Build your Ecommerce Business to Run Without You–4 Weeks at a Time

Ecommerce Business

For the 4th year in a row, I will be taking my annual 4-week vacation from my business, coming up next month. Admittedly, in 2020 I stayed home, like so many others, but I still took the time away from the business. For anyone who follows me, and follows Mike Michalowicz, you know how I do it. If you’ve just become a follower of my blogs, you may be thinking, “How in the world can she do that without everything falling apart?” Let me say that it is absolutely doable. Stay with me and I’ll explain!

How it All Began

Four years ago, I read the highly successful book, Clockwork, by Profit First guru, Mike Michalowicz. In it, he discusses two concepts that every entrepreneur should adopt:

1) Determine your QBR; and
2) Make a plan to take a 4-week vacation.

As soon as I finished the book, I set the plan in motion.

Step 1: Determine Your QBR

Determining your business’ QBR, which stands for Queen Bee Role, is a life- and business-changing event. The concept is taken from the role the Queen Bee plays in a beehive. Her role of laying eggs is so important that the other bees will do whatever it takes to support her. If their job is collecting pollen from flowers, yet the Queen has gotten over-heated, they switch to fanning the Queen to cool her off.

The analogy that helped me determine the QBR for my business was a doctor’s office. Imagine if you walked into the doctor’s office and he personally greeted you and asked for your updated insurance information. He then walked you back to an examination room and proceeded to do everything from checking your vitals and writing down your symptoms, to determining the diagnosis and prescribing treatment. And finally, he walked you back to the front desk, took your payment and scheduled a follow-up visit, and then filed your chart! If the doctor played all these roles, he likely would not be successful long-term.

Clearly, the activity that benefits the patient and is vital for the business is diagnosing and prescribing the proper treatment. The doctor’s calendar is cleared of all other tasks so that he can focus on the one thing that only he can do; diagnosing and treating your illness. It drives the profitability of his medical practice if he spends his time filing charts and scheduling appointments. Patients are happy to pay a premium price for a diagnosis based on the experience and education of the doctor; they are not so keen to pay that same price for the admin functions of his practice.

What is your QBR? What tasks are you doing that keep you from performing your QBR? Can you see how performing these tasks preclude you from giving your full attention to the task that will result in the most financial return of your business? How can you free up your time to focus on the QBR?

Understanding Your QBR

As you focus on your QBR, you need to understand the 4Ds–Doing, Deciding, Delegating, and Designing. The 4Ds represent the way we get work done in our organizations. As small business owners, we spend much of our time Doing or Deciding. Either we do the tasks ourselves or we ask someone to help us but to check in with us if there are any decisions to be made. Often, the Doer will hand off a task only to be interrupted frequently with questions because they didn’t truly Delegate; they required a check-in around Decisions. This scenario results in frustration for both parties and the Doer exclaims, “It’s easier to do it myself!” The situation then repeats. If the Doer would Delegate a task by giving away the deciding and the doing, the result would be more time to focus on the QBR. Finally, as the roles become clearer and are functioning smoothly, the entrepreneur can spend some of his time designing. This is working on the business rather than in the business. When you can focus on creating the business of your dreams, it’s time to start planning that 4-week vacation!

Step 2: Make a Plan for Your 4-week Vacation

The 4-week vacation is an exercise that helps the organization prepare for the day when the business owner no longer works in the business. The business owner has found a way to use metrics to monitor the business performance, and they spend their days planning to meet future opportunities for the business. Preparing to take a 4-week vacation requires 12-18 months of planning. When I took my first vacation, I planned and prepared with my team for 17 months. The first step in the process was setting the QBR for the business and then for myself. As I focused on this task, everything else was delegated to another team member over that 17-month period. I took test vacations for a week, then later two weeks, where I was totally disconnected from the team. It went great! They learned and grew in their confidence and my head became clearer about the direction we needed to grow.

I have to give kudos to my team here, too. They are amazing, and we are constantly working to streamline our processes and systems so that things run smoothly whether I’m involved or not. Make sure your team consists of highly skilled folks, train them and then empower them to operate the business as though it were their own. This year’s vacation may well be a stay-cay as opposed to traveling, but the important thing is to have the ability and confidence to step away for 4 weeks and know that all will be well when you return.

Our businesses are created to serve us and our lives, not dictate them. Profit First drives home that fact from a financial perspective. Clockwork gives us the tools to make it happen with our time. Take some time in the coming weeks to consider your plans for this year. If you plan on scaling, the questions and answers can’t only be about how to get more capital to buy more inventory. It’s more complicated than that. Get clear on your QBR and how you do the work, along with your capital needs and planned profitability. And then start planning! Contact bookskeep today to learn more about ecommerce bookkeeping and accounting!

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Cyndi Thomason is founder and president of bookskeep, a U.S.-based accounting, bookkeeping, and advisory firm for ecommerce sellers worldwide. She has a passion for data analysis and process development. She uses that passion to educate her clients and help them structure their businesses to maximize profits.

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