideas and joint ventureships around.
This man evolved into a great mentor for me, and after about a year passed by he challenged me to schedule a full week away from my business each quarter. He saw that I was already booked almost a year in advance and wisely predicted that I would find it harder and harder to step away if I didn't block out respite time at the first of each year. At first, all I could think about was the opportunity cost of being away a full 4 weeks each year from my business – after all, that meant I would work only 11 months out of 12! The first year I met his challenge I wondered if all my clients would just disappear overnight – especially the ones who were very used to working with me each week. I even tried to sneak in extra training during a few of those weeks off, since I had to take off even more time to meet my licensing requirements for continuing education hours. But he was wise to that trick – he'd done that himself in the past, ha!
The first year I took off a week each quarter my income went up by 20%. I'm not saying that increase was 100% due to the time off, but it definitely did factor in. The second year, the first week I took off was truly inspiring for me – I visited a clinic in another country and quickly realized I could replicate their business model, staff up, and build my business. At the end of that second year my income was up about 55%. Sure enough, I was working less and making more. My mentor chuckled when I went over my financials with him. Eventually, he proposed that I take off one week out of every six.
Now, the people who mentor and coach with me soon discover that the very FIRST thing we do is protect their time off. The new participants in my Business Mentorship Program will set that up in our very first meeting, and we'll have a good bit of discussion about why this is so critical for you as a business owner, as a family member, and as someone who started your own business because you wanted a particular lifestyle. I call it “framing up the year” and that's exactly what I've spent most of today doing for myself and in conversations with my spouse (who is also a small business owner).
Aside for the 3 points my mentor made (see above) I now can share with you from my own experience and the experience of my clients a few more important points.
- Scheduled time off is a huge motivator. As a business owner you work hard, it's helpful to have something to look forward to within the next 90 days.
- I've gotten some of my best, most creative ideas for my businesses when I'm staring at the ocean or sitting next to a famous painting or reading a book as I enjoy a mountain view. Entrepreneurs really never turn off the part of their brain that thinks about their business. We get that the different pieces of our life are all cut from the same cloth.
- Some of most fun times I've had is traveling with other entrepreneurs. We laugh until we cry, we muse about the world in general and our businesses in particular, and sometimes we come up with super ideas for each other, or things we can do jointly.
- Being away often forces controlling types to be better delegators.
- Being away forces you to put good business systems in place.
I often call my times away “personal retreats.” Sometimes I'm alone, often I'm not. But in every case, being away gives me retreat time to rest, think, ponder, resolve to let go of what's not working, and surprise people with new bodacious plans when I return. It's radical, actually. It's radical to step up and force yourself to believe you can do it, schedule it, and then go away. But after doing it just once, taking more time off changes from radical to vital. It becomes critical component for your life and your business. Take time off, make money. Pretty cool, huh?
Need courage to implement this idea? Need support for your life and your business? Apply for my Business Mentorship Program for 2012. I'll guarantee that I'll ask you to take more time off. 🙂