Last month I traveled a lot, which meant I asked my team to function without me over and over again.

And here’s what I realized: That’s totally possible, IF we work out a few kinks.

Taking a week-long vacation to write my book (where I was almost completely unplugged from the day-to-day) helped me realize the areas in my company where I’m acting as a bottleneck.

And you never want to be a bottleneck in your company, right? You never want to be the reason your whole team gets stuck, because they’re waiting on your approval or your go-ahead to move forward.

Five days away from work illuminated a major gap in my internal marketing team – but I never would have noticed if I hadn’t taken this time away!

So, tune into this episode for more about this experience, plus my challenge to YOU as a fellow business owner + influencer. Then, let me know over on Instagram (@emilyhirsh) what you think: Have you tried this with your team? What were your results?

Key Points:
[2:40] Last month I traveled a lot, and I realised this
[5:31] You never want to be a bottleneck in your company
[7:37] We hired + fired people while I was gone, completely without my input.
[8:07] But, this part of my business could not function without me – and that needs to change
[10:09] If I hadn’t taken a vacation, I wouldn’t have had this realization
[11:33] P.S. Getting your leadership team to this level is the next step!

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Episode Transcripts:  

Emily Hirsh: I’m Emily Hirsh, and this is The Hirsh Marketing Underground Podcast. Attention, innovators, influencers, creators, and game-changing entrepreneurs: your internet domination begins right here. We are the powerhouse marketers that you’ve been looking for. You’re already making waves in your industry, and we’re here to help amplify those waves of change by creating a connection that cuts through the noise. We take everything you’ve built inside your zone of genius and find its audience. With killer strategy and laser eye for impact, we launch multimillion dollar campaigns and skyrocket your reach online.

And now, we are doing the unheard of. We’re unveiling everything we’ve learned, taking you behind the scenes with the Hirsh Marketing Team, and giving away the secrets to our clients’ success. Stay tuned for top converting strategy, ROI reports, and insider knowledge that you won’t find anywhere else. You’re changing the world, and we’re the team to help.

Hello, everyone. I hope you are having an amazing day. Today will be Halloween, which, as a kid, used to be my least favorite holiday because I hated dressing up. I’m not a very… think of the cheerleaders and the spirit, student council kids and then the opposite of that, that was me. I did not like any of that stuff at all. So I pretty much never dressed up for Halloween as a kid. I did go Trick-or-Treating when I was young, but then I didn’t [for awhile]. But now I have kids, and so I can’t be that lame mom who’s like, “We don’t do Halloween.” So this year, I had it together. We had Halloween costumes a month before Halloween, or more. Already bought, picked out, my kids have played in them, and they’re ready to Trick-or-Treat. They’ve never wanted to Trick-or-Treat before.

Last year, Oliver, my four year old, just wanted to answer the door for the Trick-or-Treaters more than actually go Trick-or-Treating. So we are going to actually do it for the first time. And I’m so proud of myself for being ahead. It was a total mom win. And as I was walking through Target, picking out the costumes, I was like, “Why am I so ahead this year? Why am I so on it? I’ve got Halloween crafts and pumpkins.” I don’t know, maybe because I just really wanted it to be fall in Texas, but also, I think it’s because I have more space in my day and my time because I take those two days off to actually do those types of things and think ahead about those things. So that’s pretty cool. Pretty proud of myself for that.

So today, what I want to share with you guys, I did an episode, a couple episodes back, about how I wrote my book in two and a half days [episode 119]. And in September, I traveled [a lot]. I was only here in Austin two weeks out of the month, and then I was traveling on two or three different trips for the rest of the month. And so it was really cool because I realized that when I go on vacation or when I’m unavailable, specifically when I was writing my book, how eye-opening it is, any gaps or places where I need to fix my business, and so… I’ll talk a lot about how I’m out of the day-to-day and how I take… I only work three days a week and have two days for self-care appointments and all of that, and I’ve done a lot of episodes on that.

But I want you guys to know, I’m not perfect. So I do still have areas where I get pulled back in and I’m needed or I’m a bottleneck or my schedule gets crazy and I don’t have one of those days off. That happens enough out of the months that I’m constantly working to that goal and reach it some weeks and then other weeks it gets thrown off.

So when I went on this vacation… and it was specifically when I was in Hawaii writing my book, because when I was writing my book, I could not respond to messages very much or [with] answering a question, even a basic question, I was like, “My brain just can’t,” decision-making fatigue, “I’m so in this writing and so fried by the end of it that I can’t then go solve a problem.” Where, when I go to California and visit my family, I still am pretty responsive on Voxer and working a little bit when I’m there. I can’t really record content, but I don’t take [the time] off fully. But when I was writing this book, I was unavailable. Not to mention also, I was on a six-hour time difference from my Eastern team members, which, two of my leadership, main direct reports, are on Eastern time. So I had to work around that if they needed me. But what I realized was, it was such a great, eye-opening experience for me to realize any gaps in the business.

And so if you don’t have a vacation planned… don’t work on the vacation and see what happens. Work before you go on your vacation and leading up to those, obviously, to set your team up for success, and then when you’re on vacation, see what they need, see where you are at the bottleneck, see where you not responding is going to hold back the entire company, because that will shine a light on exactly what you need to fix.

And so this is what happened to me. It was very eye-opening. And sometimes I hear entrepreneurs [who] are like, “Okay, tomorrow I’m going to do this. I’m going to just not respond to my team and see where they need me.” That obviously won’t work if you haven’t done the pre-work of putting foundational pieces in [place in] your company. And so, I’m in a place where I think it runs on its own, pretty much. And so my expectation is, when I go, it’s going to run on its own. And so when it doesn’t or when something comes up or when I’m really needed and there’s something urgent, then I realize, “Okay, there’s a gap there.” Because you never want to be a bottleneck, and the times where you’re a bottleneck is where your team can’t move forward because they’re waiting on an answer from you, they’re waiting for approval from something from you, they’re not able to make a decision on their own… You actually have work, physical work, emails or something that you have to respond to – and if you don’t, it’s going to hold back the company…

So any of those things… that your company won’t grow without you, you’re not able to take sales calls or sign new clients, all of those things would be examples of you being a bottleneck, because if you’re not there, you won’t be able to move the needle forward.

So when I was writing my book, my ads team completely ran itself. I talked to my ads operations manager maybe once a day, just a quick check in, and she just would send me a couple of updates, but there were pretty much no questions that I needed to answer, nothing that was holding her back from making big decisions. And side note here, I want to reiterate, I’ve empowered my team to do that. They know, “If you know the answer to something, you can make that decision,” and I will never come back and be like, “You should’ve never made that decision. You’re in trouble for that.” Never would I do that. So I’ve empowered my team to want to make decisions, to not lean on me all the times that I am home and working regular days in [a] regular schedule, so that when I leave, they’re confident doing that.

But my whole ads team, which is the biggest part of my business, ran without me, fully without me. We signed new clients without me. We onboarded new clients. We served all of our clients. Everything ran without me. So that was amazing. That was the best it’s ever been, me fully leaving like that. It’s been a while since I fully left. I want to say, maybe Christmas last year, I fully took off, because I’m a typical entrepreneur, I’ll still work a little bit when I go to California. Sometimes when I’m at events, I have to fully take it off, so that might not be true, but still I’m kind of working.

But anyways, my ads team ran all on its own. My operations team ran all on its own. We were able to… actually, we hired somebody, we had to let somebody go, these decisions were all made without me. How cool is that? We hired somebody, we sent offer letters out to somebody, we did interviews. We didn’t onboard them, obviously, that week, but they’re starting. They were going to start whenever we set the startup date for. The decision to hire them was made without me, and the decision to fire the person we had to fire was made without me, and the actual firing took place without me.

So that’s all amazing, okay? The only place that was eye-opening to me that I needed to support was my marketing team. And that was kind of on purpose, because I stepped back into marketing this last quarter. I wanted to be involved in a lot of our launches and things that we’re doing with IGNITE. And I just didn’t want to have that, basically, barrier between me and the marketing team. But one huge eye-opening [thing]… and if my marketing team listens to this, you guys know I love you so much, and I take full responsibility for this. But one of my big eye-opening things was, I was massively holding back the marketing team while I was gone, because they needed things approved by me. They needed emails approved, because we were launching two weeks after I got back… or actually, ads started when I was gone, to our webinar, and we were launching.

And so there was a lot going on. And so I left, saying like, “Oh yeah, I’m available.” But then, when I’m writing my book, the last thing I can do a good job on was writing emails and editing emails. I was doing it, and I’m like, “I can’t, I can’t even look at the screen. I cannot do this.” So I was trying to do it after I wrote my book, and so it all hit me then. I’m like, “Because I stepped back into marketing, I kind of allowed this to happen. I allowed me to just be this person who makes a lot of the decisions and who calls the last shots and who approves the final things. We got to change that.” So on my trip, I actually straight up was like, “You guys, this is great. This is super eye-opening for me. I’m realizing that you’ve been waiting a day for me to approve these emails, and you guys can’t do your job without me. That’s a problem. I’ve messed up here.”

And so I pulled in my operations manager, and I said, “Can you come in and help? Can you organize our process? Can you help me get it to a point where I’m not having to approve most things, minimal things that I have to approve, and get us there?” And so she did, while I was gone. And now, coming back, I actually have a lot less decisions and touch points with my marketing team, because we fixed it while I was gone. But honestly, if I didn’t leave like that, and if I didn’t specifically feel too burnt out to be able to read and write emails at the end of the day specifically… after writing, whatever, 20,000 words or 15,000 words a day, I was like, “No way am I going to write emails. I will write terrible emails.” I didn’t have to write them. I was editing them and changing them around, but I was fried.

So if that didn’t happen, I may not have had that realization of like, “Whoa, I am a super big bottleneck here. I need to fix this.” So once we had the realization, we could put it in place, we could fix it, and it was great, and now it feels so much better being back. I don’t have as many decisions I have to make, and I am not as big of a bottleneck. We still have some work to do to get us to where I want to be. But I was able to be super transparent with my team and be like, “Whoa guys, I feel like a massive bottleneck slowing you down, and that’s never a good sign. So we need to figure out how to fix this.”

So coming back, I know that this is a great thing to do, and I’m encouraging all of you to do this, too. Like I said, set your team up so that when you go, they feel confident making decisions, taking over and owning it, that you’re not leaving them stranded. That’s never what you want to do. But then when you go, if you’re needed or if things come up that you didn’t really expect, those are the things you need to fix when you come back.

So once I came back, I was talking to my head of the ads team, and she was actually asking me my feedback. She was like, “Did you come back and feel like everything was managed great? Was there anything I could’ve done differently or had more urgency on?” And I really was like, “No. It was all great. I didn’t feel stressed coming back at all.” But I said, “You know what, though? We need you to do this so we can see what your direct reports need from you while you’re gone.” And so right now, as I’m recording this, she’s actually taking two days off, because I’m like, “Listen, do not tell your team you’re available for emergencies. Anybody who’s a direct report to you can come to me that day. But tell them, ‘Try to figure it out on your own. And if you can’t, you can save it until Monday.’ If it’s a super emergency, come to me.” But I’m like, “We need to see where they’re relying on you.”

And so, I have found, growing a team and growing a leadership team, that getting your leadership team to not bend over backwards for their direct reports, because they feel bad or they want to be supportive or that’s just what they’re used to, is really hard. And so I was like, “Why don’t we just do the same method for you? You leave for two days. We think we’ve got it really foundational, but let’s see where the problems are. Let’s see what comes up. Let’s see where the team wasn’t able to solve a problem without you, where they were waiting for you or where they were holding back. And then we can fix it when you’re back.” And so that’s what we’re doing. And so I’m kind of implementing this concept of build the foundation as best as you can, be there for your team, empower them, do all of that when you’re there.

And then take a step away, whether it’s your leadership team or you, take a step away from the business, and see where you’re a bottleneck, see where the team is relying on you, because you may not even realize it during the day-to-day in your business when you’re there, because it sometimes feels so quick. It’s like a 30-second answer to a question or a quick approval of an email. But those things all add up. And the more pressure you have and the more decisions you have to make, the more you have to be able to offload those things so that you have less.

So that was kind of my huge takeaway from vacation and how I then took it back and am implementing it with my strategic team. But I want you guys to understand, I’m not perfect. I’m not fully out of the… I am out of the day-to-day. I think I am, but then when I go on vacation and I find certain things, I’m able to still fix those. And that will probably always be the case, and it’s something I always need to bring awareness to. So I wanted to share that with you guys today.

Let me know, tag me on Instagram (@emilyhirsh) or send me a message. Let me know what you think about this. If you guys have tried it before, how it worked for you, and if you’re not there and you’re like, “Man, I wish I could get my team there,” trust me, I have been where you are and you absolutely can get your team here. It just takes the dedication and the time to doing it. And once you do, it’s so rewarding to be on that vacation, or for me, it was writing that book and just being like, “My company is running itself.” All of these decisions are being made, and it’s moving forward in every aspect, from new clients to existing clients, without me… is the most rewarding thing probably that I’ve built. It’s incredible. So all right guys, I’ll see you on the next episode.

Thanks for listening to The Hirsh Marketing Underground Podcast. Go behind the scenes of multimillion dollar ad campaigns and strategies, dive deep into The Hirsh Process, and listen to our most popular episodes over at HirshMarketingUnderground.com. If you loved this episode of the podcast, do me a favor and head over to iTunes to subscribe and leave a review, so we can reach more people and change more lives with this content. That’s all for now and I’ll catch you next time.