Ever thought about making yourself redundant to supercharge your career?
Galen Low is joined by Alyson Caffrey—Owner and Operator at Operations Agency and Master of Maternity Leave—to talk about making yourself redundant and how that might be the best thing you can actually do for your professional career.
- The Sabbatical Method [0:05]
- The principle of redundancy doesn’t mean you’re not needed.
- On the contrary, it’s about setting up systems and delegations that allow the business to function even when you’re not there.
- This practice gives you the freedom to explore new opportunities, take a step back to reassess your strategy, or even just take a well-deserved break without disrupting business operations.
Don’t get lost in the weeds of just doing your job. Try to create an opportunity to step back and consider how you can do it more efficiently and more valuably for your clients, for your products and services.Alyson Caffrey
- Transitioning to a Partnership Model [10:59]
- An essential part of this process is the creation of a constructive feedback loop.
- This is where employees, team members, or partners are given regular opportunities to offer their insights and observations about the business operation.
- This valuable input can lead to the identification of potential improvements and the implementation of effective changes.
- Benefits of Sabbatical & Building Business [21:59]
- Alyson believes that stepping away from work, even temporarily, can have a profound impact on productivity.
- The rest and relaxation a sabbatical offers can provide mental clarity, improve decision-making skills, and enhance creativity.
- In addition to these psychological benefits, Alyson shared some practical tips for maximizing the value of a sabbatical. These include scheduling regular short breaks throughout the day, such as a lunch break, to help you recharge and refocus. The implementation of these tips can result in significant improvements in both personal wellbeing and professional productivity.
Rest, in any high performing plan, is a critical element. And as business owners, as high performing team members, as human beings, we need to understand that it’s critical.Alyson Caffrey
- Exploring Emotional Attachment to Work [34:06]
- It’s important to remember that while we may feel attached to certain tasks or projects, it’s crucial to evaluate their impact on the business objectively.
- Sometimes, letting go of certain activities can lead to improved efficiency and effectiveness, and even create opportunities for other team members to step up and contribute more significantly.
Our conversation with Alyson Caffrey illuminated the transformative power of making oneself redundant and embracing the concept of sabbaticals. This approach not only redefines our understanding of professional efficiency but also encourages a healthier, more balanced approach to work and life.
Meet Our Guest
Alyson Caffrey is the founder of Operations Agency and co-creator of the Operations Simplified™ Framework. She’s commonly referred to as ‘The Wolf’ among her clients because she just gets shit done. Alyson is best known for helping streamline the back-end ops for a multitude of brands, but mostly digital and creative agencies.
As a fractional COO for many high-growth businesses, Alyson fell in love with the results that clear ops bring to a service business. She and the team at Operations Agency are determined to help businesses thrive profitably, serve more clients and create high-performing teams. Alyson is a new mom to a son named Frank and enjoys spending her time at home with her growing family.
As a professional, we need to make ourselves irreplaceable to be successful. In a small business environment, in order to have the ability to be flexible and grow into different areas and opportunities that are presented to us, we need to make ourselves replaceable.Alyson Caffrey
Resources from this episode:
- Join DPM Membership
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn
- Check out Alyson’s book “The Sabbatical Method: How to Leverage Rest and Grow Your Business”
Related articles and podcasts:
Read The Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Galen Low: Hey folks, thanks for tuning in. My name is Galen Low with The Digital Project Manager. We are a community of digital professionals on a mission to help each other get skilled, get confident, and get connected so that we can amplify the value of project management in a digital world. If you want to hear more about that, head on over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
Okay, today we are talking about making yourself redundant and how that might be the best thing you can actually do for your professional career. Along the way we are going to nerd out about processes, we're going to talk about delegation, and we're going to talk about just finding peace in the pursuit of a balanced life.
So back with me today is the one and only Alyson Caffrey, owner and operator of a kick-ass consulting firm called Operations Agency and the author of the best selling book, The Sabbatical Method.
Alyson, thank you so much for being back on the show.
Alyson Caffrey: Galen, I am so pumped to be here. Thank you for having me back.
Galen Low: I'm pumped to have you back as well. One of my favorite guests, like last time I was so envious. I think you were outside on your patio. It was a sunny day. I was like, that is how you podcast.
Alyson Caffrey: I remember that. That was a fun day.
Galen Low: Yeah. We went deep on ops last time and this time we're back on a bit of a different topic, which I know sounds counterintuitive.
As I listened to myself intro the episode, I was like, that sounds weird, but folks, we will explain. So yes, absolutely. We've had Alyson on the show before. So some of you may know her, some of you may know her from just all of the other things that she's doing out in the world. But Alyson, maybe just for everyone's benefit, could you just give us a quick rundown of just who you are and what you do at Operations Agency?
Alyson Caffrey: Yeah, totally. So, like Galen said, my name's Alyson Caffrey. I'm an operations strategist by trade, and I am the founder of Operations Agency. And we help businesses decrease stress behind the scene by implementing simple operating structures, right? So, not your big gigantic overhaul, not the implementable EOS, or the scaling up models. We focus on the simple things that are going to support the founder and the team long term.
So that's how we basically partner with businesses. I actually am celebrating my sixth year anniversary later this year of Operations Agency, which feels surreal. And really our big kind of guiding compass for the next kind of six years of Operations Agency is really working together with founders to understand, operations is a part of doing business.
And I think at the end of the day, as we're supporting our teams, as we're growing and as we're doing all these things, we can ignore and make excuses and say, I'm not a systems person, or I'm not an operations person. And we can try to outsource some of those things. But at the end of the day, we are accountable for our business and the work inside of the business. And I think everyone inside of the company needs to be very operationally minded in some way or another to support to this kind of collective that we've created. So building a process culture internally is really at the center of our hearts.
Galen Low: I love that. And I love just how distilled that is I think you're right. And project management is guilty of this too. The words project management and the words operations, they're opaque and intimidating in a way, and they sound very mechanical and they sound boring. But when you really boil it down, it's like doing stuff together, right?
Project management is collaborating on something that's going to start and finish and it's going to be awesome. And operations is just like working together, making the business run, growing together. And the thing that really resonated with me that you just said was like, what do you do there? And you're like, we help reduce stress.
I was like, Oh yes. Because you can talk all day about Oh yeah, like these frameworks and process design and best practices. You can have a million flow charts. But why? The actual outcome is actually reduced stress because, let's face it, running a business is hard. Being in a business is hard.
And we were just talking actually in the green room before this, I was like, I don't think there's a lot of people out there who are like, yeah, work is easy right now. I think everyone's looking for improvements that are going to make their life easier. And yes, that might be process and having a culture of process, but not in a boring way. You know, Hey, let's get things done better way so that we're not all tearing our hair out.
I love that. That's super cool.
Alyson Caffrey: Yeah, I think even working together, it's easier, right? If it's more transparent, we feel like we understand a little bit more about what each other is accomplishing. So I think it's absolutely critical.
Galen Low: I love that. Yeah. And like collaboration through transparency, like we're not all cogs.
It sounds like cogs, but we're not all cogs in the machine. I have to touch on this as well because in addition to operations agency and congratulations on the six year anniversary. Very cool. Beyond that, you also recently published a book.
Alyson Caffrey: Yeah, this is my first one. Yeah.
Galen Low: The book is called The Sabbatical Method. From my perspective, it's a guide for business owners on how to just get out of their own way and help their businesses scale. Can you tell us a bit about where this book got its name, The Sabbatical Method?
Alyson Caffrey: So I'll start way back when I had my first son, Frank. He's going to be three this summer. And when I was, I just delivered him, we moved over into the, like permanent room that we were going to be staying in for the night. And there's this lovely photo of me and my very first son, in the hospital bed. I'm smiling from ear to ear. I'm so happy that the birth process is over. And then the next instance that wasn't captured is me checking my phone on my Slack and in my email and answering client inquiries and team Slacks and all those things.
And so there are very few moments, I think, inside of your life and in your career where you get such a physical representation of this is where my priorities are, right? It's almost like too confronting to ignore. And I literally thought to myself, I put my baby down so that I could pick up my business.
And so then started this whole kind of, I don't know, I thought at first I was like, well, this is a badge of honor. Look how committed I am to my work and to my business. And then in the next kind of phase, after we brought him home, and I was really reconciling with how much time I was spending working on the business and how much time I was spending with our clients and that sort of thing.
I was like, wow, I really can't sustain this. The operations gal needs to work on clarifying and, really standardizing her operation. So the reason that I named the book The Sabbatical Method, and something that came out of that experience, which is, the sabbatical method framework itself, is I needed to take a little bit of time away from the business to really see things clearly and consider how do I want to interact here. When I step away, what falls apart? What critical things need to be moving forward? And what kind of can be put to the back burner or dare I say, just axed entirely, right?
We can start to use some of these methodologies and really use rest to, change our perspective and rebuild the business as well. Because when I started the research for this book, and I started really considering, well, what stories am I going to tell to really solidify this process? I came across a really interesting one from an Everest summiter named Ian Taylor, and he talked about the number one reason why Everest climbers do not summit. And he said that they take not enough time at the base camps to acclimate to the altitude.
So a simple flu can knock them down because they literally have failed to rest for long enough for their body to be ready to go to the next phase. And I consider this with small, high performing teams and founders and, entrepreneurs and all these things. If they just run go, one project's over, they segue into the next one.
And so I consider, well, if our job in the small business is to break it, right? If we're growing, we're breaking stuff, right? We're figuring out the best way to run projects, then we jam another one in there. We're like, huh, that didn't work very well. Let's consider this next time. The Sabbatical Method, colloquially speaking, is a way to rest in order to rebuild for the next phase of the ascent.
Galen Low: I love that. And I also just love this notion that's becoming acclimatized to some of the change because you're right, like a lot of organizations are growing fast, are disrupting themselves and that change is almost like that sort of altitude, right? If you look at growth as this verticality, you do need to spend some time and not just go relentlessly towards, wherever your North Star is. Because to your point, if you don't rest, you might not reach the top.
Alyson Caffrey: Well, it'll knock you down, right? Something simple, a flu. I was reading something even just on social media the other day. It was like, everybody needs to rest. And if you ignore it for long enough, it's going to come at a super inconvenient time. And I was like, yeah, that's right.
Galen Low: I worked in film for a little bit, and I think we called it "the cone of immunity". And it was this weird phenomenon where directors and first ADs and the people who are really running the show would somehow suppress their immune response to get through the show and then they'd collapse, right?
And they're like, after filming's done, they're like, okay, now I can be sick. Which is, to put this into context, an unrealistic and probably unreliable sort of method and yet reflects a lot of what business methodologies are these days. Which is just especially from a entrepreneur and owner operator standpoint, where they start a business like yourself and you are the brand, like you are the brand, you are the business.
And part of the value that you feel you're delivering is that high touch, I'm on Slack. I am running everything. I'm touching everything. I am, building relationships with all the clients. Clients are asking for me and that is my business. Whereas, I mean, I'm extrapolating a little bit here, but you know, the seed of growth is going to be, how can you give yourself that rest and how can you build processes that allow you to take that rest, a) for your sanity and health, and b) because it will create a business structure where it can scale.
By virtue of the fact that you're building around this notion of rest, which I think is phenomenal. I should ask, does it also then slip the other way around? I will get there eventually, but I know that your audience is predominantly like business owners, entrepreneurs, folks like yourself.
But in your opinion, is then that method something that cascades around like everybody it's built so everybody gets rest, not just the owners, not just the leadership teams.
Alyson Caffrey: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think as a fundamental, I would say like mission statement of the Sabbatical Method, we really want the business to function independently of any one person.
And it's really funny as we, I think, come up through school and we get our first professional careers, we're really taught and it's really ingrained in us that as a professional, if we are to be successful, we need to make ourselves irreplaceable. And in a small business environment, in order to have the ability to be flexible and grow into the different areas and opportunities that are presented to us, we really need to make ourselves replaceable, right?
I know it really does. It sounds counterintuitive, but consider what the growth trajectory might look like. I mean, if you are on a small team, you're in a position where the founder takes some time off and then some of those high level tasks that they were handling that perhaps now they're readdressing, you can just step right in and start to handle some of those things.
Your value is higher to the organization. You're able to perhaps lead a team below you. You can get some more experience, drive growth, drive revenue. Whatever it is that you're really looking for and transparently, I actually made this agreement with, my number two in command, Lauren.
I was like, Hey, listen, when I'm out, I was like, and some of these things start to trickle down to you in terms of handling the client load and delivering operational strategy. I was like, you need to let me know number one, what we need to create some structure around so that I can help you learn.
And the second thing is what do you really like doing and what do you don't, right? So deciding between those two things and saying, Hey, listen, I really love this. And I really love being, for her specifically, it was more of an internal project manager and chief of staff role. She went through DPM school.
She loves tying up the loops and making sure that everything's great. And so if we had not, let me focus on the Sabbatical Method, which I actually did take a sabbatical in a sense, right, to focus my brain on doing that project. Then we would have never been in a position to ascend Lauren into more of a chief of staff and internal project manager role.
I think it really does extend to the team and an actual rule that I have with Lauren now, which is so funny. I'm like, Lauren, every time you take a day off, like a PTO day, I was like, you need to have the next one scheduled before the end of that day so that you always have something to look forward to.
And I think it's really important to instill that into the team because I know our teams are guilty of this as well because a lot of them care a lot about our businesses. They care a lot about their projects and what you really want to instill in them is, Hey, listen, don't get lost in the weeds of just doing your job and try to just create an opportunity to step back and consider how can I do this more efficiently, more valuably for our clients, for our products and services, whatever your situation is. I think it's super valuable.
Galen Low: In my head I'm thinking I'm like, Oh, yeah okay, so you actually took a sabbatical to write the Sabbatical Method. Before you even started putting pen to paper probably, you're having this conversation with Lauren.
Your second in command. We gotta figure this out, which also is probably the seed of your book. What did that look like emotionally for you? Just this notion of letting go. What did it also look like for Lauren emotionally? Was it, this massively intimidating, you sort of, deer in headlights moment? Or was this something that, you had been building up to and were both sort of emotionally prepared? Tell me about that journey.
Alyson Caffrey: It's funny. I would love to loop Lauren or just ask her that specific conversation, like looking back. But I personally, Lauren is very steady. I'm wildly excited about things and then I'll get like super bummed sometimes when stuff doesn't work out and I'll be like, Oh man, how can we have done that better?
So I'm like super hard on myself at times. And I'm like, how could I have had the foresight to do these things? Lauren, on the other hand, I feel like I come to her with these wild, crazy, ambitious ideas, and she's just okay. I think she just digest. And then she like immediately starts putting a plan to action, which is exactly what you want for a) a capable number two, and b) a rock star project manager, right?
That's exactly what you want. And so Lauren, I remember we had the conversation and it was before I put pen to paper. I was in a position where I was like, listen, I really think it's important for the longevity of Operations Agency. And just to clarify our message that we take on two specific projects that I take my time to focus away from client work and I write our book.
And the second thing I want to do is I want to rebrand. And she was just like, Oh, okay. And I think that she knew in her heart looking back, that this was the thing to do and that it was going to be challenging. So I remember the first couple of weeks we were all riding high, we were like, oh, yeah, we're all in our zones of geniuses and this is a whole thing.
And then we started having things working out where I wasn't super involved. And then the things started coming up, right? Some of the things started happening. And so it was interesting because I remember there was like a kind of initial launch period where everyone was super excited and that was happening.
And then there was definitely a time where we needed to create a feedback loop where I could focus even a small amount of attention on just like helping solve specific problems and then I would pull back into my own projects. So that's something that I actually added into the Sabbatical Method because I know that a lot of founders have trouble letting go.
They have trouble, actually passing the baton and it is a muscle. So I said to her, I was like, next time I do a project like this, or next time we structure me to be focused on something new in the business, creating a course or whatever it is that's going on down the line with Operations Agency.
I was like, we can learn from this and structure it in a way where it doesn't feel like we hit that rocky period where we're just figuring it out, right? So it's something I think, again, that like really is a muscle. You need to build it and you need to exercise it consistently. Otherwise, if somebody goes out, you take a long weekend, you take a week off, people are going to feel the pain.
Galen Low: And I think there's a lot of organizations like that and I've, I've seen them, I've worked in many where, there is the benefit of vacation, and whatever perks go along with that.
And yet every time someone goes on vacation, everyone just cringe, they're like, ah, that means someone else is going to have to do much more work, or we're not going to be able to move the ball forward on this project, or, it's so inconvenient to a business to have people take vacation.
It's almost this like thing that organizations, I mean, like the business organism, not even the people in it, but the business organism just like it knows it has to offer it because that's the value proposition for, having a job or giving somebody a job. And yes, it wants that oxygen.
It's you have to skip a breath as a business to allow this other person to like breathe, but then the business suffers. Whereas what I really appreciate, a) is just like the architecture, like the intentionality of an architecture to create a business around rest. And I know a lot of people talk about it, but talk a big game, but have a hard time implementing it.
Especially in like agency land, where it's like, Oh, we'll just keep everyone resource. We'll go for 70% utilization or only, we're never going to be maxed out at 100%. And then a new project comes in and they're like, well, let's max everyone out 100%. We'll work overtime, it'll be fine. All right, don't take any vacation, please, blah, blah, blah. And it all just disintegrates right away because of opportunity, because of, opportunity for growth. It's like all of these interesting mechanisms. The thing that I really appreciate about what you did is I think a lot of folks are like, okay, well, let's just document everything and build process around everything so that, it's a perfect little capsule of how to run the business.
It's just your user manual. And then everyone can take time off. But I think the approach that you took was a little bit more iterative because I think exactly what you described has been my own experience as well, where it's yeah, I'm going to hand you the keys. And I go, okay, and everything goes fine for a couple of weeks and then the stuff starts coming out.
So like no matter how good your handoff, no matter how good your like documentation may be, no matter how much of a crystal ball you think you had, actually stuff will just come up like later after you think it's going well, it'll just come up and surprise you. But I like that. It sounds like a bit of a, it was a partnership in a way, right?
To be like, listen, let's transition the business to this model. We all have to work together at it. This is not a "me" thing. This is not a me and my book and my sabbatical. This is a business partnership thing. How are we making changes and then acclimatizing to those changes so that we can keep on going, which I think is cool.
I don't want to give too much away from the books, which, I mean, I was looking at it today. I was like, bestselling book. Congratulations.
Alyson Caffrey: Oh, thanks.
Galen Low: And I think it just it's a really interesting angle at it that I think is not the usual angle at sort of business process efficiency. It's like this human lens on rest and collaboration and change and adaptation.
I mean, I probably will get you to reveal some secrets from the book, but I can see why it's doing so well. We're just in this sort of human climate of needing to hear how some of these things can happen.
Alyson Caffrey: Yeah, I think it's a really easily implementable way to start to identify where some of the procedural breakthroughs might be or, lunchpins, choke points, whatever you want to call them, right?
Like what's super important and what's really drawing back, some of the results that we could be seeing? I think again, it's very, I think, elegant. And I say that word often in the book and I say it in the very beginning. I'm like, I mostly say this probably because I'm not. But I find elegant to just be simple and timeless, right?
That's really what I described that word as. And I think if we start to consider that rest, in any high performing plan, is a critical element. And as business owners, as high performing team members, as human beings, we need to understand that it's critical, right? If I didn't sleep for six days, what would happen to my body?
It would probably start to break down a little bit. I'd start to hallucinate a little bit. And so it's just not able to function properly. So we consider that creating simple operating structures might just be as simple as scheduling in some time to get a new perspective, right? Just go rest, go dream for a second, go take a look at where things are going and how things have been.
And then you can come back feeling refreshed. And I know a lot of people, they do. They just run to the next thing. I laugh sometimes a lot of times when folks are like, Oh yeah, I'm not a systems person or I'm not organized or I've been meaning to create systems. I know I need to do it, but it's just fallen to the back of the queue.
To me, that's like saying, Oh, I meant to sleep last night, but then I just didn't. And you're like, well, hang on a second. If you ignore this for too long, we all understand what is actually going to happen. So I don't want to like doom and gloom folks, because on the other end of things, if you're getting healthy sleep and putting good food into your body, drinking lots of water, moving around, you can tackle pretty much anything, right? So I think that's what we need to understand. It's like this critical rest point in the business. Yes, it's about operations, but it's also about building healthy habits into the business, right? And helping others understand that Hey, listen, we see you.
I'm going to do this for myself, but also we're just going to create a business like a high performing person and that includes rest. We're not going to burn you guys out. We're going to feed you good food. We're going to give you lots of water. Like we got to make sure that everyone is putting their best foot forward.
And I think a lot of companies miss that, especially with the way that they manage their teams, the way they manage their project. They say, Hey, listen, we're going to do this sprint, and I've seen this, I've seen company sprint schedules. They do these sprints and then guess what happens right after? They sprint again. I'm like, come on guys.
Galen Low: Even like just that framing is you can see how unsustainable that could be, especially in the context of like sleep, right? What if we just had another workday at the end of our workday, would that be fine? Actually I'd probably wouldn't be fine. I think this is probably a good segue to just dive in because I know a lot of listeners are now intrigued about the how, like how does this all happen?
Like lovely stories, but my business or where I'm working, needs this tell me the secrets. And one of the things that I love that you had sent me, you had sent me the words, yeah, this is about untethering yourself from your business. And then that picture you painted earlier of you having just given birth, putting down your new baby, and picking up your phone. And I think a lot of people can relate to that, whether or not they are business owners, whether or not they are entrepreneurs, whether or not they are even senior leaders within the organization. I think we're all plagued by this always on mindset of, okay.
And then I need to pick up my phone and look at Slack or look at my email and have my hands in my work. I guess maybe for starters do you feel that your Sabbatical Method, I know we've been talking about it, but do you feel like your Sabbatical Method is something that any sort of working professional can get something from, or is it specific to business owners?
Alyson Caffrey: Yeah, it's anybody, honestly. I mean, I've talked about this with moms in the past, right? Even just generating some time to step away, appreciate, right? Understand your overall journey, your overall calling, right, to serve these little people. And I think it's been so instrumental for me and everyone that I've, you know, touch, whether they own a business, whether they work in the business, whether they're, a leader in their home, I think any sort of, time away can really solidify some things and also to just connect you back with your why, right?
Connect you back with this is why I'm doing this. And it helps, I think, create and strengthen a filter through which you make decisions. I talk about this a lot in the book as well. I think if you can again, just connect with that and get behind, okay, listen, as I step back into this now with the clarity that I've gained from my restful period, I'm going to be two times more effective.
And I'm also going to be two times more focused on the direction that I'm going. So I think it's I would say the most elegant productivity hack that perhaps ever existed, and it can start super simple. So if we want to start talking about tactics here, I think even just the simplest thing around, I was actually super guilty of this.
It's like blocking your lunch and leaving your phone and leaving your computer. I used to do this all the time. I literally, for the first two years of my business, when it was just like me and my husband and he was in the military and he was off doing his trainings and things. And I just wouldn't block lunch.
And then I would just eat whenever I felt like, and then I remembered there was a specific time where I was like troubleshooting a problem with my team and I got like super frustrated and it was 2:30 in the afternoon. I hadn't eaten anything all day. I was like, you know what? This isn't good. No one is gaining anything from me not blocking my lunch.
And at the end of the day, it falls on me having the awareness and the boundaries and being able to just step away. So I think that blocking in lunch, blocking in 20 minute rest periods in the morning and the afternoon to just reconnect, center, do something that you like, go step outside in the grass.
Like I've been just putting my feet on the ground and taking in the sun now that the weather is nice. It's actually really energizing and I find too that I drink less coffee throughout the day and I'm really less in that kind of go go mode. I'm calmer when I, return to my work, more intentional with those types of things.
From an operations perspective, I have three kind of sabbatical personalities to channel, which I actually super love. Because a lot of people, whether you are employed in an organization, you run your own organization, you're considering, I could never take a sabbatical. I could never take time off. Every time I try and take a week, it's always a big struggle.
Everybody's always emailing me. And so there's these, preconceived understandings around how someone might take a vacation and what that experience might be like. And instead of waiting, like you were mentioning earlier, Galen, instead of waiting until everything's created and it's the perfect time to take off, because let's face it, that will never happen, we can start to exercise the muscle.
So the three personalities you can channel if you want to start getting the most out of this is first and foremost, the assister. I love this because I used to be, admittedly, I don't really watch very much anymore, but I used to be a basketball fan. And when I consider the assist, it's almost as valuable as the bucket, right?
You need to recognize who's in the best place to score. And the assister is a wonderful position and place to be in. So if you channel assister personality, this might look like you're not actually doing any of the doing, but you're recording your screen to show how you go through the things and make sure that someone else can get teed up to score in the future. This is looking like compiling your company knowledge base, right? You're really creating a centralized location for all the things inside of either your role or the business at large.
It's super, super helpful for transparency. Folks can just jump in there and take a look at, what they need to take a look at. The second personality is the trainer and I talk about this. I actually grew up, I don't know if you remember the workout series Insanity with Sean T. He is epic. So he grew up in a town over from me and he came to our gym when Insanity was just like blowing up.
And he ran this like gigantic session, like I kid you not, almost everyone in my community came. Like I lived in a small community, but like everyone was there. And I remember thinking like he gave us these really practical tips around like fitness and what we should be putting into our bodies and how much water we should be drinking.
But then he let us go off on our own. And so this looks like clear project structure, right? Which is exactly what your people need right now, right? They need clear project structure, they need to understand how do we start up projects? How do we maintain projects? How do we archive them? What makes a wonderful project?
What makes a not so great project? How do we fix that long term? And so those big things inside of, the trainer personality, you're the manager over things, right? For example, and you're saying, Hey, this is the high level way that I expect this to go. The strategy of sorts, and then you let your team fill it in, right?
So again, exercising another layer or level of removal. And then the third personality is the board member, right? And you can consider Warren Buffett in this category, right? He comes in and he delivers the quarterly strategy. He says, Hey guys, we need to increase shareholder value in these 10 area. And then he just lets his leaders understand how to do those things.
So he's letting them deploy the strategies, then create the specifics and understand how to get those outcomes without specific frameworks, right? They're able to create those themselves. So those are the three big buckets. And they, again, go along with whether you're a professional, whether you are, a business owner, whether you are a parent, right?
I say this all the time to my mom friends and my business owner friends. I'm like, Hey, it's super common to say my business is my baby. But like, when does the business become a capable adolescent? And even more so, like, when does the business become a thriving adult? And we're parenting well, we're creating adults, right?
Like they're going to be adults for the majority of their life. And I think that past the startup phase inside of a business, we end up getting super comfortable with this like high profile go mentality. And we really need to start to just, yeah, take the training wheels off and say, Hey, listen, guys, I know we've been doing this for a long time, but maybe it's time to stabilize.
Maybe it's time to let this department create its own way of managing their projects because they understand the nuances between things. And so I think it's really fun when I start to talk about these things, a lot of folks consider, Oh, helly, I can't take three months off or I can't do this. Or, and I'm like, no, just start recording your screen. Just start teeing other people up to help you get results.
Galen Low: We are now running at speed. All right, were doing that thing you said earlier where we're sprinting and sprinting and we're not resting. How do you get from that point? Understanding that all three of those models, well, at least two of them, but conceivably three, all three of those personas means slowing down a little bit, right?
To be like, okay, well, I'm not doing it myself. I'm assisting somebody to do it. I'm setting them up or I'm training somebody or I'm just casting a vision. But either way, it's not happening as fast as me, with my hands doing the thing myself and how do you reconcile that transition? And how did you actually reconcile that transition in your business to go like things will slow down. We need to figure out what is okay for it to like, to go slower and what we can ask, or like, how did you even manage the sort of added load of supporting someone and creating a grownup business that is independent?
Alyson Caffrey: Wonderful question. So the assister personality is I think you can start that today.
You just record your screen with the task list that you're currently doing. I encourage my business owners who are just single person shops or might have small teams to say, Hey, listen, if you're recording your screen and compiling your knowledge base pre-hire or pre-team, this is a good idea. Because then when someone does plug in, they have all the things that they need and you don't need to spend hours and hours training them because let's face it we don't have time to do that.
So my opinion is that even if you feel like you're going a thousand miles per hour in a thousand different directions, record the things that you're doing day to day that you're like, okay. And honestly, it doesn't even need to be all the administrative things. It can be everything. It can really be everything.
And something that I love I read Atomic Habits when it came out, I think it was what, 2018 or so. I've read it several times since then. And one of my favorite things he says, and it's so simple, is standardized before you optimize. And I think so often, especially when we go through these like business growth moments where okay, we have to create this like perfect structure for how we do things and the perfect client journey and the perfect sales cycle and all of this stuff.
And I'm asking the question, does it ever happen that exact way? Probably not, right? So we can set it up in a case where we're being smart, and we really want to make sure that the structure exists there, but also to just understand that if the majority of your projects, let's just say, go over by 30 days, right?
Let's just block in the time for that extra 30 days, right? Let's be honest with ourselves, right? Step on the scale metaphorically, right? Let's figure out where we are and then we can move forward, right? I think so many business owners do this. They're like, Oh yeah, we have this stellar client journey or my agencies.
They'll say, Oh yeah, we design websites with no revisions. And I'm like, Uh-oh, have any of the projects ever gone with no revisions from the client? And they're like, well, no. And I'm like, okay, well, so we need to understand that is how we operate. Now we want to set that standardization and then set some time to get 1% better over time.
I love that plan. It's very James Cleary-en plan. But that is really what we're in the business of doing is saying, okay, this is how things are going. And this is how we can get 1% better over time. So again, if we're running in a thousand different directions at a thousand miles per hour, we can really start recording our screen, get that in place, and then consider once you have a minute to take that 20 minute rest break, like I said before, or your lunch break or something, you can take a look and say, all right.
It looks like I've completed about 40 screencasts and varying topics. Let's consider which ones might be lower value tasks that we can perhaps get somebody in to support me and take over. And how might I approach this, with the leadership team and how might I approach this, right? You want to make sure you're driving value to the leader, right?
Hey guys, you guys pay me about 50 bucks an hour to manage all your projects or 80 bucks an hour to manage all your projects. We could probably get somebody to set these up for 30, 40, right? Like that type of conversation is super fruitful and it demonstrates value to a leader. Same thing, if you're a founder and you're in this seat and your dollar to the company is worth 150 bucks an hour, you better not be onboarding clients. You better not. You're not going to be in business very long.
Galen Low: Hey, I really love that stepping on the scale metaphor, right? It's like, where are you really at, not where you want to be? Let's be real here. But you touched on something that I thought was really interesting because I think, as we're talking about these things where you're like, Oh yeah, find things to systematize or delegate, build processes so you don't have to do it anymore.
I think like our work culture, the work culture that we're used to it is that sounds lazy. And then you actually get that external perception sometimes too. I'm like, it looks like you're just trying to work less, right? And what are you going to do now that you don't have to do those things?
But I think what you really hit on and I think is a valuable lesson for anyone in any business is okay, but what is the value that gets created from it? Let's lens this through business terms. Because as much as it is about like health and rest and, like just being human, a lot of it is about, well, helping that business become a toddler, become, an adolescent, become, a fully functioning, independent adult that doesn't really need, some of the people doing all of the things.
I think that is such an important talk track to be able to say, listen, I'm doing this so I can deliver more value. Here's my vision for the value that I'm creating, because it doesn't make any sense for you to pay me whatever you're paying me to do this thing that you could get done for less. So, and just that business mindset that I don't think a lot of not every sort of person working in any industry naturally wants to think that way, but it is the fundamental crux of business and therefore it will land with most business people.
So I do really like that. I wondered if I could go into the other sort of emotional side as especially a business owner, but like anyone, even like a junior project coordinator. The other side of this is that sometimes we pick up her phone all the time. We're always on, not because we feel like we're forced to, but because we love it, we want to do it, we feel passionately about it. And then you get to this point especially with your approach, and you're like, okay, well, we can't do these things anymore, like, how does your method approach this notion of just grief and regret when it comes to sort of, breaking up with the work that you love? Like sure, maybe it doesn't make sense for them to do client onboarding, but they love it.
And I'm imagining there's things that you love doing in your business that you're like, ah, but it doesn't make any sense. At my rate, it doesn't make any sense for me to do that. Like, how does your method and how do you personally sort of reconcile that sort of like emotional side of this untethering process?
Alyson Caffrey: Yeah. And it's interesting. I did go through this as well with the business, especially in the different stages that it's been. And I do. I love serving my clients. I always say metaphorically, I'm the roll your sleeves up and get in the business type of gal. Like I love potting the hood and seeing what's going on and all the things.
And I do block some time that makes a lot of sense for me to do that with my clients. So the first thing I'll say is perhaps you could do it just at a different level, right? If I was onboarding clients that were in a position where I was partnering with those businesses long term for a year, that would suddenly if it was an annual contract was bringing in a lot of revenue for the business, we could be in a position where I could consider doing those things.
The second thing I want to say is that sometimes, just like the business as a baby example, your baby needs you to be different things at different times. If you miss diaper changing, but your adolescent is still in diapers because of that need, then that is a problem. That's an absolute problem, right?
You're hampering and hindering the growth. So consider just like a mom or a dad may you may be in a position where actually letting go serves the overall trajectory and is able to actually affect more lives in the long term or create a more thriving, business long term. I think it's really interesting, especially as we start to talk about this, through the lens of again, just letting go.
I think the founder has a problem with this. And I think also to the team has problems with this too, because like you said, if they do find an activity that they really like, my encouragement will be, how can we do this at a different level that drives more value, right? So if you can consider, Hey, listen, I can work on these things, but here is the price point. I think our clients need to be at or something like that, right? You guys can start to work together to augment prices. You guys can work together to start to consider how quickly you guys might work on projects, for example, like does the price need to go up?
Does the time need to condense? Might you be in a position where if you could lead more people under you doing those same results and you could really refine the process and get it out at scale, would that feel really fulfilling to you? So I just encourage and explore, like you can find different ways to support people that actually, until you take the leap, you won't know how wonderfully fulfilling it actually is to do that.
I remember like potty training my son was extremely challenging. And it was also just super disruptive to my home life. There was like pee and poop everywhere. And I had to take some time off from working to make sure that like I was there, I was present, I was patient with my son. And I remember there were definitely some times of like intense frustration and definitely some tears in there too.
But at the end of the process, I think he and I strengthened our bond because he knew that I believed he could do this on his own. And I think that was something that I didn't know was going to come out of potty training. I felt connected to him in a way I'd never felt before.
Galen Low: I love that sort of deeper connection.
Also, I still can't get past the effectiveness of the image of just having an adult but diapered child. And you're like, no, I don't want that actually. Yes, I don't care how much you like changing diapers. You do not want that thing. Therefore, that's your answer. I think that's such a great way to get in that right mindset. I wanted to round out with one last question.
So in order to write your book, the Sabbatical Method, you had to take a sabbatical. And I know there was, it sort of triggers from this moment of when you had your first son and that wasn't quite a sabbatical because you were just back in there and it was, it's competing priorities. Now that you've gone through this journey of figuring out the sabbatical method, what piece of advice would you give to your past self now, piece of advice for that stubborn mistake that you would just go back and be like, listen, get unstuck from this because you're not getting anywhere. You'll get further ahead faster if only you just fix this one thing.
Alyson Caffrey: Yeah, I think jumping in and fixing problems myself, even though it might take slightly longer, the bond, like I was mentioning with my son. It strengthens with your team if you tell them, Hey, listen, I trust you. I know that you can figure this out. And if it takes a couple more days, that's okay. I was the classic, like if someone couldn't finish it by Thursday, then I was going to jump in on Thursday afternoon and get it done type of person.
Because I always had these like manufactured deadlines in my brain around when things needed to happen. But instead, like pulling back and I think the Sabbatical Method and just having my two sons really helped me. Because I was like, look, if I can empower the folks on my team to get this result and stop jumping over them and stop stepping on their toes, they can start to not only believe that they can do it, believe that I believe they can do it, but also they can find some of the specifics around doing it the way that they only can think about it.
So it actually enriches the process itself and just helps it be a little bit more co-creative internally, which is ultimately what we want, right? If we shut our business in and only allow us to feed it, we're going to grow to resent it and it's going to own us and it's going to be super dependent on us. We want to create that community, right?
That kind of collaboration between team members to make sure that this thing can function really well.
Galen Low: That was a really good answer. And I do think it's like the point of failure for all of this. I think a lot of people can relate. They're like it's going a little slower than I want it to. I'll just get back in there.
And then immediately betraying that investment of, confidence and the sort of relationship that you're building with individuals doing work their own way for you, not necessarily your way for you. Very cool.
Alyson, thanks so much for coming on the show and chatting with me again today. I had to tell this to you, your producer Christian, I was like, even if Alyson wants to come onto the show and talk about how corrugated cardboard is made, I will still say yes in a heartbeat. So as always, thank you so much. If folks want to learn more about the Sabbatical Method and pick up a copy of the book, where can they go?
Alyson Caffrey: Yeah, the book is on operationsagency.com, links out to all the proper Amazon things. I also launched a toolkit alongside of it because I'm a very tactical person. So if you are looking to get your hands on a copy of the book, know that it also comes with a toolkit. If you want to just follow along, do all the critical actions, make sure that you're setting up things in a really awesome way.
Like I said, I'm a like rubber meets the road, like toolkit type of gal. So I figured that was like the best way to get people like amazing results.
Galen Low: Of course, you have a toolkit. That's so you. Awesome. Alyson, thank you again.
Alyson Caffrey: Thanks, Galen.
Galen Low: Alright folks, there you have it. As always, if you'd like to join the conversation with over a thousand like minded project management champions, come and join our collective!
Until next time, thanks for listening.