We all have dreams of owning a successful venture, picturing flexible hours and taking pride in our work. However, the reality often falls short. Instead of enjoying the benefits, we find ourselves working tirelessly just to break even. We convince ourselves that we’re the only ones capable of getting things done correctly, leaving no room for delegation. And even after years of hard work, financial freedom seems out of reach, as we still struggle to draw a decent salary.
But don’t lose hope just yet. It’s not time to give up and return to the mundane nine-to-five routine. There’s still a way to make your small business thrive. The key is to stop exhausting yourself and find a way to make it work without constantly pushing yourself to the limit. In other words, you need to reach a point where your business can run smoothly even in your absence. This will allow you to take a step back, strategize, and seize new opportunities.
Working Smarter, Not Harder
Don’t get trapped in the never-ending pursuit of productivity. If you believe that your business depends entirely on you for success, then there’s a problem that needs addressing.
Here’s the deal: Your business should be able to thrive even without your constant involvement. If you’re the secret ingredient that keeps it running smoothly, chances are you’re overburdened, stressed out, and always on the clock. You might think that the solution to this is to be more productive, cramming more work into less time. But working harder and longer isn’t the answer; it’s a trap.
According to Parkinson’s law, the more time you have, the more work you’ll fill it with. Sure, you can make your time more efficient through productivity techniques. But what happens when you gain extra time? You simply find more tasks to fill it up, and just like that, you’ve fallen into the productivity trap.
What you really need is not just increased productivity, but organizational efficiency. This means aligning your resources, optimizing yields, leveraging your team’s strengths, and focusing on essential tasks rather than mindlessly working through a never-ending to-do list.
But there’s a roadblock you might encounter: yourself. As humans, we tend to stick to what’s familiar. Even if the constant pursuit of productivity is wearing you down, the workaholic mentality feels like you’re giving it your all.
However, being a workaholic can narrow your perspective. If you can’t take a break, you’ll find yourself caught in a cycle where you only address urgent matters, neglecting the important ones. Instead of working toward long-term goals, your day becomes a series of putting out fires, without actually moving your business forward.
Although you might find comfort in being stuck in overdrive and believe it shows your dedication, the truth is that it’s holding you back.
The real solution is not to work more, but to work less. Specifically, it’s about implementing systems and processes that allow you to reduce your workload.
Redefining Roles through Designing Work
In the business world, there are four dimensions of work that we can think of as the Four D’s: doing, deciding, delegating, and designing.
When you started your business, you were probably in “doing” mode, where you did everything by yourself. But if you want your business to grow, you need to transition from doing to designing.
The main idea is simple: Don’t do the work, design the work.
When you’re stuck in doing mode, you don’t have time for designing. Designing mode allows you to implement ideas and innovations that help your business evolve. Instead of focusing on everyday tasks, you can think about workflows and future steps. Designing work has a bigger impact than just doing work.
Think of yourself as a coach and your employees as your team playing on the field. Your role is to design the plays, not actively participate. To do that, you need to step off the field and into the coach’s box.
How do you do that? Here’s where the other three D’s come in.
When you hire staff, you start deciding as well as doing. But spending too much time deciding can be just as time-consuming as doing. To free up time for designing, you need to move from deciding to delegating. Delegate not only tasks but also the decision-making around those tasks. This empowers your employees and benefits your business in the long run.
Delegating gets you off the field and into the coach’s box, where you can focus on designing.
Remember, while designing is important, the other three D’s remain crucial. Aim for 80 percent of time on doing, 2 percent on deciding, 8 percent on delegating, and 10 percent on designing. Balancing these aspects ensures your business thrives without neglecting execution and improvement.
Discover and Safeguard Your Most Essential Role
Imagine a beehive, buzzing with activity. In this hive, there’s one special bee known as the Queen Bee. Her vital duty is to lay eggs, ensuring the survival of the entire hive. Naturally, all the other bees prioritize her well-being. They attend to her needs, making sure she is well-fed and comfortable. Only once they are certain the Queen Bee is taken care of do they focus on other tasks like gathering pollen.
Believe it or not, this concept applies to your small business as well. The key lesson here is to identify and protect your own Queen Bee Role.
So, what exactly is your company’s Queen Bee Role? It’s about pinpointing the one crucial task that propels your business forward. Of course, many tasks are important, like invoicing for timely payments. However, think about the one task that, if neglected, would bring your entire enterprise to a halt. For a PR firm, it might be effective communication with clients. For an advertising agency, it could be outshining the competition in direct marketing.
Whoever is responsible for this critical task currently holds the Queen Bee Role. It might be you as the business owner, but not necessarily. It could be the creative director or the top salesperson. It could even be a team effort. Remember, it’s not the individual that matters most, but the role itself.
Once you’ve identified the Queen Bee Role, the next steps are straightforward. Every member of your team should work together to empower the person in that role. Only when they have all the support they need can the rest of the team focus on their own primary responsibilities.
Let’s say you own a renowned restaurant known for its impeccable food. In this case, serving impeccable food becomes your Queen Bee Role, and your team of chefs fulfills that role. While others have their own tasks, they must prioritize serving the Queen Bee Role.
Picture a bustling night with servers having tables to clean while the kitchen has hot meals waiting to be served. Which task should they tackle first? It’s simple. The hot dishes take priority. While having clean tables is important, it doesn’t directly relate to your company’s Queen Bee Role.
Likewise, ensure that those in the Queen Bee Role aren’t distracted from their critical tasks. If the dishwasher breaks down, find someone else to handle it instead of pulling the chefs away from their work.
Every role in your workplace carries significance, but your success hinges on how well the Queen Bee Role is fulfilled. Therefore, make it your utmost priority!
SOPs as the Key to Team Efficiency
Do you know the best way to peel a banana? Most people start at the stem, but that’s not the optimal way. Starting at the stem can bruise the banana and make it mushy. Monkeys, on the other hand, peel bananas by holding the stem and applying pressure at the opposite end, making the peel come off easily.
When you run a small business, you’re like a monkey who knows the best way to peel a banana. Monkeys are experts when it comes to bananas. They have figured out the best method. However, your staff probably doesn’t know the best way to do things because you haven’t told them.
The main message here is that standard operating procedures (SOPs) allow everyone to work to their full potential.
Have you ever felt frustrated and thought that you have to do everything yourself to get it done right? If so, it’s likely because you haven’t clearly communicated the best standard operating procedures. Every important task your team performs should have a system in place. And that system should be clearly communicated and documented so that everyone can access it.
So, how do you establish your SOPs? First, you need to identify the key tasks. Use the ACDC model for this. Basically, all the tasks your business carries out can be categorized as attract, convert, deliver, or collect.
Tasks like marketing help you attract potential customers. Tasks like setting up meetings help you convert prospects into clients. Tasks like shipping or reporting help you deliver on your promises to clients. And tasks like accounting and invoicing help you collect payments.
Make a list of all the tasks that fall under the ACDC model, and you’ll have an overview of the tasks that need systematizing. Then, decide how you want to document them. You or one of your staff members probably already perform these tasks effectively. Simply record the process in writing or on video.
Once you have your SOPs documented, it’s time to delegate. Be prepared for questions because your staff may encounter difficulties. You may need to adjust or even redo the SOPs.
But once you have refined your SOPs, tasks will be carried out smoothly and consistently. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
How to Expand Your Business Beyond Yourself
Running a business and making money sounds great, right? But here’s the thing: If you’re running the show by yourself, hiring someone to join your team means you’ll have to share your profits with them. So, instead of making $50 an hour, you might end up with only $5 an hour. That’s why many people choose to tough it out and do everything themselves.
But here’s the catch: By holding onto that $50, you’re actually preventing your business from growing. If one new employee can bring in $5 an hour, then two employees can bring in $10 an hour. And imagine what a team of 100 can do – that’s a whopping $500 an hour! So, sacrificing some earnings in the short term can lead to much bigger gains in the long run.
The main idea is this: You can expand your business so that it generates revenue even when you’re not directly involved.
Growing your team not only helps increase your long-term income, but it also frees up your time to focus on designing and other important tasks. It transforms your business into a well-oiled machine that can function smoothly even without constant input from you. By making smart hires, you can enjoy the benefits of this approach.
However, it’s not just about finding the right person for the job. It’s about finding someone with the right skills and fitting them into the right role. It may seem overwhelming, but here are some tips to help you make wise hiring decisions:
- Look beyond skills: Don’t just focus on finding someone with the perfect skill set. Skills can be taught, but qualities like passion, enthusiasm, and teamwork are invaluable and harder to develop.
- Consider their desires: Understand that potential employees may value things other than a high salary. They might prioritize flexibility, creative freedom, or opportunities for personal growth. Tailor their roles to align with their values, and you’ll have a better chance of retaining them and getting their best work.
- Embrace diversity: Make an effort to hire people from different backgrounds and with varied life experiences. Don’t dismiss someone just because you don’t immediately click with them. Building a team with diverse perspectives can bring fresh ideas and challenges to your business.
By following these tips, you can build a team that supports the growth of your business while also aligning with your values and goals.
Identifying Your Target Market
Discover your sweet spot in the market and direct your efforts there with laser-like precision.
But who exactly is your target market? It may be tempting to say, “Everyone!” because a larger market seems more promising. However, spreading yourself too thin or offering too much can prevent you from doing your best work. The quickest path to success is finding your niche and surpassing your competitors by serving that niche relentlessly.
To identify your niche, start by examining your current client list. Pay attention to those who spend the most on your products or services. These clients not only bring the most value to your business but also appreciate you the most. Their consistent purchases demonstrate their trust in you. These are your top clients.
However, don’t stop there. Business is about more than just financial gains. Consider your experience working with these clients. Do you feel energized and excited when collaborating with them, or do they drain your energy? Your best work comes from a place of enjoyment and fulfillment. If a client drains you, maintaining a long-term relationship may be challenging.
By now, you should have a list of clients who contribute to your revenue and with whom you enjoy working. Look for commonalities among them.
Lastly, identify where your community congregates. Discover the places where they network, discuss their needs, and share updates about their community. This could be social media groups, community organizations, or conferences that they frequent.
Now, armed with a clear understanding of the customers your business is meant to serve, you can focus your efforts with laser precision.
How Metrics Can Make Your Life Easier
Spending more time on designing is great, but your work doesn’t stop there. You’re about to take on new challenges: How to oversee a business and measure your success?
The answer is simple: metrics. Now, some people find the idea of implementing metrics as appealing as a root canal. But tracking your progress can be surprisingly easy and beneficial.
The main message is that metrics make your life easier. Let’s see how they can help in the four core business functions: attract, convert, deliver, and collect.
First, attracting customers is crucial. You can track this by monitoring the number of hits on your website or counting the visitors who request a quote through a form.
To measure conversion, note how many leads become paying clients within a specific timeframe, like three months.
Once you have paying customers, it’s important to deliver on your promises. Tracking repeat customers can show how well you’re delivering. If the percentage drops, find out why.
Lastly, keep an eye on the cash flow. Check your accounts for a general overview, or analyze payment patterns and late/non-payments for a more detailed understanding.
Remember to tailor the metrics to your specific business. By measuring these four core functions, you’ll always know where you stand.
Dealing with pushback during your business’s clockwork transition
Transitioning your business to run smoothly may not be smooth sailing. While it’s great news that you can eventually work fewer hours, delegate tasks, and focus on designing, you should be prepared for some resistance.
You can expect pushback from your partners, team, and clients. When you shift into designing mode, your work may be less visible, and it may not always look like work at all. For example, brainstorming in a cafe might be more profitable in the long run, but it doesn’t produce immediate tangible outcomes.
To address this, be upfront with everyone involved. Explain the benefits of having a smoothly running business and get them on board with your mission. Stay open to feedback and make necessary adjustments as you go along. Encourage your team to communicate how the new system is working for them.
Surprisingly, you might also face resistance from yourself. As someone who built the business from scratch, the idea of it operating without you might cause anxiety. Remember that you’re still crucial to your company’s success, but you’ve transitioned to a different way of contributing.
Now, enjoy the freedom to focus on the big picture and take your business to new heights. You can even take a well-deserved vacation!
In conclusion, the success of your business idea lies in your hands. However, it’s important to understand that holding onto complete control can be detrimental to your business in the long run. To ensure the smooth operation of your company, it’s crucial to establish efficient systems and processes that allow it to function without your constant involvement. This will free up your time to focus on planning, strategizing, and supervising, which are vital for achieving success.
While expanding your business, there’s no need to rush headlong into every task. Instead, take a more measured approach. When bringing in new hires, don’t overload them with significant responsibilities right away. Although they may be capable of handling the workload, you must trust them to succeed. Without your trust, your team won’t thrive. Gradually delegate tasks to others and allow trust to develop over time.
Inspired by a book “Clockwork”; Mike Michalowicz