How do you step back from the business and experience the freedom you need to focus on business strategy and growth?
I remember asking myself this many times when I owned my skin and beauty clinic.
I loved it like my baby. However, being stuck in the day-to-day operations can feel overwhelming and often like there is no way out. Every time you go into the clinic, it feels like you can’t really get any work done on the business because you are immediately thrown into staff management, client demands, and the general running of the business from the moment you arrive to whenever you manage to leave in the evening.
When you are in this loop, it feels like there is no possible way that you could leave it in order to focus on the bigger picture. You feel certain that if you were to leave it for even a few days, the financial hit would be too great to risk, or the business would undoubtedly fall to pieces.
However, leaving is one of the most important things to do. It is how you create that headspace needed to recentre, refocus and settle whilst letting your creativity flow. You need to be able to look both backwards (over what’s happened and what you have achieved) and forwards (considering your strategy, plan, and next steps–what you want to achieve and how you are going to get there).
First and foremost, look at taking a week’s break out. Then plan ahead–6 months, a year, what it needs to be. You can decide to do this alone or with your manager, but these breaks have to go in the diary, and they have to stay in the diary and be treated as seriously as your team and individual meetings. Change cannot happen without time for you to think. Nothing is going to stop or break down if you sit back a minute, take a few days and BREATHE.
Prior to stepping back entirely from my business, I did this. I took a 5-day break in Spain to focus on my strategy, my structure and who and what was needed and where in the business to allow me to step back. I looked at my job list and that of the team. What could be delegated? How and what training would that require?
Alongside this, I did a full audit of my business and analysed every area, from the financials–money in and money out–to the team’s performance, the treatment list, and the rota so that I could see where gaps would need to be filled if I pulled back. We are all guilty of work work work, but when you are strict with yourself and commit time, good things happen!
Why is letting go so hard?
It’s our life’s work. We are the best at what we do, and we don’t want to let go of that. Maybe for fear of what will happen if we do and maybe for the fear that no one will do it quite like us. However, if we are to have a life outside of the business, the art of letting go is something we must nurture, learn and enforce upon ourselves so we can spend time on the business and its growth. Plus, we need to spend time with family and friends, pick the children up from school or simply just have a break.
The key to letting go effectively is having structure and operations in place that allow others to take control of areas so everything doesn’t always fall on you and creating a management team around you that understands how you work and want the business to work. To do this, you need to be transparent about how you do things and why and nurture your management team, also allowing room for them to showcase their strengths and evolve naturally.
Try not to imagine that a manager will be the answer to your prayers immediately.
However, one thing I can promise is if you put in the time and set the systems in place to guide the manager in the right way, this will be your chance to step back, take a moment for yourself, and reflect on the business and how you want it to work. Let your manager make mistakes and ask questions–50 a day at first if needed. Give them a timeline for meeting your expectations and reaching certain milestones, and then trust in your manager to give it their best shot.
Once you are there, ensure you have regular weekly meetings–maybe just half an hour every Monday. Be consistent, as the manager needs consistency and support to flourish. Ensure that they understand this is the meeting where everything is discussed, instantly removing the daily contact with you so they gradually settle into their role and take the reins. It can be done, and they can be as good as you.
What happens next?
Once the business is set and you are no longer needed for the day-to-day operations, then this is your time to decide what to do. Work on the business and continue its growth, or you might even decide to sell and move on to new things. I had been out of the operations for a couple of years, having successfully achieved what I set out to do when I decided to sell. Right up until the sale, I continued to grow the business.
The clinic had expanded to double its size by taking over the building next door. I oversaw the renovation, created every aspect of the operations manual and customer journey, and built a profitable business and a team that worked effectively. It was a fabulous 13 years in the making, having gone through three rebrands and changing from a lash company built in my back garden to a multi-award winning salon and skin clinic based over two beautiful grade-listed buildings in Colchester, Essex. It truly was the most rewarding thing I have ever done, but equally one of the most challenging, which I’m sure will resonate with many other salon, spa and clinic owners.
Many business owners I meet in the professional beauty sector have grown their businesses almost by accident.
This is part of the reason I became a coach at the Delforge Group. It can be lonely at the top, especially when you have evolved from a therapist to a business owner without a business plan, budget or structure in place. Now that I have sold my clinic, I have a desire to impart my knowledge and support on to other owners, feeling the need for that someone or something to help. Often just that support from someone who truly understands–that outside view and critical friend that will listen and help you without being a business partner–is all you need.
Selling a business is no mean feat, and I certainly learned the hard way on this journey. Understanding how much is needed to sell now, it’s not a decision that should not be taken lightly. I still look upon Amy Gordon Skin Clinic and Beauty Boutique with a proud heart. Over the 13 years, it evolved into winning “Large Salon of the Year” and “South East Salon of the Year” with Professional Beauty which led to me being recognised as one of the top businesswomen in Essex. My knowledge and experience mean that I can now focus on taking other business owners to where they want to be in their working life. With my love of this industry still strong, I continue running a monthly Advanced Cosmetic Procedures clinic and continue to train and seek out new challenges in this crazy wonderful world.