Alyson Caffrey

How To Take A Break From Your Business With Alyson Caffrey


TRANSCRIPT AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED [00:00:00] Hey, hey, today's guest, Allison Caffrey is a small business operations strategist and founder of the operations agency. We've been friends for years. And when I saw her new book, the sabbatical method, I knew we all needed the details on taking a break for business. Hey Aly, welcome to the show. Thanks, Diane. I'm really excited to be here. I appreciate you having me. So let's kick things off with a little intro to you and your business journey. Yeah, sure. So I'm Alison Capri. I'm an operations strategist for small businesses, and I am the founder of operations agency, recent bestseller of the book called the sabbatical method. And I got started as probably most service providers probably do out of intense need. A lot of owners that I was working with in the very beginning were like, I love doing the things that I do for clients and, working in the weeds of fulfillment and doing all the stuff, but I have no idea how to run a business. I have no idea how to structure my operations, how to create clear reporting and clear project management and all the stuff. So I became the sweaty generalist. of the operations industry. I like to say I was really partnering as a fractional C. O. O. helping kind of decrease the back end operations for just a handful of businesses. And as more and more folks started to kind of approach, working with me specifically, I was like, I gotta find a better way to at, kind of a high level. So operations agency became, our, our main way to provide, founders and business owners with really clear, transparent operating structure behind the scenes. And we're about to celebrate our six year anniversary of operations agency in the fall, which is so crazy to actually say out loud. But I've loved all of it. I mean, it's not always been easy, but it's been super. Fun to be able to just offer a complimentary skill set to folks who are really making a ruckus in their marketplace and really serving people really, really well. Oh, I think we've probably been friends that whole time as well. Cause it's like, like we've been friends forever in entrepreneur world. Oh, totally. We go way back. We go way back, almost to like birth.[00:02:00] So let's get really clear on what a sabbatical actually is. Because it's a pretty kind of corporate or academic term. So some people might be familiar with it. Some people might be completely unclear. Is there a specific length of time? Is it paid? Is it unpaid? What's the gist of a sabbatical? Yeah. So sabbatical comes out of the corporate and academic world, right? And I think a lot of times, and we were talking about this just before we hit record, like when I talked to a small business owner specifically about the term sabbatical, they think one of two things. They think either this is for fortune 50 companies, CEOs, people with a lot of resources. They're going to go take six months. In the south of France and do the whole thing that I could never attain because my business just isn't big enough or I just don't make enough money or I don't have enough team members or whatever the story is, right? And then the other thing they think of whenever the term sabbatical comes up is somebody hitting some kind of wall, right? We call it burnout colloquially, right? Someone needs to take an amount of time off from the business because they've run their body down, they've run their mind down, they've run their team down. And so they have to significantly scale back or cut back their involvement in the business. And so my opinion with the sabbatical method and what I feel like exists and kind of that, that middle ground is a way that Small business owners can access the benefits of the fortune 50 scenario, right? We are in a position where we can take some time to gain new perspective over the business and really avoid the burnout scenario of going too hard, too fast for too long. Because I think if we can consider that a lot of the reasons why we run our business, the way we do is kind of to be anti corporate in some ways, right? But like take those little tiny threads that work well, right? Like. Cash statements and making sure that we have clear reporting and making sure that we have clear S. O. P. S. in a way to manage our team, right? We can take some of the best things that corporations do and, academics do to support their people on really kind of distill it down into what makes this incredible. And I personally feel like rest is that thing, [00:04:00] right? It really helps us gain new perspective. It helps us fill, ourselves back up and be a little bit more prepared for the next phase of, the ascent of your business. If you consider any high performing plan whether you are in a position to summit Everest or. Run a marathon or do anything in the physical nature, right? Rest is an intentionally built in piece of all of those plans. And I think as owners, we miss, we miss that pretty significantly. We're told the hustle, we're told the grind, we're told to find tips and tricks and hacks and things to get us there faster, faster, faster. But sometimes I think. In running a business, it's best to kind of just pull back for a second and consider, okay, where am I going? How am I being intentional about this? And can I keep this consistent for the long haul in an effort to compound, interest for lack of a better term, right? Like create some compound interest on this habit on this thing that I'm doing. So I think. Distilling that down really and making sure that rest becomes a part of your high performing plan for your business. That's what a sabbatical is to me. The length of time isn't necessarily important because I think a lot of people are like, well, I can't take three months off from my business or I can't take six months off from my business. I struggled to close my computer at six. I struggled to take a full weekend off for a full week without checking my email. My opinion on that and my encouragement to anybody listening who's like, I for sure am in that, that camp is to start small, right? Any time that you are in a position to build a muscle inside of your business and your, In your physical body or in any of your habits, you need to begin small So let's just start by closing your computer at 6 p. m Let's just start by scheduling in 20 minutes to just go stand outside and put your feet on the ground, right? Let's see how that shifts your energy the way that you show up those types of things and then we can build that muscle over time so that you can Take a full on, six month or three month sabbatical in the future if that's something that really appeals to you Yeah, maybe you just like, don't check your email on a weekend. Ooh. I think the other thing that a sabbatical would do really well is I see a [00:06:00] lot of business owners get to a point where now they've reached success in their business and they won't say this publicly, but they are so bored with their business. They've been running and running and running and they're kind of on a hamster wheel. It's super successful. It's doing really well and If they could take a sabbatical to do something different like active rest, you know So like in corporate sometimes people will take a sabbatical to write a book Right that kind of thing to do something that is a slightly different interest you can then come back into your business renewed Versus what usually happens when the entrepreneur hits that, that stage is they just burn it down. Yep. can't see any other option. So I think that's a very niche entrepreneurial need for a sabbatical is like, maybe if you're hit that point and you're like, I am so bored, maybe a, you're not resting enough. B, you maybe need a moment to, to think about something that isn't your business so that you can fall back in love, right? You and your business need to go on a break, right? Yeah, totally. I think that is actually more common than you or I even could imagine, because I think the problem, and I was just talking about this earlier with one of my clients, the problem isn't that entrepreneurs aren't working hard. Not the problem, right? I think a lot of people think they haven't reached success because they're not working hard or they are not let into some secret that other people know that's tipping, tricking, hacking, again, their way to success. The reason I think a lot of folks haven't reached the pinnacle of success or have the type of business that they want is because of intentionality, right? They're not really focused on committing and being intentional to the things that are going to make the biggest difference. I think rest is one of those things. And I agree with that. If you take a second to look at your business and you say, all right, How might this need to look for me to really enjoy it? Those are sometimes hard questions to ask yourself. Sometimes they probably feel confronting. And frankly, I did this when I was writing my book, I was like, I'm going to [00:08:00] use the sabbatical method to focus on this other project and see what happens to my business. And I think that we had obviously operational structure in place because I'm the systems gal. Like we had really clear things going on. I super embarrassing if you weren't prepared for this. It's so funny because especially to like when I had my, my son, my first son, I mean, I remember considering like, okay, this is a confronting experience for me, right? I'm the operations person. I should have this all figured out. And so when I had that specific experience, and then when I went through the book writing experience, I was like, how can I take some meaningful time off to focus on this other project and not? feel like things are going to fall apart. And my business just looked very different at those two stages. And so I consider this as well whenever you know, someone is saying, Hey, well, listen, I took two weeks off or I did this or whatever. But my business looks radically different than it did last time I tried to do this. Implementing this as a core function of how you operate is going to help bridge that gap. I know so many women with maternity leave, and I know so many people who go to focus on creating another project or launching a new business. And then the moment they step out of the business or divert their focus and attention, everything starts falling apart behind the scenes. And I think that if we're being totally honest with ourselves, a lot of people probably have these dreams and these things that they want to get out into the world, but they. Literally are afraid to, basically leave their business by itself to try and function on its own. I think we're doing a lot of people a disservice. We're doing a disservice to ourselves. We're doing a disservice to the leaders that could rise up in the business that we're currently running. I personally know that through the book project, my second in command, Lauren, she has risen to a new level of leadership that I don't even think she thought was possible for herself. In leading our internal team and leading our clients, and I'm super proud of her for that, and we might not ever have had that type of trajectory, at least not in the time frame that we currently do, if I didn't focus my time and energy on, putting the book out there. And so you're also doing the books that you could serve a [00:10:00] disservice, right? I know so many people who've reached out to me and are like, Oh my gosh, I needed this book at the exact right time. And I was like, you know what what if I didn't do this, and it's just really interesting I think when we start to consider some of the ways that we're hiding in the complexity, you know of our business and I say this All the time. But you know, when we launch a business, it's very common to say, like, my business is my baby. But then when does the business become a capable adolescent, right? When does the business become a thriving adult, right? Like when, if you're a parent and you're raising a child, you want to give those micro doses of, and again, the lines aren't clear, right? It's not clear when you should let them walk to school on their own. It's not very clear when you should let them sleep over at a friend's house. And thankfully, I'm not that far along in my parenting journey yet. But. Even simple things exist where we just need to start to build that muscle of, okay, if I can instill trust in this child, AKA your business, right? If I can leave it alone and say, Hey, listen, I trust that what I've done here is going to get us at least to the next step. And whatever breaks I'll fix it. And I have the confidence you can start to focus on building whatever it is you want for your personal life and for your professional life. And I think this is probably a really good exercise for our control freaks, you know, the people who are like, yes, I've delegated all the tasks that I'm also going to check that you've done every single task. And if you're not available to do the task on my timeline, I am going to do it myself. You know who I'm talking to, right? I think intentionally planning for a sabbatical will help your business. And your team longer term, because it'll force you to like, remove your fingernails, even if it's only for a week, even if it's only for a couple of weeks. And I think a lot of the times we only see that happen when someone's about to go on maternity leave. you are forced by external circumstances to take a break from your business. And that's a super stressful time to think about taking a break from your business. Especially if you've never done it before, right? I mean, hormones are at an [00:12:00] all time high. You're completely becoming a new person at home. And I agree with you. That's one of the biggest reasons why I was like, I don't understand why I never did this. I never took. And at the time we were, I was growing the business. I was building the business. My husband was in the military. And I had no idea that I was literally spending like 60 hours a week working, right? It just didn't feel like work. I was single for the most part, right? Like, we didn't have any kids. Steve was off and doing his thing in the military. And I remember considering when I had my son, I was like, Holy cow. If I actually plan to ratchet this back to part time so that I can be with my son, it's actually going to yield 40 less hours of my time every single week in the business. I had no idea, had never done that exercise. And again, I'm an operations person and I was helping people figure this stuff out in their businesses all the time. But sometimes I think when we're so in the weeds of what we're doing, even though it might be our expertise you The things that are so blatantly obvious in front of us and I think having that opportunity to take leave and having that external forcing function was super impactful And so I was thinking well, what if we manufactured a different type of forcing function? That was you know, really really helpful. And I think the sabbatical is such a perfect opportunity for that, especially if you're considering growing your family, if you want to grow a leadership team, if you want to focus on, starting another business or launching a new function of your business, it's very handy to like have this card in your back pocket that you can say, Hey, listen, remember guys, we ran this. play before. And it went really well. And here's how we can do it. I think the team's confidence will be high. Your confidence will be high. It will be much more likely that the sabbatical will be actually the most effective it can possibly be, right? Like, you know, you don't want to be in a position where you're sitting on sabbatical thinking, Oh, my God, what am I missing at work? Is everything okay? Yeah. right. And I also just want to like underline something. So like Ali is like [00:14:00] an operations pro, like her and I have nerded a lot on systems and processes in our time. And so when she talks about going from like losing whatever 30 hours out of her week, probably the reason that she was able to do that without wrecking her business is that she is the operations person that she is, right? So. To turn that around is that much quicker. So don't be sitting there thinking, well, Oh, okay. It's fine. If something happens, I'll be just fine. Unless you're also like an operations guru. So let's talk about what we need to do to set ourselves up for a sabbatical. Like what are the basics that we need to. Get in place so we can start to work that muscle a little bit. Yeah, so the big three things I mentioned in the book, kind of the core are first and foremost, your internal knowledge base, right? So like what's going on in your organization? How can people access information? Where can they find it? How can they cross train? The second is clear project management rules of engagement. How are we starting projects? How are we managing them? How are we reporting on them? So that's the third bucket, your reports, your data, right? To me and how I've actually worked in both my maternity leaves and writing. This book so technically taking like three sabbaticals from the business recently is a I needed the data. That's me. That's the control free person. I'm like, I know what's important for me to see. I want to make sure that all of our projects are on time. I want to make sure that we're, functioning at this type of gross profit. I want to make sure that we're growing our lists and our sales pipeline by X, Y, or Z. And so defining some of those things inside of the business and then reverse engineering and saying, okay, if this doesn't exist. What projects do I need to be focusing on right now to prepare for our sabbatical? And what SOPs need to support how this will function, right? Like what are the core activities that we're doing inside of our business? And I mean, if we need to just like, be totally honest here, it's Habits, right? It's what are my business's habits and how do those contribute to what I paint as the picture of ultimate success here? And defining those internally are going to be absolutely instrumental So if you don't have a knowledge base or a centralized location for all of your sops Starting to [00:16:00] record your screen is going to be absolutely hugely impactful. In the beginning of the book I talk about basically the three sabbatical personalities that you can channel So the first is the assister and I love this personality because even as the control freaks in us and perfectionists and I'll start to rear their ugly head. We can start to assist team members or assist somebody else to get a result on our behalf. And I usually do that by recording my screen. I'll say, Hey, listen, really want you to frame this out. Here's one I did before. Here's an example definition of done. And then you have that video inside of your internal knowledge base so that folks can start getting some of those results on your behalf. The second personality is the coach or the trainer. And the reason I love this one is because they're not there with you showing you exactly what to do. They give you a framework for here's how I would tackle this. You need to make sure you're drinking enough water. You need to make sure you're doing exercises for X amount of times per day and you're eating these types of foods, but I'm going to let you do your thing and just put it on you to track things. So for me, inside of my business, this is like, Hey guys, listen, I want to make sure that we can, book more podcasts and do some more earned media, right? You guys figure out what the process is, but here is exactly what I. Expect the end result to be, and then they can kind of go from there. So that's like the trainer personality. And then the third personality is the board member where I'm coming in, I'm setting quarterly initiatives, I'm showing my team what I expect by the end of the quarter. I'm developing high level strategies, but then they are going through managing the projects, making sure that they can resource plan. I'm giving them healthy decision making guidelines. And those are kind of the three levels. So my opinion is, is even if you're pre team, even if you've never taken any time off, my opinion is, is start with the assister and start building that muscle of recording your screen and considering like what administrative functions or what specifics around how I work right now could potentially be delegated. And one of the biggest accelerators, when you go to plug somebody into your business is having that well of information that you can hand to them and say, [00:18:00] Hey, listen here, this is how you can support me. And here's what I kind of need you to start handling. And then you can start just building from there. I think it also really makes you stop and think about what you're doing in your business and how much stuff like lives kind of in your head, because even if you were solo or like, you just had a VA or something like that, if you were to take a two week break from your business, like let's say we're not going to go like a three month or a year long sabbatical, we're just going to like take a two week vacation to Antarctica where there will be no wifi. Even if you think about that level, when you come back in two weeks, no matter what you think today, you will not remember that one little mini step that you did. Like last year I Batched my podcast. So by the, I think the end of July, I had recorded through the rest of the year Hmm. Hmm. because I knew that it had been going for a couple of years and I needed like some time to think about it, some time off from recording. So I batched, then we come to the beginning of this year when I started again, and this isn't even my whole business, this is one piece of my business that I essentially took a sabbatical from, I was like, wait, how did I used to do that again? What did I use to click in this software to make it like do the soundy thing for me? do I save my files for my intro and my outro? So just that muscle on its own will probably help you. As much as it will then help a team member to come on. So I just want people to think like, even if you're like, I'm never going to take a sabbatical ever. I refuse. I love my business. What Ali's telling you still has like knock on like real world business impact for you right now. Yeah, I totally agree. And that's a wonderful example. I was actually on a group coaching call last week in one of the group programs that I'm in. And one of the entrepreneurs came on and he runs a very successful YouTube ads company. And [00:20:00] he said that he had somebody leave in his organization. And now the founder was kind of forced to come back in. and run that person's specific responsibility set and he was really struggling because he had no idea what he was doing and he had no idea what was making them so successful. The person had been there for a handful of years and they kind of were like, Hey, listen, we're leaving and we're taking a handful of clients with us. So like over overall, it was just. Pretty much a terrible situation. He was explaining what was happening. And I thought to myself, I was like, if this person had worked closely with, the person that they had lost, would they be in a different situation to be able to basically just open up and say, okay, here are the core functions of how they were getting some of these results and how this was working. It will be a little bit less stressful for you for sure. So whether it's You're coming back from a long time off, or if something unfortunate happens in your business and you need to jump back into that seat, right? It's almost like a contingency plan as well as an accelerator to be able to grow and be able to lead people. So I I think that it just has so many benefits to be able to just be transparent inside of the business. And understand that, we can cross train, right? If you have a new person coming in and you want to grow or if you need to jump back into a certain seat, you have some of those things already available to you. You don't need to reinvent the wheel. It'll take way less time to make sure that you can patch things up. It's always an entrepreneur's like backup plan. We're like, if I lose someone, I'll just step in. It's like, well, you used to do this role when you were making like a couple of hundred thousand and you're now making 2 million. Like that role is not the role that you used to do one hour a week. It's now someone's entire role. And the, almost the ego of just thinking, well, it'll be fine. I'll just rock that non, non day to day role of mine. Usually if it's something super specialized, A, I'm going to find the time. B, I definitely know how they were doing it. We do think because we've rolled up our sleeves, that's our [00:22:00] solution. It's our backup plan to everything as an entrepreneur. And that's a great example of like, maybe not Well, I mean, it costs you so much right to your point, your hours of the company, if you're jumping in for a few hours a week or whatever it is, the demands of that position are, I mean, you're going to be hemorrhaging some money and you're going to suffer some of those other tasks. That really are dependent on you, right? Like if you're creating content or if you're creating connections or if you're speaking or whatever it is you're doing, that is naturally going to fall. So then the business is going to start to be different. It's going to start to perform different. It's going to start to act different. So I think, yeah, just, just being clear on how much that actually costs. Like jumping back in. I talk about this so much with my service businesses when they're like, Oh, we'll just discount things to to bring new business in. And I'm like, come on guys. I'm like, no, we don't want to do that. We don't want to tell people that this is our market price and we don't want to be in this position. It's kind of like discounting ourselves, as founders, when we feel like we can just jump back in to whatever this is. It's just, I think it's a challenge for sure. And building this muscle is something that will serve. In all those capacities Okay. So we've talked about like, getting ourselves ready to take this sabbatical. Everything's ready. The knowledge base is there. The SOPs are there, the team set up, you've got your beautiful dashboard that you're going to look at once a week or whenever you have a panic attack and you're ready to go. And then like we go off on sabbatical and we do whatever we're doing on sabbatical. What do we need to know about coming back from sabbatical? Yeah, great question. So I want to address on sabbatical too because I think a lot of owners really struggle to disconnect And it's been my experience that especially working with folks through this process is that having one intention on sabbatical is absolutely amazing So you're gonna say hey listen perhaps you do an assessment. And you're like, all right, my business needs this particular thing. I'm gonna take a sabbatical from the rest of my business, but I'm going to focus on writing my book or I'm going to focus on getting my MBA like you did. And I think like those things is [00:24:00] just one, one intentional thing and make it one thing, right? Don't focus on 900 things because then you won't, you'll just basically build another cage for yourself of all of the priorities and quote unquote, right? I love that people say priorities because priority is like in of itself. Singular word. So focus on one thing, be very intentional about that and really try to create some of the physical boundaries that you may need. Like for me, I'm a very like line in the sand type of person. I leave my phone in another room. I put it on, do not disturb. I put it on airplane mode. Like I'm, that's who I am. And so I think that having those hard lines or boundaries. on your sabbatical is going to be helpful, right? And especially if you need somebody who's an accountability partner or someone who can help you save yourself from yourself and say, Hey, listen, you can actually only have your phone or your computer back at this time so that you can check this one report and then we're going to take your wifi away. And like you can literally set your wifi up on a timer. So I don't know how handholding people need to be about like kind of setting up those boundaries. I personally needed to be. So it can look different for everybody, but I think Creating that time, that intentionality, and making sure you're setting up the boundaries are going to be absolutely imperative. Now, when you come back from sabbatical, jumping just straight back into the day to day is an absolute mistake because what's going to end up happening is you're going to end up falling back on old habits, or you're going to end up jumping in over a team member who's been figuring this thing out for a while. So what I would recommend doing is jumping into, a kind of state of the union situation, a meeting with your team to say, Hey, listen, I just took a sabbatical. What do we feel like went really well? And what do we feel like might have fallen through the cracks? And so even just laying things out that way, you can learn a little bit about what folks on your team have felt really comfortable taking. And where, for example, your absence was leaving them with a gap, especially if you have a knowledge base set up, especially if you have project management, especially if you have reporting, you can take a look and say, okay, so over the last [00:26:00] month or three months where I've been focusing my attention elsewhere, here's the data that we have. Here are the projects that we ran. Here are the goods and the bads, right? During the strategy meeting. And then what do we need to do to basically rebuild this so that next time, or for the next phase of the business, this looks a little bit more comfortable. And I think at the end of the day, and this is one of the reasons why, like, I mean, look, I love operations and I love anyone who's willing to implement them. I think a lot of the noise inside of. The entrepreneurial space is like this one size fits all like EOS model or a scaling up model or something like that. And I do believe in those models in the sense that if you want to follow those to a tee, they will very likely get you some really cool results, especially if you're not systems oriented. And I also think they're super hard to implement. I think that they try to be so one size fits all that they take a year to implement or there's so many extra things that a lot of owners can kind of ignore until they're a certain kind of level in their growth trajectory. And so when I start to consider, how operations need to function in a small business, I always think back to if we're growing, we should be breaking stuff. Period. And the best thing that we can do is create a process for how we rebuild once we've broken, right? So if you have those non negotiables, like I mentioned, knowledge base, project management systems and data, then what we need to do is let that tell us what is broken and then deploy our process for how we fix it. Because at the end of the day, the repair process, the sabbatical, right? Like taking that rest and actually repairing. is really actually the big miss, right? Because so many businesses will just go forward and push through to the next goal, to the next milestone without addressing some of those repairs until they get to be too broken. And then they can't actually [00:28:00] repair without stopping which is kind of that colloquial burnout term. So I think. Again, coming back in and being really intentional about the systems you've set up and then taking a look at how those performed, I think is just amazingly impactful. I guess this is probably a before question, but what do you do about communicating with your clients who are used to having, some kind of access to you? I mean, you run an agency. Sure. I'm your team probably do a lot of the like actual client work, but they're probably used to being like, I need to escalate this. I'm going to call Allie or, I want to talk strategy. Let me call Allie, or, they're used to touching base with you in some They're used to touching base with you a lot in some people's businesses. Let's be clear. How are you communicating? Like, Hey, peace out. See you in three months. Yeah, a few months ago, I was chatting with a friend of mine. She owns a design agency and she was telling me that when she was pregnant with her first daughter, She went to one of the biggest proposal meetings that she'd ever had in the history of her agency. She was five months pregnant and she's tiny. So she was showing a little bit and she was super self conscious about it. And she admitted to me that she had worn the biggest baggiest shirt that she had professionally to show up to this meeting because she was Petrified that this particular prospective new client was going to find out that she was pregnant since everything in the agency at the time was really hinged on her. And she was afraid they were going to say no because she was going to be going out just four months later. And I think considering that story as devastating as it is, especially when you consider for new moms and what the stigma that has inside of the workplace, I think. She pulled back and she told me as well, she said this was a great opportunity for me to consider how I needed to pitch the process for how we go through things and not me. And so I think the earlier you can figure that out, and this is more like [00:30:00] intellectual property and process and your, your proprietary information, but I think As you can start to position, especially in a service business, you'll communicate more value. You'll be able to kind of switch people in and out a little bit more easily, right? If the, if the client's bought into the process or the transformation, they don't super care whether it's you that's leading them through it, or if it's another team member that you've entrusted, your actual, process into. And so I think Earlier in the, as early in the business as possible that you can just define your process for how you get results for clients is going to be incredible. And then the second thing that I actually physically did with both of my maternity leaves is I said, Hey, listen, what we're going to do is we can batch your strategy because I am the strategic lead for all of my accounts. We batched the strategy my clients depending on what which level they're working with me They either get you know weekly touch points or quarterly touch points I did a day with some of my clients and I was like Here's all the things that we're going to be doing to work on restructuring your operations. And then my team was Kind of that touch point, that baseline that they could get in touch with. I was very fortunate that I have a fantastic team behind me and I was very clear with them on what I was looking for in terms of next steps. But a lot of my clients were very, very supportive. And I think too, as long as you can be very clear, again, going back to that intentionality of your sabbatical experience is saying, Hey, listen, guys, I'm actually going off on sabbatical so that I can come back renewed more to give you inside of these projects. And the great part is, is nothing is going to stop. You're still going to get all the things that we, had, talked about originally. And so you could consider doing some of those things. And then anyone who's got clients texting you, I just have to say putting in that boundary is going to save you a lot of time and headache. So the earlier you can do that, the better. And I have never personally worked with a client or heard from any of my clients that after they've done that, that they've been met with some sort of combative situation where [00:32:00] someone's unwilling to give you the boundaries that you've asked for, especially if you do so respectfully. So get out of your own way on that one. Just say, Hey, listen, I really appreciate you. me. However, in order for me to serve you best, I really need you to send me an email and just copy like Lauren on my team, for example, so that we can facilitate getting you the fastest result. Cause how many times have you been texted by a client and then you read it and then you forget, and then all of a sudden you're in the shower or something and you're like. Oh, they asked me for that like three days ago. And so that I think is a huge thing, especially when you start to be honest with your clients and you say, Hey, listen, I actually plugged this person into my business so that they could get you faster results. Can you just communicate with them directly? Or can you just copy them on this communication? I've never met a client. Like I said, who was combative about that. And if they are, then perhaps it's time to reconsider whether they should be here. Yeah, I think it is a really good opportunity for you, like the next time you're on vacation, put an out of office on and don't respond. If you have an email that you, you're working on the weekend, make sure you schedule it to send at 9am on Monday morning. So like starting those, even those, like you said, it's that little muscle at the same time work that little boundary muscle. So they're not so attached to you. So if you could tell business owners. Only one thing about taking a break from their business. What would that one thing be? lot of us are building businesses that we feel can't function independently of us. And I think that if we're ready to come to terms with that fact, we may also need to come to terms with the fact that we could be building a personal life that can function without us. whether that is your personal relationships or whatever it is that you've been ignoring. And I think all of us know right deep down, we, we feel it in our gut and in our heart around what [00:34:00] perhaps we could spend some more time doing or more intentionality, on, on our personal life. And you don't want to wake up one day, considering that you've poured everything into this business that then. You don't love, right? You don't, you don't have kind of something to lean on. So don't don't sacrifice your personal life at the expense of your business. I mean, I think everyone who I've ever spoken with personally worked with personally who has done this has always regretted it and has always thought in hindsight that, they needed to build something a little bit more structured and a little bit more geared toward their longevity. So let's talk about the book. Where can people get it? Tell them all the things, tell them all the like goodies that are in it. Yeah, so it's on Amazon. I walk through, the basic operating functions of how to set up your business to take a really impactful sabbatical, how you should be thinking about this, how you can figure out your intention for your sabbatical, all the stuff how coming back is really helpful and how to set up. Simple operations for an easily maintainable business. That's like really my big thing is making sure that this isn't like a full shiny object syndrome. This isn't a complete overhaul of E. O. S. And we're not, taking lots and lots to maintain. It's nice and simple. It supports us what we want for our, personal life and our, and our work life balance and all the things. So the books on Amazon there's also a free toolkit that comes along with it at the end of each chapter. I have a critical action that you can take and an exercise to do to really set this up for success. So the toolkit is. Super impactful. You can get that at operations agency. com and yeah, I'm just super excited to get these solutions into the hands of entrepreneurs. Cause I mean, honestly, I've had such a visceral reaction to the title of the book and the thesis behind the book and a lot of folks are feeling it. They really are. They're like, listen, we've been, burning the candle at both ends. We've been working super hard and we really haven't focused on some of these systems that can make things a little bit more peaceful for us behind the scenes and allow us to do things like take time off with our family and close our computer at six and all the, all the things. So [00:36:00] I'm I'm really excited about the, the impact that it's been making so far. And, yeah, just appreciate you having me on to talk about it. One thing that I will say is that Ali is gifted at talking operations to non operations people. So if you're listening to this and you're thinking either A, I'm never going to take a sabbatical. You should still read the book or B, I don't do operations. You should definitely read the book. Is there anything that you didn't put in the book that you wish you could tell people? yes, actually. So, and this might be controversial, which is I think why I didn't leave it in. So, I think a lot. of folks talk about running a business and staying in your zone of genius, which I do firmly believe. But if you consider all of the needs that your business has, you are doing yourself, your business, a complete and utter disservice. If you just completely discount, well, I'm not a systems person. I'm not a systems. person. Well, I'm not a systems person. And the fact of it is, is like, you owe it to your business. At the end of the day, you are accountable for its success. You can outsource certain aspects of it by hiring in team members or hiring consultants or whatever. But at the end of the day, when you look at yourself in the mirror and you say, I am responsible for the success of this. thing. And you understand that you've got a great marketing acumen. You've got a great sales acumen. You can fulfill like nobody's business because you've got this really cool proprietary process, but you're hemorrhaging money or you are not very efficient or you have no clear projects and everyone is turning over inside of your organization because they don't feel like they have clear next steps and guidelines. That is your problem. It's not someone else's problem. It's not because you're terrible at systems. It's because you're unwilling to learn and implement systems. that didn't convince you to go get the book. And it's true. I say the same things people like you and I, sing from the same hymn book a lot of the time. And it's like, you're using systems every single day in your entire life. So when people say, Oh, I'm not a systems person, like you might not be a tech person. But you are definitely a systems and [00:38:00] a process person, Yeah, you just have to find the one that's going to work for you. I get asked so many times, they're like, Oh, what project management tool is going to save my life? And I'm like, none of them. If you're not willing to actually show up and do the work and follow it, none of them are going to work. Like for me, I'm like, everyone's like, should I use ClickUp or Asana? I'm like, I use Excel spreadsheets because I spent a decade long in banking, running my life on spreadsheets. So it's so much quicker for me and I don't have a team. So I don't have to think about it. You just figure out what works for you. So to finish up, I always ask my guests the same two questions. First up, what is your number one lifestyle boundary for your business? I don't work on Fridays. It's been something, it's infamous. I never work on Fridays. If I do, it's because I'm like jumping out of bed excited to work on it. And it's very infrequent. So I, I never work Fridays. It's my, one of my biggest boundaries. I, I set an intention to be with my family, to be with my kids now. And, and it's really been a really cool boundary I've always had. Does your team work Fridays or does your whole business a four day week? No, my team does work on Fridays. We have an unlimited time off policy for all of my employees. And for Lauren specifically, my number two in command, we have a rule that's actually new as of 2023, that she. Always has to have a time off in the future blocked for herself to be off and take some time from the business. I also have operated on that rule internally and kind of never communicated it, but I was like, well, now that I have another leader in my organization it's kind of time to start to deploy those same leadership tactics. So yeah, we, we have that rule internally with her. Oh, I love that. Okay. Finally, what is the worst piece of cookie cutter advice you've been given as an entrepreneur? That someone else is probably working harder than you, and that's why they're successful, or they have some internal, I talked about this before, like internal tip, trick, hack, special thing that they're doing. My experience has always been that we all have the same capabilities. Just who's willing to develop other parts of themselves that they've [00:40:00] either ignored or, or whatever. So I think looking at somebody else, if they're farther along in their journey, or if you're looking at somebody who perhaps feels like they have it all together, or they've reached some point of success and considering, well, they must blank. Something that I can't do. First of all, you can do it. For sure. You can absolutely do it. You just need to commit and be actually disciplined on that. And the second thing is they for sure don't have anything else like, figured out. They don't have a third arm or some other special capability. They don't have telekinetic powers. They are a human being just like you. And they've just decided to show up in a specific area that perhaps you, if you're being totally honest with yourself, haven't done. And I think also we have to say like a lot of what you necessarily are seeing of that person is a piece of the puzzle. So, they may look like they have this particular part all together and this other part over here could be falling apart and they're not showcasing that on Instagram because like, why would you, right? So I think we can get this really unrealistic view of how somebody else is doing what they're doing when we have no idea. Oh! Well, this has been amazing. I always love chatting with you. You and I could nerd for hours. I think people would get really uncomfortable listening to how long you and I could talk about systems. Where can people find you on the socials? They can carry on the conversation, they can tell you they've read the book. Yeah, operationsagency. com is where we are and then on the socials is just at operations agency. We have a cool YouTube channel as well called three minute ops tips where I drop all the really fun tips and tricks that we are using to implement with our clients. Again, three minutes prohibitively quick so that it just seems very easily actionable. That's probably where I contribute the most is on our YouTube channel. Amazing. I'll be sure to link all of that. Thank you so much for sharing all of this today. I appreciate it. Thanks, Diane. I really appreciate you having me out and I had a lovely time.

Whether you have a life change coming up, need a break for a passion project, or just want an alternative to burning it all down, a sabbatical might be just what you need.

Alyson Caffrey walks you through preparing your business to run without you for a week, a month, a quarter, you decide. 

Key Takeaway

Even if you think you’ll never take a sabbatical from your business, chances are that circumstances outside your control may force one on you in the future. It is better to prepare and not need the break than to need a break and not be prepared for it.

We talk about

  • Your sabbatical personality type
  • What to prepare before you take your sabbatical and do on sabbatical
  • How to come back after your sabbatical to maximize the effect
  • What on earth to tell your clients before you head out
  • What Alyson left out of the book that she still wants people to know
  • Alyson’s lifestyle boundary for her business
  • The worst cookie-cutter advice Alyson’s been given on her lifestyle business

About Alyson

Alyson Caffrey is a small business Operations Strategist, Bestselling Author and founder of Operations Agency. She’s commonly referred to as ‘The Wolf’ among our clients because she just gets shit done. Alyson is best known for helping streamline the back-end ops for a multitude of brands and using her Operations Simplified™ framework to unleash the power of small teams. She and the team at Operations Agency are determined to help businesses thrive profitably, serve more clients and create high-performing teams. Alyson is mom to two young sons under three years old (yea, it’s crazy) and enjoys spending her time at home with her growing family.


This page may contain affiliate links. I earn a commission or reward on all qualified purchases made when you use these links. 


The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this podcast episode and article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article or episode. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Diane Mayor disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.