Congratulations! You’re what people affectionately call an entrepreneur! You set your own schedule, you hire who you want, choose your clients and vendors and make your own decisions. You have big plans and dreams for your business. Are you on the path to achieve them?
Entrepreneurs are a particular type of person who will never be happy working for someone else. Once the entrepreneurial “bug” infects them, they become a startup-small-business owner. They get to make every decision and are in control of every moving part of their business from answering phones to creating invoices, and selecting vendors to providing the final product quality. The entrepreneur is a full-time operator, knows how to do all the work, and actually DOES all the important work. There is no business and no company without them.
Unfortunately, many small business owners get stuck here. They may stay sole practitioners forever. Often, they grow by adding a couple more people, sometimes expanding to include a handful of employees in a single location, and even a few grow to employing several managers with 20+ employees. However, a problem arises when the business owner can’t control everything anymore – the business gets “stuck” and stops growing. At this point the business owner knows they need to do something different, whether it’s hiring better people, putting systems into place, finding customers that better fit their business model, or just finding more hours in the day! Sadly, they struggle with each of these initiatives and are usually too busy working IN their business to work ON their business.
What happens when the business can no longer grow? The business owner starts to hate going to work because there isn’t enough time to tend to everything they need to do. The pressures and demands of meeting the expectations of their customers, vendors, and employees gets overwhelming. It becomes harder and harder to remember the dreams and goals they started the business to fulfill.
For instance, I had an interesting conversation with a business owner on the airplane last week. He was explaining to me that he was proud of having built his wood mill company to just over 25 employees. He had inherited the business from his father and had worked every job in it over the years. He expressed that he knew he was the single bottleneck that was keeping his business the size it’s been for years. However, he just hasn’t ever been able to hire any managers that he feels “get it” well enough to truly let go of most aspects of the company. It was an interesting conversation because he was quite emotional about the position he and his company were in, but could not get to the point of believing that anyone who had not been in the mill industry as long as he has been could really understand or help him with his issue. And, while I couldn’t find the words to help him see things differently, I did leave him with this question: “If you were forced to retire from the business in 6-12 months, what would you be doing today differently to ensure its future success?”
I believe that now is a great time to make the switch from business owner to business builder! The entrepreneur needs to re-focus on what he wants and on how to reach that goal of building a successful, thriving, growing company. Why wait until you are ready to exit to make those changes?
So, what is the first step?
Create operational systems for your company so that it can and will operate without your constant supervision. And then implement the hiring, delegating, and management processes to ensure adoption of and accountability to those systems. You are not your business, nor is it fair for you to feel like you are. Putting systems in place allows you to get off doing and start supervising. When you can take yourself out of the day to day minutiae of your business, time and opportunities will open up for you to bring in new business, seek out investments, and simply enjoy the benefits of business ownership.