179: Pass the TwoWeek Vacation Test with Austin Netzley

Austin Netzley is an author, investor, and business growth advisor. He is also the Founder and CEO of 2X, where he helps entrepreneurs implement proven systems and strategies to reclaim their time, improve their operations, and scale predictably. We discuss the foundations of the two-week vacation test, how to have complete control of your time as an entrepreneur, and the easiest way to build a thriving, self-managing business.

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Pass the TwoWeek Vacation Test with Austin Netzley

Our guest is Austin Netzley, founder of 2X, an elite one-on-one coaching firm for six- and seven-figure entrepreneurs, and the author, the freshly minted author of The Two-Week Vacation Test. Austin, welcome to the show.

Steve, I’ve been looking forward to this moment. I read one of your books a long time ago, and it’s really inspiring to ultimately come to this moment where we can both chat about our books and what we’re doing, so it’s pretty cool.

Yes, that’s right, let’s talk about it. You and I both are in the coaching world and writing books about it, so we have some idea of what’s going on, but I’m really curious about your ideas. But let’s start with your journey. So describe me to me this journey. I mean, you look fairly young. I’m sure you take good care of yourself. But still, I mean, you’re running a firm which just became second time in 5000 list, a company, a coaching firm. So, tell us what led you down the path of launching this business and going it.

Absolutely. Well, first of all, I started out as an engineer in the corporate world. And the only thing I knew growing up was the corporate world. So, I had this master plan of how I was going to be the CEO of a large company and how I was going to work up again the corporate ladder. So I was going to get my engineering degree. I was going to get some sales experience and I was very much introverted. So I needed that sales experience to quote unquote, knock the nerd off of me. And then third, I was going to get my MBA and that was going to be my trifecta that was going to take me up. And I was headed down that path.

And then I realized, wait a minute, I’m not really jealous of any of the managers that I have 10, 20 years ahead of me. So I started to learn about entrepreneurship and then started my first business. Had some failures but also some successes there. I burnt myself out. So I went and traveled around the world and I knew when I came back and did entrepreneurship after that, I wanted to make a contribution. So after that point in time, all of my businesses, I felt like, were making an impact because I went and worked for a big oil company with my engineering degree, and then I started a day trading company as my first business.

Neither of those, I didn’t have an impact. So long story short, I’ve now had five different businesses. I’m on my fifth right now with the company, Go2X, but all of the last four have been some type of contribution element where I feel like I’m making an impact on the world. So long story short, through a series of different businesses, I learned different skill sets and different things that I think can help six and seven figure business owners. And that’s what we do now is teach them the systems and strategies that can help them get free from the day to day and scale more predictably and profitably from what I’ve learned before.

Okay, so we’re going to get into it in a minute. But first, you mentioned about your desire to make an impact on the world. So what is your big plan? What is your ride that you’re doing all these things for? How are you going to make an impact?

Yeah, so the whole vision of 2X was to start with coaching to get access to hundreds of businesses to create and refine our methodology. So over the last five years, we’ve been really refining our methodology to scale small businesses and do so efficiently, productively, and not necessarily reliant on the entrepreneur themselves. So now our big master plan is to start partnering with companies from an equity standpoint, start doing a micro private equity to really build our portfolio to help these companies in a more hands on way scale to the next level.

So well, small businesses account for about 47% of the U. S. Workforce and so much shape or form, which is a huge, obviously number. So we think that if we can teach small business owners a better, simpler way to scale and we can help impact those businesses directly, we’re making a huge impact on not only the entrepreneurs, but the communities, all the employees, all the, a lot of the US and beyond, that we think that that ripple effect is gonna be pretty huge. So we’re doing it through education, such as the books, coaching, such as 2X, and then definitely through the portfolio as well.

I love that. I think it’s a huge opportunity. I agree with you. I’m also very invested in this idea that to help these small to medium-sized businesses stay in business, and there are statistics that about 12% of them disappear each year. I call it business COVID. So if you can eradicate business COVID, then it can really give a big boost to the GDP, to growth, to income creation, to having more people come to the US and grow the business, the US economy for all of us over here. So I totally relate to that. So let’s talk about your framework. I mean, you develop this. You just published a book called The Two Week Vacation Test. So that is a framework that you got. So, what does it take to achieve a passing grade on the two week vacation test?

Yeah, the two week vacation test, first and foremost, is a methodology for how to build a successful company. But it’s also, again, a test to see the health of your company. So if the entrepreneur of a small business goes on a two week, no strings attached vacation where they’re fully disconnected from the team, the clients, the operations, they don’t have access to a phone or computer, what would happen to that business? Well, we break it down into four things. Number one is the business would pretty much stop immediately. That means they are the business. Number two is the business would pretty much start to falter. There’d be some major issues that would happen. That means that they’re really stuck in the business.

And number three is things would operate okay without you, they would get by and they would progress and be able to survive. But then there’s stage four, which is that your business would be able to run, grow and thrive without you. That is a passing grade, that’s where you want to be. So if you get to this point, that means you have a thriving team and operations that aren’t relying on you. And now you have the time freedom that then you can focus on the right growth levers and the biggest bottleneck and the biggest opportunities to help scale to the next level while also having control of your time so you’ve got a great lifestyle. So entrepreneurs start in business for success and freedom. You get either one of those, let alone both of those, but this process helps break you free from the day to day, build a much healthier company and again achieve both the success in business and out of business.

Entrepreneurs start in business for success and freedom. Click To Tweet

I think it’s a fascinating topic because in today’s age, you know, AI is taking over a lot of things. I might say taking over everything. It’s amazing how much efficiency that AI creates. And I think the reason we avoided the bullet with this recession is maybe AI is bringing so much productivity improvement that it counterbalances all the other factors. But the result, it’s getting work done, it’s running processes, is no longer a huge added value.

The added value is intellectual property, it’s coming up with ideas, it’s being to organize things, and that’s what an entrepreneur should be doing. So I think it’s a great thing what you guys do. Now, let’s get into the specifics. So what are the steps? You know, in the pre-interview, we talked about seven specific steps to make a business self-managing, to make it thrive when you’re on vacation. What are these seven steps?

The added value is intellectual property, it's coming up with ideas, it's being able to organize things, and that's what an entrepreneur should be doing. Click To Tweet

Well, the seven steps that we talk about in the book is to ultimately, again, break free from the day-to-day and get ready for taking two weeks off where your business can run, grow, and thrive without you. So you don’t want to go from listening to this podcast to taking two weeks off tomorrow if you’re very much stuck in the weeds. We’ve got to build up towards that. So what we’re going to do is a series of small steps. I’ll talk about those here in just a second. But what would those do is help you mentally break free from the day to day because we just get consumed. We get overwhelmed and pulled in all these different directions that is really hard for us to be able to turn it off and shift our perspective. This process helps to it.

So mentally help to detach, but also then physically let go of tasks, improving your team as creating systems and again, really getting your time on the highest impact thing. So it starts really, really small with things such as taking a business night 100% off a work night 100% off where you’re not checking email. You’re not thinking about your what you gotta do tomorrow. You’re not checking even social media and different things. You’re fully disconnecting and being present. This not only leads to more productivity when you are working, obviously you create more satisfaction outside of business, but it really helps you recharge and then be able to again be more effective in your work. So we’ve got to be able to turn things off.

So we start with the evening off, then we go to step two, which is a full weekend off where you’re 100% disconnected. The vast majority of business owners are working almost every day, especially with smartphones. The average professional is working 72 hours per week, which is pretty crazy. So we’ve got to be able to detach so that again, we can be most effective when we are working. What we say is when you’re working, work. When you’re not working, don’t work, and be able to separate. So those first two are really about the mental attachment and taking back control of your time.

The third then is to be able to do deep work. Deep work is focused, productive work on your highest impact activities that are gonna set your business up for short-term and long-term success. So what we recommend is what we call our done by 1030 framework. This is a basic morning routine where you design a very productive morning for yourself, but ultimately the goal is to do two hours of deep and focused work before you get into the blur of the day-to-day. So as soon as you check your email, you’re instantly on other people’s agendas.

You’re instantly being reactive. As soon as you check the news or social media or anything that can distract your mind, you’re instantly reactive. All right, so what we want to do is go into every single day with a plan so that we’re proactive. We want to finalize that in the morning and do two hours of deep and focused work moving the business forward. And if you do that every single day, you’re going to feel the impacts of that very soon with your team, with your growth, with your profitability, yada yada. Right. So doing deep work is number three.

I’d like to stop you there. Sorry, Austin. I know that you can rattle off all seven, worth seven. But when I get into this, it’s done by 1030. It’s like a mini framework inside the framework. So what does it take to get that two hours of deep focus work in the morning? How do I make myself ready for it? How can I tune out all distractions?

Excellent. It starts the night before. So the night before, but when you end your work with something that we call the wrap-up routine, another framework, where you need to reflect on the day, what worked, what didn’t, what did you get done? And ultimately plan your next day. Again, most people go into the day and they don’t know what they’re going to do just yet, so they’re reactive right from the start. So if we have at least a version one of your plan for the day, you can much more quickly get into motion.

Next is we recommend something called Pomodoro Sprints, P-O-M-O-D-O-R-O. It’s a very famous productivity technique where you can pick a certain length of time where you put a timer on and you get very laser focused. You are focused on exactly what you’re going to do in that time. I prefer a 50 minute, a 5-0 minute sprint with a 10 minute break. But the most famous or common way that it was created is a 25 minute focused work session with a five minute break.

But just setting a timer and doing that deep focus work and then taking a mental break when that timer is done and then going back into it again, it allows you to really get into flow into deep work, stay into a really productive mode. Most business owners aren’t able to do that type of work. So if you can really build that muscle and do so before you get into the reactivity of the day to day and what’s going on with your team and clients and everything, then you’re going to be able to really move the business forward. So the done by 10:30 strategy, two hours of deep work by using Pomodoro technique.

Okay, I love it. And then in the morning, do you have to get up really early to be able to do that before the email?

Yes. Great question. Everybody’s going to have their own system. So for instance, I wake up at a particular time, I don’t set an alarm. So it could be 5 a.m., it could be at least 6.30, so anywhere in between. And I do a short little morning routine, and I think everybody should have their own version of morning routine. Mine’s very short. But then I get right into work and I do my deep work sessions. I actually do three 50-minute, 5-0 deep work sessions before I check anything reactive. That’s just me, but I don’t have kids yet.

Whereas some of our team members, they’re getting their kids ready for school, they’re having an hour of family time, they’re doing a little bit of personal things, and then they’re starting at 8.30 and then getting into their deep work then. So everybody can design their own done by 10:30 framework. It’s really a matter of like what fits your schedule, what fits your family life, what fits your goals, and when you’re most productive. But the real important thing is to design it with intentionality and do at least two hours of deep work. And if you do that, it’s life changing what you can do because most people don’t get two hours of deep work done in a week in small businesses, let alone every single day or at least days that they do that focus to work.

That’s great. So we had number one, two and three. Can you just recap what one, two, three were? 

Yep, number one is you’re gonna take evening off. You can do that tonight. Take an evening off. Number two is taking the weekend 100% off, fully disconnected. Now, as you’re doing these, these sound easier, like, Austin, I can do that, that’s easy. But notice yourself. Notice how many times you wanna pick up your phone. Notice how many times you want to think about work. Notice your time. How many? Because like we get attached and we don’t even realize it, right? So we’ve got to start to retrain our self and be able to detach. So those first couple are easy, but you can definitely start to get some things that are where that you don’t maybe know.

Number three is then done by 10 30. The number four is then moving into a full day. We call it a crush it day. It’s a full day where you’re working on high impact things, but you don’t have any meetings and you don’t have any reactivity as far as no communication with your team or clients. All right. So oftentimes in a day we look at our calendar and it’s like, oh, I’ve got a call at 10 30. I’ve got a call at 11 30. I’ve got one at two. I’ve got another at four. It’s just like there’s always things that we’re just we can’t ever get into a full flow because we’ve always got things coming up or we’ve got reactive things out throughout the day.

So imagine if you had a full day to work on the highest impact things, what that would mean for your own productivity. But the real secret to this, Steve, is the impact that it has on your team. This starts to have your team start to do things without you. If they know that you’re not available, you’re not going to be on the daily huddle, or if you’re not going to be responding, then they’ll start to have to learn and you’re going to teach them these things of, hey, they need to figure it out. Or they need to start to think and bring you solutions instead of just problems. So it’s really starting to get your team and operations to be able to thrive without you while you’re still productive. Now you can take that day off if you want, but again, it’s really special to have at least one day per week where you’re doing deep focus work with no meetings and no reactivity.

So, I just want to share a quick story. So this happened to me inadvertently about 15 years ago. I was growing this investment banking firm and they were outweighing our office. And I did my made my last hire. I was a senior guy and I know where to put him. And I put him in my office. So from that point, I didn’t have an office to myself. So I decided that I was going to not go to the office as much. And specifically, I booked, blocked out one day every Wednesday when I would not be even, I’d be totally disconnected, not go to the office, not respond to messages, nothing.

And that was the day when I wrote my newsletter. And exactly as you explain it, the biggest advantage of, obviously I would get into a flow, I could get into a zone and really focus on it, and that was highly productive. I could get the newsletter done in a day. But the biggest thing was that my colleagues, because they couldn’t reach me, they had to figure things out for themselves. As a result, they realized that they can actually do a lot more than they thought they could. They could make decisions, and even on the other days now, they would not call me, they didn’t ask for any things, because they were becoming more self-managing, more autonomous, and that gave us a huge boost.

That’s great, and as soon as they start down that process of starting to make more decisions, they build more confidence. You build more confidence in them. It’s like the self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to way more. So we just have to let go and give them that opportunity, give them a little boost and support. And it’s just a snowball that will pick up more and more.

Yeah, that’s right. Okay, so that was step four. So what’s step five and six?

Step five is to take a mini vacation. All right. So what we recommend is taking a four day vacation every quarter. Ideally, this allows you to again have the lifestyle that you probably want, have the memories with the family, yada, and keep things recharged, but also be able to again fully detach. You’ll be able to in four days start to not only recharge, but really see your business from a better perspective as well. So this is two days, two business days, as well as two weekend days. So it’s pretty simple to do. But again, a big milestone to fully disconnect. We recommend not taking a computer on this one, which is a big thing for a lot of people to do. And that’s a four day mini vacation. Again, we recommend quarterly. Next is then a full week, one week, 100 percent fully disconnected.

This is a huge milestone to get to. And again, with this, some things will start to break. Some things will start to be really clear of what’s still reliant on you or where there’s not able to really drive results or who has a great ownership within your team or who needs more support there. What systems which is still only a week and with all this, you’re gonna have if you do it right in emergency process so that if there’s ever an emergency that fits a certain criteria, the team’s gonna contact you and they know how to contact you so that you can be rest assured of like, all right, you’re still available in some way, shape or form.

But ninety nine point nine percent of the time, those don’t really happen. Right. Like things wait, especially if they’re communicated in a proper way. But by doing this and building up towards it, especially as you get to steps four and five, you’re giving more empowerment to the team. You’re having better systems and operations. And ultimately, once you get to that step six, which is a full week off, things are like you’re really confident. And as soon as you get that one, taking the official two weeks or more off is kind of a breeze. Most people are very confident by the time they get to that point, once they go through those initial steps.

That’s awesome. So, okay, so you take the one week off, you take two weeks off, then you take long weekend off every quarter, so you are really now cutting down, you’re taking evenings off, you’re cutting down the weekends, every weekend, you’re cutting down on your work hours quite dramatically. 

Actually, Steve, sorry, let me comment on that real quick. So the big thing is to be in control of your time. Sometimes there’s times to grind and to push it, right? And sometimes there’s times to step back. And having the freedom and flexibility to do both and not have it be directly tied to the instant and short-term results of the company. That’s really what we want to do because I’ve been on both sides where I’ve worked zero hours where I’ve worked hundreds, like a hundred hours a week.

And the right answer is to have, to A, enjoy your work and the people that you’re working with, but also B, have the control of that time to spend it how you want. And that’s really what the vacation test is about because a lot of people, they won’t take every weekday off. That’s totally fine. They’ll be thinking about it or doing a little bit. That’s okay. Sometimes issues pop up and they have to work a little bit on the weekend. That’s okay. The big thing is to really see what you can do to detach from the day to day and not get consumed by it because that’s what happens to most people.

I think what is also true because that’s what I experienced in my world. My kids are growing. Now, they almost have an empty nest here. So I get to work a lot more on my business and my challenge is that I get sucked in, I get really crazy excited about it, and then if I don’t disconnect, I’m not recharging enough, my creative energies don’t come back, so I really have to watch it, that even though maybe I would have time to do it and I would want to do it, it’s not like I don’t have control.

I have control of my time, I want to do this stuff, but if I don’t take enough time off and do other things and experience other things and kind of absorb other type of information and follow my curiosity in other directions, then I’m not gonna get this creative juices flowing that really I need, or I start the week feeling a little bit burnt out, which is definitely not where I wanna go.

So, that’s good.

So, one question I have here. Absolutely. That’s great. So one question I have here, I noticed that the cover of the two-week vacation test reminds me a little bit of the four-hour work week. I’m going to ask you, so if you take this to its extreme, is it really possible to getto the point where you would have a four-hour work week?

Absolutely it’s possible. I’ve lived it. I’ve lived it for a while and I thought it was a great book. Absolutely awesome book. It’s definitely very different from what we talk about because it’s more about solopreneurship and we’re much more about building a team and thriving operations and some of the other things. But awesome book. But I lived it and I thought that was the dream at first. But what I realized after a few weeks is like for me personally, it wasn’t super fulfilling. I felt like I had a bigger mission and purpose. Like I wanted to work more, but I really just wanted that to not be chaos.

I didn’t want it to be reactive. I didn’t want it to be stressful. I wanted to be with the right people. So that’s what I was talking about earlier is like, if we can build the proper team and operations, get free from the day to day and be in control of our time, that’s the power of position because then you can work 50 hours a week if you want some weeks and be able to work 30 the next or whatever the numbers are. But I think the goal is to find work in a mission that you are so excited about that you want to work more than four hours per week, but have the freedom and flexibility to do what you want.

Find work in a mission that you are so excited about that you want to work more than four hours per week, but have the freedom and flexibility to do what you want. Click To Tweet

I love that. Awesome. Let’s talk a little bit before we wrap up because we’re running towards the end of our time here. But I’m curious. I mean, you mentioned that many of your employees, if not all of them, are remote to your business and this is happening. I mean, I have remote employees, a lot of us have remote employees, and I wonder what you are thinking about that, how that impacts the culture it can build, and is this a problem that people are working in different time zones, is it a problem that people are working in different cultures, and how it impacts someone’s scaling their business?

Yeah, great question. I think the world is becoming more asynchronous over more and more because technology is making it super easy. That is becoming very natural and for most businesses, it’s a very good thing. Ultimately, as a business owner, what you’re looking for is different forms of leverage and you can find more leverage by utilizing people in different parts of the world. We have people across on our team, probably across nine or 10 or more time zones across the globe. So we really do have a team all over and it works amazing.

And the biggest thing is to get everybody rallied around a vision and mission and then take that even smaller into having the operations so that you have the communication but also the numbers that people can see so that everything is clear. At the end of the day, your business can be broken down into a form of numbers and if you can see that, you can all get aligned on what’s going on, what’s working, what’s not, where you need to focus, what you need to fix. And so it really comes back to some of the basic things such as having a good vision and culture, as well as having the operational excellence to make the communication and pulsing and execution of the company be really efficient and effective and setting all the team members up for success.

Your business can be broken down into a form of numbers, and if you can see that, you can all get aligned on what's going on, what's working, what's not, where you need to focus, what you need to fix. Click To Tweet

Okay, well, I agree. That’s great. I also enjoy about this asynchronous thing. I like the 24 hour thing because I go to bed in the evening and by the morning a lot of stuff gets done in my absence. So I feel like I was productive while I was sleeping and that is a wonderful experience as well. That’s leverage right there, that’s it.

Yeah, leveraging time,

Yes, leveraging time that you don’t have. That’s awesome. All right, well, Austin, thank you very much for sharing all that good stuff. So if people would like to read your books, would like to reach out to you or learn more about how they can be part of this 2x Elite program that you’re running, where should they turn to?

Yeah, 2x.co, the shortest domain that you’ll probably have all week, 2x.co. We’ve got some great resources there. I’ve got a couple books, this week, Vacation Test, and another book called From Six to Seven Figures that are available on Amazon. Those are also available on our website, but definitely the best place would be 2x.co. I’m also on Instagram. That’s probably my main social media channel that you can shoot me a message there. Would love to connect, but yeah, we’re helping business owners grow and love to share and learn and would love to hear your biggest takeaways from our chat here today and hope that people implement the Two week Vacation Test to help improve their team and operations in time.

Well, I definitely check out Austin Netzley’s book, The Two Week Vacation Test. It just appeared last week and it’s already close to 50 reviews. I’m very jealous about it, by the way. So check it out and check out 2x.co and also check out our YouTube channel, which is growing fast. All our episodes are on YouTube and we’ve got some shorts as well on YouTube as well as on the Steve Preda Business Growth LinkedIn page. We’ve got, we posted two short video snippets of the best of the podcast there. So don’t miss that either. Thank you for coming and thank you for listening.


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