Have you ever said to yourself, “If I didn’t have to be at the studio every day, I would live closer to my kids (or grandkids or parents)?” Or maybe you’ve said, “I would love to travel more (or retire or buy a vacation house) if I didn’t have to be at the studio every day.” One of the silver linings of our COVID world is that operating a business from a distance has become easier than ever. I have been running my studio from 700 miles away for the last two years and it’s far more doable than most people imagine. I’ve learned that planning for remote work is like racing a car. You need direction, strong systems, a reliable team, and precise tools. Use these steps to plan your jump from the toil of daily operations to the life of your dreams.
Map it out
Think about your course of action from now to the finish line—what are the details of the where, why, when, and how?
Use your answers to map out the journey. Give yourself deadlines and hold yourself accountable for doing the work. Sharing your goals with others can help you stay on track. For example, my “where” was Northern Virginia (my studio is in Wisconsin), my “why” was living closer to family, and my “when” was a two-year timeframe. My “how” was multifaceted: stabilizing my studio’s finances, developing leaders among my talented staff, and assuring my studio’s continued impact on the community.
Build your systems
Just like a race car, your plan must be built on a solid frame with a well-maintained engine. List every task and project necessary to your business in a document that will be shared with employees. It is crucial to describe clearly how you want each task to be done. Don’t take anything for granted! I always tell my staff, “A blind monkey should be able to figure out what you mean.” Documentation can take many forms: video tutorials, an operations manual, or a catch-all website (like a Wiki). Detail each and every step.
Assemble your pit crew
Look at your current team. Where does each person excel? Where do they lack skills? Place them in roles where you know they will succeed. A survey can reveal what tasks they enjoy. When interviewing potential new team members, include a discussion of what work they love or the tasks they handle with confidence. Use the information to assign systems and tasks.
Train your team
Just like a NASCAR pit crew, your team has to work efficiently and in sync. Immerse them in the culture and mission of your business—illustrate examples of “winning” or “success.” Create an environment that encourages passion, pride, and self-direction. Hold them accountable and reward them for their leadership. Develop their decision-making skills. Practice processes over and over until your staff instinctively responds to work exactly as you would, if not better!
Use your best tools
With technology at our fingertips 24/7, be sure to use those tools to your advantage. Zoom for weekly leadership staff meetings. Check in with teachers for quick, daily, pre-shift meetings on conference calls. Use Facebook Live videos for big announcements to your clients. The key is to be as accessible from a distance as you would be on site. My staff and clients have said they feel like they have more contact with me now than they did when I was physically in the studio several days a week.
Take it for a test drive
Plan for a designated amount of time that you’ll be nearby but work remotely. Get out of town for short breaks and see how your team handles things—in case of emergency, you’re still within reach. I practiced this way for a whole year before I moved five states away from my business. Just like you check the oil in your engine, check in at your studio and evaluate the decision-making that happened in your absence.
Cross the finish line
The big win is being able to work on your business, not in it. Instead of the discouraging stops and starts of daily operations you can focus on driving forward, foot on the gas and eyes on the road! The destination ahead is the winner’s circle and a life that you love.