One Reason Your Summer Break Could Be Better This Year

WARNING: The following may make you uncomfortable. Anxious, even. 

It’s not often when executives or business owners share messages like the one below, and I apologize in advance for any discomfort or temporary paralysis it may cause. 

But in an effort to maintain complete transparency, I thought it would be best to share the message, in its entirety and unedited.

Here goes. Godspeed.


From: Bryan Miles

Sent: Wednesday, July 3, 2019 12:54 PM

To: John Smith

Subject: Sabbatical Out of Office … Re: Can we connect?

Thanks for your email.

I am excited to announce that my wife and I, after co-founding BELAY together … and years of company growth, are taking a sabbatical with our kids! As a result, I will be out of the office, not checking my emails until Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019. In our absence, our COO will be acting in our place while we are away.

During our sabbatical, all emails will be forwarded to my amazing and capable Assistant, Hope Ward as they arrive in my inbox. Hope will review these emails throughout the day, but if your question is urgent, please reach out to her directly in a separate email.

Please note: ALL messages will be deleted from this email account as they arrive.


  • So I don’t return to an inbox full of messages that have already been resolved.
  • So I am not tempted to check email while I am gone.
  • So I can fully disconnect and be present for my wife and kids.

If for some reason your issue is not resolved before I return, please resend your message after Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019.



Feel free to take a moment to compose yourself and reach for the nearest paper bag if you find yourself short of breath. It wouldn’t be the first time one of our business practices shook the establishment to its core.

We’re used to it, in fact.

Because our lives weren’t always this way.

The Rat-Race Impetus for BELAY

As I explained in my book, right before we started BELAY, I was traveling like crazy

My kids, Harper and Rainey, were very young. I never got to see them or my amazing wife. Who wants to sit in a stressful, nonproductive, 45-minute commute each way for a job they hate? Who wants to sit in an office and listen to people they don’t like? Who wants to do unnecessary stuff they feel is meaningless? Who wants to miss their kid’s soccer practice? 

No one. And certainly not me. Not anymore.

I wanted a change so that I wouldn’t miss out on their lives. I also had this nagging entrepreneurial itch I couldn’t seem to shake. I wanted to build something of my own. 

I put two and two together and figured, ‘If the virtual assistant thing works for me, why can’t it work for everyone?’ 

So I decided to find out. I partnered with my wife – who was already very successful in her own career working for a massive corporation – in an effort to bring virtual employee solutions to employers by matching them with virtual employees.

And after much discussion, research, prayer, and time spent with successful business people asking countless questions, Shannon and I cashed out all of our 401(k)s to use as our start-up capital. 

On October 1, 2010, she gave her 60-day notice, and I gave my 45-day notice. For those of you playing along at home: Yes, you read that right. We resigned from our very stable jobs on the heels of the ‘Great Recession.’ 

Crazy – or crazy like a fox? Only time would tell.

So on December 1, 2010, we worked our very first day on our own company payroll. We went all-in on all-virtual.

Big Gamble, Big Reward

It’s been a wild-but-incredibly-successful ride since that day. We’ve managed to grow a thriving company with an award-winning culture and an entirely virtual workforce. We have no office space – not one square foot of it. We firmly believe working virtually is the future, and want to bring our clients and world-class contractors along with us into the virtual revolution.

The rewards for us have proven far greater than we ever would’ve imagined and beyond exceeding our financial expectations, it has afforded us something far more invaluable: a life.

So back to that email.

Our family went on sabbatical this summer. And no, our choice of wording wasn’t to be braggadocious or dramatic or impressive. It was literally ‘a rest break from work.’


And one defining moment – or rather three defining sentences – put that fine point on what we wanted to do with our lives and, subsequently, work.

“You don’t own anything. The day your business doesn’t need you day-to-day is the day that you own the business. Until then, you run a business.”

That. That one sentiment, shared with us by a close friend nearly eight years ago, has informed so many of our decisions. From that day on, we knew we wanted to really own it and not run it. And while it’s a key mindset shift, it requires real courage because to get there, you’ve got to spend money – money that is likely in short supply.

But allow me to be perfectly candid here: We realize that these leaps take a lot of faith. And courage. And capital. We’re not so removed from our origin story to recognize and appreciate that. 

However – and this is a huge however – we were willing to take that risk and spend that money in exchange for that which all the money in the world couldn’t buy: time with our children and time as a family.

No email, no deadline, no anything is more important. So that was the carrot we dangled in front of ourselves those many years ago.

And for us, every decision we make, from who we hire to how we delegate, is a means to that very end. To own and not run.

So, what about you? Do you want to own or run your business? You can’t do both. What decisions are you making today that’ll set you up for the future you want?