She's Baaack! What I Learned From Stepping Away From My Company

Jan 2012
bathtub, bubble bath, relaxing, katie wagner social media
Photo Credit: @poshwithtiffany

Despite a few moments of terror when facing the 280 emails waiting in my inbox, it feels good to be back. After being out of the office last week, it’s nice to get back into my routine. I wasn’t on vacation. Instead, I stepped away from the day-to-day operations of KWSM in order to create a strategy for 2012.

It was a productive week. I re-wrote our website wording, and revised and re-organized our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts. I added a listing to my personal Linked In, and finally created that company profile we needed. I even put us on Yelp. I planned out our next two hires – who we’re looking for, and when. I created some new offerings and a price list. I set our workshop schedule for the next 12 months. I reviewed every one of our own marketing and social media initiatives and decided what was working and what needed to go. I re-worked the company organizational chart, and moved a project slated for this year to 2013.

Then I closed my computer and went back to the office. Smiling.

Taking this week off was one of the most valuable things I have done as a business owner. While I planned to make staffing decisions and lay-out strategic next steps, what I didn’t expect was to learn so much about myself and my company:

It won’t fall apart without me.

As much as I would like to think that the very walls of the new KWSM offices would come crumbling down around us if I wasn’t there to hold everything together, it’s not true. I was out for an entire week, and everything was fine. The work was completed – and done well. The clients were happy. The team was happy. Upon my return, my chair was still warm – someone else was sitting there! At first, it was a blow to my ego. (Why do I work this hard if they don’t even need me?) But after some brief pouting, I realized this might actually be a good thing. I’ve built a business that can actually run itself. I was unreachable for a whole week, and everything turned out OK. Come to think of it, no one even tried to reach me – OMG, I’ve created something that works! That realization was followed shortly by this one: Maybe it’s time for me to let go. Perhaps I should step back and let the machine run.

Making time to think is part of my job.

As I mentioned, I got a lot done during my time away. I flew through my checklist like I was trying to impress somebody. But I also did some other things: I took naps. I went on walks at lunch. I rode my horse. Sometimes, I spent long stretches staring out the window and  dreaming of what KWSM could become this year. I’m here to tell you (albeit somewhat sheepishly) that it was not wasted time. I can’t remember a moment since I started this company that I’ve been able to sit down and think about it. To reflect on how far we’ve come – what’s worked, and what hasn’t – and where the heck we go from here. And that’s important. If, as business owners, we don’t hold a vision for our companies, no one else is going to do it either. Who cares more about KWSM’s success than I do? And more importantly, if I stop caring (or just give it up for lack of time), who will pay the price? Not just me, but every member of our team. I have a responsibility to take time to focus on the business. I need to be calm and clear-headed enough to make smart decisions. And yes, sometimes that means stepping away from the laptop. I’ve realized that having a balance between doing the work and thinking about how we do the work is essential for success – and ensuring success is my primary responsibility.

What we’ve built is bigger than any of us.

I remember when KWSM started. It was me and my laptop in our spare bedroom. I spent my days surrounded by sleeping dogs and piles of crumpled paper. I wore sweats, accessorized with bloodshot eyes from staring at the monitor for too long. I spent more hours at my desk than in any job I’ve ever had. There were no sick days. If I was out, KWSM was closed. And since social media is an everyday type of thing, KWSM was never closed. Now, just 14 months later, I took a whole week off and things just kept humming along. KWSM is no longer about me. It takes a team of people to do the work we do – writers, editors, videographers, content creators, content producers. To ensure results for our clients, it takes more manpower – and brainpower – than I could ever be capable of. KWSM is about all of us. It’s about the dozens of clients who trust us enough to let us tell thier stories to the world. I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a group of dedicated, hard-working, talented people, and I’m just another spoke in the wheel.

At the risk of sounding too corny (forgive me, I’ve gotten plenty of sleep and haven’t had to deal with any voicemails or emails for a week), it reminds me of my favorite quote from Story People:

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, What have you done with your life? & though there are many moments I think I will remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

The average American spends 7.5 hours each day at work. Unless what we do has meaning, that’s a lot of wasted time. What we do at KWSM matters. To our clients. To the customers we connect them with. It’s important – and it’s fun. I think I had forgotten that.

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