In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Dr. Sabrina Starling. She is the Business Psychologist and is the international bestselling author of How to Hire the Best and The 4 Week Vacation: The Entrepreneur’s Ultimate Guide to Taking Your Life Back from Your Business. Founder of tapthepotential.com and host of the Profit by Design podcast, she and her team coach entrepreneurs to take their lives back from their businesses. They are on a mission to disrupt the hustle culture by sending 10,000 entrepreneurs on a 4-week vacation over the next 10 years.
Sabrina highlights the transformative potential of taking a four-week vacation for entrepreneurs. She underscores the shift from being indispensable to the business to building a strong team with A-players and efficient systems that allow the business to thrive independently. Sabrina mentions that it is important to focus on high-value activities, empower team members, and strategically design the business for sustainable profitability and personal freedom at the same time.
Questions I ask Dr. Sabrina Starling:
- [01:16] Talk about this four-week vacation. What’s the idea behind it?
- [03:48] You feel like sometimes there’s a perception of businesses like if you’re not working 40 hours a week, you’re cheating and not doing things right?
- [05:03] So you just went on a four-week vacation. After about two and a half weeks, do you start saying, what am I going to do now for another week and a half?
- [06:29] Michael Gerber once said: “If your business can’t operate without you, it’s worthless“. That’s pretty strong medicine, isn’t it?
- [11:36] So if somebody comes to you and they want to adopt the four-week vacation idea. Where do they start?
- [14:24] Sometimes you may disempower your team sometimes by feeling like you have to give them all the direction and not letting them figure it out on their own. With these ideas they’ll actually be more empowered, right?
- [15:51] How do you help people kind of change that mindset?
- [19:08] When somebody comes to you and the stated goal is that they’re going to go on a four-week vacation. What are all the things on how you impact their business?
More About Dr. Sabrina Starling:
- Discover how to make your time worth $10,000 an hour
- Listen to the Profit By Design Podcast
- Get your copy of The 4 Week Vacation: The Entrepreneur’s Ultimate Guide to Taking Your Life Back from Your Business.
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John Jantsch (00:00): Hey, this is John, and before we get started, I have a gift for you for being such an amazing listener. Everyone's talking about AI these days, but most of it's about tactics. We've created a series of prompts we use to create strategy, and you can have them for free. Just go to DTM world slash free prompts and grab yours. Now. Let's get started.
(00:30): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Dr. Sabrina Starling, the business psychologist. She's an international bestselling author of How to Hire the Best and the four-week vacation. She's the founder of tapthepotential.com and host of the Profit by Design podcast. She and her team coach entrepreneurs to take their lives back from their businesses and their own a mission to disrupt hustle culture by sending 10,000 entrepreneurs on a four-week vacation in the next 10 years. So big, hairy, audacious goal as she stated. Sabrina, welcome to the show.
Dr. Sabrina Starling (01:11): Thank you, John. I'm delighted to be back here with you.
John Jantsch (01:14): So let's talk about this four-week vacation. What's the idea behind that? Well, I mean, I think a lot of entrepreneurs probably think that idea is crazy. They don't get four-weeks, maybe in two years strung together, but you're talking about four consecutive weeks. I'm going to leave my business and it's going to run itself.
Dr. Sabrina Starling (01:32): Yes. So this comes from the coaching that I've done with entrepreneurs over the last 17 or 18 years, and one of the awarenesses that I had is when they were reaching out for coaching, they initially seemed to have a work-life balance problem. Like my perception was these are workaholics, they don't know how to stop. And yes, there's a handful of us that are workaholics, but that's not the real issue. The real issue is the systems and the lack of A players, the ability to hire a players in the business that keep the business owner from being able to take that vacation. Well, as a psychologist, I've seen a lot of business owners dealing with burnout, and I see how hard working 60, 70, 80 hours a week just grinding it out and seeing the impact that has. And we tell ourselves when we're doing that, I'm doing it to get to this point.
(02:27): When I get that new team member hired, it'll all be better. And the reality is that day never comes. And so if we don't get in front of the bus and stop the bus and say, I need to take a break, I need a vacation. And the idea behind a four-week vacation, what really became clear to me around that is that means you have a team and you have systems in place and that business can run without you, which is very important if you ever want to transition. And I say if you ever want to transition, when you transition the business, when you sell it or you want to retire and someone else on your team is going to step in and run it, and if you get these things in place now you can enjoy your life. And that's really all of us go into entrepreneurship for freedom.
(03:16): And a lot of it is we want time freedom. We want to be able to call our own shots and make our own choices. And then the irony when we get into business, we feel like we have less freedom and we also feel like no one else around us understands because they think we're the business owner, we can run our schedule however we want, and we feel like, no, we're at the mercy of every other person on this planet as the business owner. So the four-way vacation is all about really taking care of the entrepreneur.
John Jantsch (03:44): Do you feel like sometimes there's always more to do than you can get done in a day, but do you feel like sometimes there's a perception, the business, it's almost like if I'm not working 40 hours a week, I'm cheating, I'm not doing this right. I mean, is part of that pressure there?
Dr. Sabrina Starling (03:59): Absolutely. I mean, our culture in the United States is a grinded out culture. It's not just entrepreneurship that has the hustle grinded out mentality. When I started my business, I decided to become a coach instead of working in another business. And I wanted to have my own business because I was raising children and I wanted to be able to be available for them. So I decided I'm going to run my business on 25 hours a week, and I've made it work all these years. I've been able to grow the business doing that, but I kept it a secret For many years, I didn't reveal to my clients that I was working 25 hours a week because they were all working 60, 70 hours a week. And I was afraid they would say to me, you don't have a real business, Dr. Sabrina, you don't understand, because a lot of 'em were men, a lot of 'em were in construction. And so I just kept it quiet and I've, in the last five years, I've started talking about that everywhere because I realized we all want someone to tell us it's okay. It is okay to work less than 40 hours a week, and it's really cool if you can.
John Jantsch (05:03): So you just went on a four-week vacation. You were telling me before we started, you just got back after about, I'm thinking of you're very motivated, very driven person. You've built a wonderful business. After about two and a half weeks, you start saying, what am I going to do now for another week and a half?
Dr. Sabrina Starling (05:21): That actually happened about three and a half weeks in. I had two days left on my fourth vacation. I was like, okay, I'm bored. I am bored. And I think it's because I have done multiple four-week vacations and I've really developed over the years, my interests away from the business. But I think the first time as business owners, when we take four-week vacations, we do have that feeling within a day of what do I do with myself? We're not used to having hobbies. I know you play the guitar, you do woodworking, you have a rich life. I mean, where you live is a beautiful area. You have a very rich life away from the business. And what I find is the bigger we make our lives away from the business, the easier it is to put these healthy boundaries in place in our businesses.
John Jantsch (06:12): Yeah, I know I don't suffer from this anymore, but early on in my business, I would go on vacation. I would be very, even if it was just a week long vacation, first couple days I was very fidgety. But then you start settling in and it's like, eh, it's going to all be fine. Michael Gerber, who was an original mentor of mine, wrote the E-Myth. I'm sure listeners are familiar with that. He actually wrote the Forward to Duct Tape. Marketing told me once, he said, if your business can't operate without you, it's worthless. And I think that's pretty strong medicine, isn't it?
Dr. Sabrina Starling (06:43): It is, and it's exactly true. And as I wrote the four-week vacation book, I had a number of family members of business owners comment to me, I wish my husband or I wish my wife would've read this because they thought we were going to retire and then go travel and have all those things that we put off. And for whatever reason, they had a health reason. Some of 'em had passed away very early in life, much earlier than they should have, but it was because of the stress, I believe. And so when we think about there's all kinds of reasons that we want our business to have value without us, and one of them, one of the most important ones is what happens to our family if we just drop dead in the business? And all those years of all this hard work that we've done, there's no value in the business if it can't run without the business owner. So the family is left without being able to really benefit from that. But then there's your team members as well. If the business can't carry on without you, then you have a whole bunch of people who've lost their jobs now and their families are impacted.
John Jantsch (07:49): So you mentioned already that you've really grown your business working 25 hours a week When I started for a number of years now, have not done much on Fridays and don't have schedule any appointments. I've done that forever. And when you start doing that, you start realizing how much time you're actually wasting in the business. I found because it was like, no, I got to sit here until five o'clock. And so you go, chase, check Facebook one more time or something. I bet you most people could actually condense what they do that is valuable down to a couple hours every day. You actually, in fact, where is it the $10,000 an hour activity you want to, I think that relates to what I'm suggesting, isn't
Dr. Sabrina Starling (08:33): It? Absolutely. This is exactly it, and I will share that. When my first daughter went off to kindergarten, I thought, oh my gosh, I have all this extra time now in school all day. And then I was frittering my time away. I was on social media and it was worthless. So one of my big awarenesses when I started my business and I had an infant at home and I had these 25 hours a week to work, I had a huge meltdown in my laundry room just crying and blubbering. I had just dropped her off at daycare, but she had thrown up overnight. And so I had to come home and instead of working, I had to launder all the bedding and everything. And I thought, there's just not enough time and I can't get it all done. And I had this epiphany come over me around, okay, Sabrina, if you can only get one thing done today that's going to move the needle forward in your business, what are you going to do?
(09:23): Because you only have a few hours to do this in. And I don't know what my answer was that day, but it was like this huge clarity and I have run my business every day forward with that question. And it's made me realize that we have high value activities in the business that grow our business and that add value. And if we're intentional to do those every day, and you know what? I don't get high value activities done every single day, but I make sure once a week, five to six hours has been high value, $10,000 an hour activity time. And my awareness around the $10,000 an hour time came from reading the book 80 20 by Perry Marshall, and recognizing that 20% of what we do in a given day or given week leads to 80% of the results that we get. And I started looking at what is it that we entrepreneurs do that's worth $10 an hour versus a hundred dollars an hour versus $10,000 an hour?
(10:22): And I created a chart around this based on Perry Marshall's work, and I share that Anybody who wants to get it, we'll send it to 'em. You can go to tap the potential.com/ten k. And having this chart in front of you is so powerful because it's a reminder that if you are not doing the $10,000 an hour activities in the business, no one else is. And when we business owners struggle to pay ourselves appropriately, I think one of the hard questions we need to ask ourselves is, when was the last time I did a $10,000 an hour activity? Because we're not growing. If we're stuck doing the a hundred dollars an hour, $500 an hour or $10 an hour activities, that's the reason the business isn't growing. That's the reason we're not identifying how to add value and create the margin that we need to pay ourselves appropriately.
John Jantsch (11:15): So when somebody comes to you, and I'll back up a minute. I had Dan Martel on this show recently and he wrote a great book called Buy Back Your Time. And he said, if you don't have an administrative assistant or executive assistant or whatever you call them, then you are it, right? Because doing that work. And I was like, yeah, that's pretty hard to swallow, but it's true. So if somebody comes to you and they're like, okay, I get it. This idea of four we vacation sounds really awesome, but couldn't happen today, where do they start?
Dr. Sabrina Starling (11:46): So this is a really good question because when we hear four-week vacation, I think most of us feel like that's so pie in the sky, I can't even imagine. And it starts with the small steps forward, taken in a consistent direction that lead to big change over time. When I started my four-week vacation journey, I felt like I gave myself 18 months and I thought, that's going to be really hard. I can't imagine doing it. And we were a very small team at the time, but once we get clear, this is what I want, this is meaningful to me, then it's easier to start seeing how we have to trust that the how will show up. And so I recommend, look at the longest you've been able to be away from the business, fully unplugged. And if that's zero days, because in the research I'm doing with entrepreneurs, we hear that a lot like that's zero days, Dr.
(12:40): Sabrina, then walk one day and tell your team you're completely out of pocket and you got to unplug or start with unplugging in the evenings. Like you go home at a set time and put your phone in a drawer and just be present with yourself and your family. That's the first small step. And then build from there and really pay attention to, well, what actually fell through the cracks. When I was unplugged time, and again, we hear, I can't believe my team handled everything. When I went on this four-week vacation, this was the first one I had done in 18 months. We had two team members who were newer on the team who'd never experienced it. So I thought, and I had been training them, so I thought they're going to need me. I don't know, we better set up some, somebody else needs to jump in and train them while I'm out.
(13:31): They stepped up in huge ways. And it showed me that I had been telling myself a story in my head about how much they needed me. So we have to watch this with ourselves and the stories we tell. So try a day, try two days, try a week and see what actually falls through the cracks. Ask your team for their input on where they needed support and you weren't there. And then look at can you create a system or do you need to hire and start taking those things off your plate? And the most important thing, whether it's a day off or a week off or four-weeks off, whatever you delegated before you took that time off, do not take it back when you come back.
John Jantsch (14:16): Team you just talked about too. Yeah, and I think what might be missed in that, what you just described there is we sort of disempowered the team sometimes by feeling like we have to give them all the direction, but giving a chance to let them figure it out, they'll actually be more empowered by that, won't they?
Dr. Sabrina Starling (14:34): Yes, they will. And if we take it back, it's very disempowering for them. So when I came back, I asked my newer team members that I've been running a meeting with every week, what did they do with that time that we were meeting and how would they like to revamp this meeting going? And they worked on strategy, they mapped things out, things that I wasn't even aware needed to be mapped out or laid out. They had done that and they said, going forward, we'd much rather use this rather than just going over our basic numbers. I mean, we'll obviously do that, but we'd much rather use this meeting for strategy with you, Dr. Sabrina. I'm like, yes, because if I have team members who want to think strategically, they're thinking about $10,000 an hour activities from their seat. And that adds a lot of value to the business.
John Jantsch (15:23): One of the mistakes I'm sure you've come across all the time, I've certainly seen it, is a lot of times, particularly when people are maybe just getting started, they fail to invest in their team or they try to hire the cheapest help that they can find. And ultimately what you're saying is the real key to this is you've got to have that leadership team or whatever you call 'em of a players. I mean, this is not going to happen until there's people that can do the selling and the things that you thought only you could do. So how do you help people kind of change that mindset? And obviously I know you have a whole program around developing a-players, but first one is probably to change that mindset, isn't it?
Dr. Sabrina Starling (16:00): It's to change the mindset that if you're in the middle and all the decisions run through you, you're going to lose your A-players because they feel very disempowered. But I think a lot of times what I hear from entrepreneurs is, I don't know that I can afford to hire an A-player. And I actually would argue that you can't afford not to hire an A player because you may pay them, say you pay them $10 an hour more. But the reality is that A players will be 900 to 1200% more productive than warm body team members. So like your C players. And so you may pay them $10 an hour more, but if you need fewer A players, because you don't have C players anymore, you have A players, your payroll is actually reduced significantly. And those A players will help you create systems. Those A players step up, they're natural problem solvers and they're good communicators. They don't necessarily need to be extroverted. Not every A player's extroverted, but they like to communicate and support each other as team members. And that is the best thing for you, the business owner, because when you're out and they don't know what to do, they don't know how to handle something, they go to other people on the team and they ask for help.
John Jantsch (17:17): And I think another thing too, a lot of times people just jump to, oh, I need to have somebody whose resume says they were five years as X, Y, Z. And I think a lot of times if you get the right person and you're committed to investing in their growth, you'll grow a players, right?
Dr. Sabrina Starling (17:33): Yes. So an example that I like to think about is when I started my business, John, I knew nothing about marketing, nothing about sales, but I'm an A player. I learned Duct Tape Marketing was one of the first books that I read to learn. And our A players will do that. So let go of the belief that you need to hire for a lot of experience and really hire the people who are hungry and motivated, and then look to align what they're doing with their personal strengths. And in the interview process, you can identify strengths by just asking them what are the things you love to do that come easy to you that other people seem to struggle with? And they'll just, they'll tell you, here's the things, and they're easy for me. I don't know why other people have trouble with this, but come easy to me and make sure that those strengths align with the results that you need from them.
(18:27): And then knowing what you know about what you learned how to do in the business, have confidence that you can break it down and train them. And you are going to be much better off when you do that because it opens up a much broader pool of candidates for you. And as you create these systems to train, you're not at the mercy of one team member. And if that one critical team member leaves, oh my gosh, what are you going to do? You have a system to train the next person and it works and you can refine the system the second time around.
John Jantsch (19:00): So we've been talking about some of the various things that you do from a coaching standpoint, maybe unpack when somebody comes to you and the stated goal is that they're going to go on a four-week vacation. What are all the avenues, how you impact their business?
Dr. Sabrina Starling (19:18): So we utilize the the potential solution with our clients coming in. Most of the clients who come in are established businesses. The business has been around for a while, and the business owner is recognizing, despite my best efforts, I can't take time off. I can't be away. This isn't working. Or they're realizing they're not profitable, or it's a combination of I'm not profitable and I'm tied to the business. So we work on designing the business to be sustainably profitable. Every decision going forward needs to be based on does this add profit to the business or does it take away, once we have it designed to be sustainably profitable, then we look at niching down with a clearly defined sweet spot. A lot of established businesses are what I call overweight businesses. And that means that when you're starting out in business, you say yes to every opportunity that comes your way because you need to get revenue coming in the door, but then you don't have a real sweet spot anymore and your spread really thin and your team is too.
(20:18): And so I think our businesses need to go on a diet at least once a year, and we need to look at where are our best opportunities? What are we going to stop doing? And really focus on the top clients. And I know you teach a lot of this yourself, John, but it makes your marketing easier. It simplifies the business considerably. So that's where we see a lot of stress come off for business owners. And then we start talking about innovation, which is again, paying attention to what your clients tell you they want the most and how they see you as unique and different, incorporating that in what you do, which allows you to charge more and create more margin. And then we focus on hiring the best, building your lean and mighty team around that sweet spot. And then the final step is to learn how to network to continually attract A players so that you never run out of team members. Because now that you have a sweet spot and you're innovating and you have a players on your team, you better be ready. Your business is going to grow, and you're going to need a lot of A players, but in the meantime, more and more is coming off your plate and you're taking your life back. So our goal is, I mean, yes, I want lots of entrepreneurs taking forward vacations, but ultimately our goal is that you get your life back on a daily basis in your business.
John Jantsch (21:34): Awesome. Sabrina, always great to catch up with you. I appreciate you stopping by the show. You want to tell people where they can connect with you and find out more about your work?
Dr. Sabrina Starling (21:42): Absolutely. So I mentioned you can get the how to make your time worth $10,000 an hour download in the PDF chart of $10,000 an hour activities. Just go to tapthepotential.com/10K and you can learn more about us obviously at Tap, the Potential I record Weekly on the Profit by Design podcast and share tips, tools, and strategies to help you design a sustainably profitable business that gives you your life back. And I just want to share as a fellow podcaster, those of you who get benefit out of Duct Tape Marketing, please leave a review on whatever platform you're listening because that's how other people find great podcasts like Duct Tape Marketing and podcasting is a labor of love. John is putting out tremendous content. So please leave him a review.
John Jantsch (22:35): Well, I appreciate that, Sabrina. So again, thanks for taking a moment and hopefully we'll run into you soon out there on the road.
Dr. Sabrina Starling (22:41): Okay, thank you, John.
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