“How I Escaped to Europe With My Hubby for Three Glorious Weeks”
When you’re a small business owner, you’re always on. There is no denying that. It can be difficult to escape for a weekend, a day, even a lunch hour, especially when you really enjoy your work and your “people”. I am a big proponent of balance as I have learned to schedule in “me time” and the always important “family time” into my day and week. One year ago I was ready to take that balance to the next level. My work-a-holic by choice attitude needed to change as I wanted to go on a trip of a lifetime with the man of my dreams – my husband Mitch. Twenty five years of marriage is no small feat and we decided to celebrate it with an amazing trip to Europe along with some dear friends. I wanted to be present on the trip both physically and mentally – and that meant leaving work back home. I wanted to honor my husband in that way and not be pulled by email, phone calls and making decisions that, quite frankly, could wait until I returned.
My title is CEO of Just Between Friends Franchise System. That title, CEO, really means “Chief Everything Officer” when you run a small business – so I knew this trip would not happen without some careful planning and a solid support system. So I set out to make it happen.
- Research – Research is key. I like to get as much information as I possibly can before embarking on any type of project. I read articles on how to unplug with tips and advice. I knew I wasn’t the only small business owner who had tried to take time off – for real, and I was right.
- Talk to the experts – I talked to three other CEOs of companies in my industry space who have “unplugged” and found out how they made it happen. When seeking advice, it’s important to think about the size and scope of your own company. (It probably won’t be helpful if you have a company with 10 employees to talk to someone in a company with 500 employees)
- Create a communication plan – This is perhaps the most important step of all. I began by telling the key people in my company and my life about my plans for a getaway. Here is an outline of that plan.
Shannon Wilburn’s Dream Trip Communication Plan
- Make a list of the stakeholders: for me this was my staff, my franchisees, my vendors and my friends and family
- Staff: I began with my staff as they were going to be key to my success in unplugging. We created a plan for managing the most important aspects of the business in my absence. My Franchise Administrator became my go-to-person, with access to my email and the “keeper of the plan”.
- Vendors: I notified my vendors that I would be unavailable and gave them a list of who to contact in my absence. I assured them I had a plan in place for emergencies (more below).
- Franchisees: I waited until about a week out to share my plans with franchisees. I did not want them worrying for months and I wanted to make sure I had my plan in place. Once I shared that plan with them, there was confidence that all would go smoothly.
- Family and friends: I shared my emergency plan with them. This was the easiest group of all, as they encouraged me to go on this journey.
- Planning for emergencies: This was the most important step for me. So I created a system for communicating in the case of an emergency and decided that Facebook messaging was the best method. I had made the choice to unplug from email…but not from personal social media. I knew I would have my phone with me and would get notified if there was a personal Facebook message. At that time, I could determine if it was important and then respond. I had to set up an international plan for my phone and turn off notifications to all non-personal social media accounts.
- Create a plan for managing the email machine: I have saved the best for last. I absolutely did not want to open any email while in Europe. This was so important to me. Again my Franchise Administrator became the leader of this task. These are the steps we took:
- Organize by folders: We set up five folders to categorize emails.
- Social media personal
- Social media business
- Personal emails (non work related)
- Work Emails that can wait
- Urgent emails – if this required my immediate attention, my Franchise Admin would contact me via Facebook message
- My Franchise Admin filed all emails in the appropriate folders so it was easier for me upon my return
- My Franchise Admin deleted any emails that did not fall under one of the folders (spam, Nordstrom sales, etc)
- Set up an away message: This is so simple. Make sure it includes all details and contact numbers – not YOURS – but someone who you designate and train to answer questions
- Give yourself some “cushion”: I added two days to my out-of-office email so I would have two days to catch up and clean up my email after I returned. I would suggest adding 1 day for every week you are gone.
NOTE: I gave my Franchise Admin complete access to my email and let my staff know so they would not email something they did not want another person to read. Finally I set parameters for myself. I checked my Facebook messages once a day for no longer than 10-20 minutes. I can tell you this system worked. I only had to work one morning (of 19) for about three hours when there were matters I had to address. I read two non-business books. I sat in the sun. I saw things I had only previously read about. I enjoyed the company of those I was with and was truly present without being distracted by “work” back home. Life is short: start planning that trip today! Shannon Wilburn is the CEO & Co-founder of Just Between Friends Franchise Systems, Inc. (JBF), North America’s leading children’s & maternity consignment event. JBF has more than 150 franchises in 29 states and Canada. JBF is actively seeking franchisees throughout North America. Click here to learn more.