How travelling and doing less work was amazing for our business

It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

How can you possibly spend a 3 week period doing less than half the work you normally would and come out the other side with a better business?

Turns out the reason is pretty simple.

Before this trip to the USA, I was probably the most stressed I’ve ever been. Business was actually good. Referrals were coming in at a rate like never before, and our partners were asking us to build loads of sites for their clients. The problem was, I couldn’t keep up.

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Not a good badge to have

This screenshot is the Google Apps report from my personal account right before the trip. This is not a badge you want as a business owner.

I was becoming the bottleneck in everything. Things were starting to fall behind as I am the kind of person that responds to everything for fear of letting clients down.

After all, our whole thing is “web developers that respond to emails, finish the job and don’t suck”. If I don’t respond to emails, then we start sucking.

I had planned to do a lot of work this trip. But I don’t work like that. When travelling, you need to get out and see and do stuff. At least I do.

(I also planned to eat healthy… In the USA… starting the trip in Vegas… but that is another story)

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Day 1 in Vegas – Eating Healthy

All of a sudden it became impossible to keep up with emails and clients. This is one of the best things that has ever happened in our business. Simply put, it forced change.

1. Delegation

Luckily, we have an amazing project manager and virtual assistant (see how we found her here). The thing is, I was still taking on so much that there were parts of the business she didn’t completely understand yet.

But now I had to pass emails and tasks on to her to get done.

Like an A player does, she took to the new responsibility like a pro.  Bernie came right into her element and has been kicking butt since.

From my perspective, the only changes were forwarding emails to her with maybe some instructions, sending her a message in Glip (a Slack alternative), or adding a task in our project management system.

Such a small change with a massive impact. It’s simply a matter of letting go.

It wasn’t all so smooth

It wasn’t perfectly smooth though. Some tasks and emails did fall through the cracks, and some clients got a little upset. We’re lucky to have some amazing clients who get that shit goes wrong, and we’re all just trying to run a business here.

So first up I owned all the mistakes. That included a drunken 11pm call from Vegas back to Australia (because it was day time there) to say that we’d screwed up and had a plan to fix it. Another bonus of having awesome clients – drunk dials being OK.

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Not the drunken call, but someone’s website was down

2. Process

The main reason things slipped through was that our process just wasn’t up to scratch. Emails might go through, but if they weren’t converted to tasks in the project management system then they wouldn’t get done.

I’d known about this issue for a while, but didn’t realise the answer was staring me in the face all along.

We used Teamwork Projects, and were using Helpscout for incoming tickets. This required tickets to be manually converted into tasks, which is a bit ugly.

I switched to Teamwork Desk with literally 5 minutes work. The tight integration with Projects fixed everything.

We created two inboxes – one for change requests for websites in development, and one for changes to existing websites (our On Demand Web Guy plans).

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From Desk, you can view an incoming email and create a task from it. When you do this, it makes all the info in the request available to the developer and hides the request. As soon as the task is done, it pops back into the desk so you can let the client know it is complete.

Such a simple process change which completely blew away this problem we had in our business.

3. Training Clients

The final part of all this was training clients on where they should direct their requests.

In other words… not me. All I said that I was a bottleneck (the 100% truth) and to get things done faster, they should contact the team directly through one of the two new emails we created that go straight to Teamwork.

I’d forward incoming emails onto Teamwork and respond to the client saying “This is the new email you should use”. Within a couple of weeks, my inbox was much healthier.

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Suddenly, work looked more like this