Before I started attending the industry conventions, most of my travel was limited to one annual road trip with “The Blonde.” We drove a lot, did a lot of fun and adventurous things, and of course we fought a lot. My laptop was common on these trips and I would check in once or twice a day to handle email and issues with my advertising network, JuicyAds. Most times we would be gone two weeks and it was difficult to unplug for that time and let the company run. I was all JuicyAds had for many years, and I look back now and wonder how I ever handled every single job at the company. Long days and nights programming, doing sales, support, live help, marketing, accounting, banking, and every other thing that needed to be done. The July 2013 XBIZ World Presidential Suite article that dubbed me “Mr. Super Hands On” was not kidding. Things are different now that we have a few dozen employees.
I love what I do every day and that is extremely hard to let go of. Breaking free of this cycle was beyond a struggle. I read books about business, delegation, outsourcing, productivity, and learned far too much and solved very little. It wasn’t until I broke down several years ago, and realized that I simply could not do it all that I finally hired another programmer to lighten my load. It was a huge step, but it didn’t seem to matter how many new people I hired, the workload was always there, I still wasn’t delegating enough.
The one thing I love more than my company is traveling, and that’s how I finally learned how to delegate.
Around this time “The Blonde” gave me an ultimatum to work less, spend more time with her, or my marriage would be over. When you love someone, you do what you gotta do. However, by cutting back my work, the only thing I succeeded in doing was creating a backlog of work. It made little difference to her happiness that I was available to spend more time with her, because her focus simply shifted to the fact we were now personally making less money as the company increased expenses. Basic business economics eluded her, but greed did not.
Being the spouse of an entrepreneur is never easy, but I realized the problem with my marriage and the happiness of my spouse wasn’t how much I worked or how much money I made. Happiness comes from within, and the bottom line was, she was just an unhappy person. When my relationship ended, I ran away from everything I knew and started traveling — a lot. The one thing I love more than my company is traveling, and that’s how I finally learned how to delegate.
I hated being at home, and I loved being anywhere else. When I was at home, my interest in work had been changed, I was now rebuilding my life. I didn’t have the time or the energy for the workload I had put on myself for so many years, but I attended almost every convention I possibly could, visited employees, clients and friends around the globe. This travel period in my life pushed me to hire people I trusted, because I simply had no other choice. If I was in Amsterdam and the Internet had a bad connection or something needed to be fixed and I was otherwise “incapacitated” then I needed to get someone to help, plain and simple. Letting go of those things you simply don’t need to do, was the next step.
Most control freaks will give tasks to someone and try to tell them exactly how to do it. By the time you’ve explained something to someone (and how to do it) often its quicker to have done it yourself anyway. This is where the whole “if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself” paradigm comes from. That’s a fail. The most effective way to delegate is to actually give them a goal and let them figure it out for themselves.
While off in some corner of the globe, I would always find myself doing these repetitive tasks which always took longer on a laptop. While trying to save time I finally started asking myself “how can I avoid ever having to do this again?” and then would systematically draw out a process of how I had been accomplishing the task. This blueprint would then be delegated to the most capable employee and I’d never have to do it again.
Then there was prioritization. As an owner who is still hands on, there are tasks that simply need to be completed by the boss. Anything that wasn’t time sensitive and didn’t need me to make the decisions or execute the plan, was delegated. Whatever was left, I worked my ass off every day to complete and to try and stay on top of things while out of the office. Focusing on one thing (rather than evil multitasking things) is absolutely critical.
The best thing about traveling that helped me to delegate and saved my life was having a deadline. Its far too easy to get comfortable working in my home office. My next flight became my deadline. It didn’t matter where I was going, my office wasn’t going with me (this also forced me towards a paperless office). Completing projects and delegating while facing a deadline was one of the best things about traveling regularly. When I got back, I was slammed busy but productive. Traveling was the unexpected motivation that truly saved my life balance.