As precious as every project is, entrepreneurs often need to step away from their ventures for long periods of time. Sometimes, it’s to start a new company or explore other amazing opportunities. Or, maybe it’s just for a long, well-earned vacation overseas.
Whatever the reason, your business can’t just pause while you’re gone. When the need to leave arises, your company has to be ready to run on autopilot.
In my case, I’ve learned to loosen my restraints and simply let go: I can work from home when necessary, and last month, I traveled for three weeks. I’m even in the process of launching a new company -- and my current company is still thriving.
Preparing for autopilot is a several-step process, but if your company can soar without you around, the benefits are innumerable.
Laying the groundwork.
First, learn to loosen your own grip on your company. Yes, the early stages of launching a business do require leaders to engage in a lot of hand-holding and supervision, but over time, self-confidence and self-governance must also be encouraged.
As your company grows and becomes more complex, you simply can’t have a say in every single decision. It’s just not feasible, nor is it something you should strive for if you ever plan to take a vacation. Instead, empower your employees to be problem solvers. If they require constant validation and need permission before making decisions, you’re not even close to being ready for autopilot.
Another crucial step is migrating your systems and software to the cloud. Make sure to set up your accounting software and CRM on the cloud. Doing this will allow you to access and assess the work being done in your absence. I use Asana to keep track of projects and tasks being accomplished in my absence.
I also have several Google spreadsheets maintained daily by my team that allow me to see activities in real time. I am not constantly monitoring my team, but I do at least once a day. I stay in touch with them, too, through email or Asana to provide feedback and guidance when necessary. Adopt these proven systems and they could allow you to manage your company even if you’re hiking the Himalayas.
Empowerment, confidence and technology are the three key ingredients to running on autopilot. Once you’ve built a foundation by adjusting your mindset and updating your tech tools, here’s how to prepare your team for success while you’re gone:
Placing an unprepared company on autopilot will have disastrous results. Long before you leave, conduct training sessions that put your team in theoretical scenarios in which they won’t be able to ask you questions or seek your approval. Showing them they’re capable of productivity in your absence will build their confidence and make them excited for autopilot.
Ease into it.
Don’t let your company’s first autopilot attempt occur when you head off for a two-month trip to a place that doesn’t have Internet access. Instead, try staying home for a few days while maintaining a minimal presence in day-to-day affairs and see how your team fares. Short, unannounced absences will keep your employees on their game and allow them to get used to you being gone.
Never completely disappear.
You still run a business. Completely checking out for long periods of time is dangerous, and it may send your team the wrong message. Yes, challenge them to make hard decisions while you’re away, but be sure to check in on those decisions regularly and continue going over key reports and statistics while you’re on autopilot.
The way to see whether your company can run without you is simple: Let it run without you. Still keep an eye on things, and make yourself available -- but encourage and empower your employees to not contact you every time a decision needs to be made.
Once you’re ready to let go of the reins, don’t hesitate. If your employees need anything -- or if something unexpected comes up -- your number is on the fridge.