Could you take three consecutive weeks off of your business for a vacation? I didn't believe that I could, but then I did. And then today's episode, I'm going to share with you how I did it and also the three worst things that happened while I was gone.
It's Jack Jostes, and welcome to the Landscaper's Guide to Modern Sales and Marketing podcast. This show is all about helping you run a great landscaping company, attract the right customers, lead a great team, and have a great lifestyle, because if you can't enjoy a lifestyle, why would you put yourself through the hassle of running your own company?
I recently had 22 days off, and a full 19 of those days were on the road. I went on a cross country road trip with my wife, our two kids all the way from Colorado to the hills of North Carolina, where we met my parents and my sister and her kids to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.
Now, I ... Honestly, I haven't taken this long off of work ever. My wife reminded me that at least not in the last 12 years of running Ramblin Jackson, have I done this.
The Three Keys To Making A Three-Week Vacation Possible
So in reflecting on how I did this, it was really the result of three simple things. One, we have a really solid process at Ramblin Jackson, not only for attracting new customers, but also onboarding them and serving them. It's a solid process. And then number two, we've hired really great people who implement the process and continually refine and build the process. And then the third thing was going away and seeing what happened when the great people and the great process were often running without me.
While those three tips seem easy, create a process, hire great people, let the great people run the great process, and it is that simple, it was by no means easy doing that. And right now, we're 12 years in. And even just four years ago, we only had four employees. Now, we have 15.
So those first eight years were just brutal. I don't know how I could have taken such a long vacation during that time. And maybe that's one of the reasons I didn't, or maybe because I didn't, that's why they were so brutal. I don't know, right? I can't change the past.
But the fact is we've got really great people working here. And four years ago, we had great people, but we didn't have really great systems. We were just starting to really dial in our process and really pick what we now call our hell yes customer, which is landscaping companies.
We Narrowed In On Our Hell Yes Customer
At that time, we were working with everyone, doing everything, all kinds of digital services, and it was chaotic. And by focusing the company on an ideal customer with a process for the main service that we're going to deliver, it created scale and it created momentum and it created profit, which we were able to invest back into the company of increasing salaries or getting health insurance or vacation, paid vacation time. All of these things have a cost, and they were a result of the momentum of picking a hell yes customer and building the systems.
But that took eight years of kind of ... I wouldn't say it was failure, but it was definitely an exploration of figuring out what are we doing and who are we serving.
So now that we're at this point where we have really great processes and we have really great people, it was time to take some time off. And I was inspired partly by this woman Ashley who's in a Facebook group that I'm in with other digital agency owners. And she took a month off from her agency. And I remember reading the E-Myth Landscape Contractor, where Tony Bass talks about taking eight weeks off a year and just being blown away when I read that of, "How could you possibly take that much time away?"
The Worst Things That Happened While I Was Away
But I did, and I realized three key gaps. Now, the first one was a huge oversight in the onboarding of a new employee, because we had a new person and they had a start date and that was all gravy. But I didn't really coordinate that another person on my team who was also managing, that person was also away. So we had a new person here. And luckily, we were here intermittently and there are other people on my staff. But they were a direct report for me, and I don't feel like their onboarding went very well. And that felt awful, realizing that when I came back.
And we do have a lot of really good processes. We have an online training system, and we were able to get that person properly onboarded right when I got back. And now, they're really thriving in their role. So it wasn't a total loss.
But when you hire new people, it's a risk taking that time away if you don't plan for that. So what I learned was to plan for some of these things better and to coordinate the different people when we're doing onboarding, which is really obvious, but I just lost sight of that.
Okay. The second worst thing that happened is embarrassing, considering the nature of the audience of this show, which is lawn and landscape professionals. So I recently bought an investment property. And I have a tenant, and then I'm renovating the property behind it into a video studio. It's going to be really cool. We're almost done.
And I was working there one day and I had this giant tarp. And I was with my kids. They distracted me. No excuse. I left the tarp on the lawn, and it killed a big part of it. And what's really frustrating, though, is I had some people in the neighborhood mowing my lawn. And instead of either moving the tarp or texting me, "Hey, you're killing this big chunk of your lawn," they just mowed around it. So three weeks went by and, boom, killed part of the lawn.
And this new property, I've never managed it during the summer. This is my first year with it. It was a veritable jungle of weeds. It was absolutely unreal. We even had wild animals.
So luckily, I learned my lesson about property management and my ... It's amazing, the main house where I live there, there isn't a lawn, the house that we bought with xeriscape before I got it. And while we had somebody water our plants and things, there was no jungle of weeds or dead lawn or any of this. So I definitely learned my lesson there and got some professionals on my team who can help me manage that when I'm out of town next time.
Now, when I came back, I was amazed to find that things were going really well at Ramblin Jackson. We were completing new projects and onboarding new clients, and people were doing really well and had an opportunity to really step into their role and grow and lead. And they did great. You Ramblers, if you're watching, you did amazing.
And despite that, my own fault was I bit off way more projects than I could chew when I came back. I had to finish my book. We've got this construction thing. And then there was all the catching up on the mail and all the things. And I'll admit, I was extremely stressed. I was so stressed one day that I was physically sick. I felt awful. And I joked with one of my staff about needing a vacation to recover from the vacation.
And I wanted to dig into that a little bit, because I think that that's probably the biggest fear for a lot of people, employees included, is to take time off. And I was reluctant to share this, but I felt guilty taking vacation. And for many years, I thought it was my advantage. Oh, I'm working on holidays and I'm not taking a vacation and I'm building the business. And in many ways, I did. And it's hard to know if we'd be where we were if I didn't do that.
But I also missed out on some key family time, on some relationships, on just relaxing. Going on vacation was great. So I think business owners, if you're listening, you might feel the same way. You might have some head trash, right, which is negative self-talk around vacation. And if you can't, right, if you can't take vacation, if you couldn't take three weeks off, I think you need to really get clear on is that really true and what systems would you need to have in place, what people in order to do this, and what better place would you be to work, right? Would you be a better employer if you got your business to the place, right?
I talk to my staff. They're like, "No, we're actually really stoked that you went and did this," because it's a sign of health of the company. So what would you need to change? And then if you're still telling yourself that you can't, why? And is it just a bunch of BS and you need to go on vacation?
So was it worth it? Was it worth that very stressful week when I got back and some of the problems that I had? Yes, it was absolutely worth it. I'm going to do it again. I'm going to continue doing it, because I think it helps you identify those gaps in your business, and that allows you to really grow.
Some Of My Favorite Things From The Trip
And some of my favorite things were, one, I saw the Mississippi River. We went to Davenport, Iowa. That was beautiful. Saw a friend in Lincoln, Nebraska. Got to visit my family and set off some fireworks in Chicago on the 4th of July. That was amazing. We saw Indianapolis, which Indianapolis is beautiful. I had no idea what a beautiful city it was. We ended up randomly renting this little bike. That was really fun. I loved visiting Knoxville, Tennessee. Really enjoyed Knoxville. Went to the Norris State Park. That was really cool.
Got to see bamboo plants growing in North Carolina. It was so lush there that it was just ... It's so different from the mountains in Colorado where it's so dry. And so we went to Lake Lure in North Carolina, enjoyed that. Got to go to Nashville, which has been on my personal bucket list for my whole life. And I went and saw ... I saw about 20 bands in a matter of five hours. And I went to Alan Jackson's Good Time Bar. I went to Robert's Western World. I had some Nashville hot chicken from Princes, which was so good. Oh man, that was great.
And then I have to say some of the best barbecue I had was in Kansas City, Missouri. And I got to see one of my friends that I've known since I was six. I saw my roommate from college.
So overall, it was a very full week. I got to go fishing with my nephew and hang out with my parents and my sister. Really just grateful that I got to do that. And I got to drive across America, which is just ... What a great place. If you don't have a paper map, one of my favorite things is to ... I have paper maps. I got one from North Carolina and just had an incredible time. I saw some great music. And I'm just really grateful to live here in America and be able to drive across the country and run a business here and see my family. I couldn't have asked for more. So it was a beautiful time.
And so what would happen if you took three weeks off of your business? Who would emerge as a leader at your company? What are the gaps and problems that you might realize you need to fix? And if you can't do it again, is it you telling yourself that you can't, or is there something that you need to change to get to that point?
Thanks so much for checking out today's podcast. I hope you enjoyed it.
And come join me at the GIE Expo at my book launch party this October! You can learn more about that at TreeofGoodFortune.com. My name is Jack Jostes, and I look forward to seeing you next week.