Setting The Foundation For A Business That Can Operate Without You
Content was originally published on Forbes.com on July 15, 2019.
Over the past 25 years, I have worked with thousands of business owners in all stages of life. These are intelligent, hardworking people who have the drive and passion to go out and start their own consumer or service businesses. But for many, they aren’t the ones calling the shots in their business: It’s been years since they took a proper vacation, and they work long hours each week — still struggling to get all of the things done on their to-do list.
Why? Because their business cannot run without them.
I’ve heard many leaders say, time and time again, “I don’t have enough time.” Business owners come to us wanting to start our coaching program, but can’t seem to find the time to work on the bigger picture, high-value work. They spend their days putting out fires and doing lower-level tasks such as sales, accounting or customer service. Over time they feel defeated and wonder if going into business for themselves was really the best idea.
The long hours at the office are then compounded by the lack of time away. If a leader doesn’t have the chance to step away from the daily grind, they often lose focus and are unable to look at their business objectively, causing them to make poor executive decisions.
So, how do you break free and grow your business without losing yourself? In this three-part series, I will explore the three ways I’ve found business leaders and entrepreneurs can create organizations that run independently when necessary. It all starts with creating a strong foundation.
1. Take inventory of your day-to-day activities.
The first thing you want to do when creating a solid foundation in your business is to get a good understanding of the day-to-day tasks and projects you take on. Keep a journal of how you spend your time and what you focus your energy on. Make sure to document small tasks and “fires” that sprout up throughout the day that draw your attention away from bigger tasks.
2. Create systems that work.
Now that you have a better understanding of where your energy is going, work on creating a series of systems and controls to take those items off your plate. Your systems can take on a variety of formats, such as word documents, videos, flow charts, etc. The main thing to keep in mind when you create your system is to make it easy to use and accessible to everyone.
Avoid the temptation to create an employee handbook or manual. Instead, focus on working documents that you can hand off to another team member to get them up to speed quickly on the task at hand. Enlist the help of your employees to create systems for tasks that they are currently doing.
3. Learn to delegate.
Once you have your systems set up, it’s time to delegate tasks to other team members. The more tasks that you are able to delegate, the more time you have to address higher-level issues within your business. So, begin by looking at the strengths of your team members and finding the right fit for each task. Some of them will come very naturally (e.g., payroll sign-offs could be done by another executive), whereas others might not be obvious at first glance. But if you have a solid system in place, it should be easy to train an employee to take over your lower-level tasks with ease.
Having a strong foundation can set the stage for being able to spend time away from your business. Running a business is hard work, and enjoying some time off can be good for you. If you have your staff handle sales, accounting, customer service and more, it’s much easier for you to take a week or two away from your business when necessary. In parts two and three of this series, you will be able to learn about the importance of strategic depth and your executive team.